Yves here. Korybko does not elaborate on the reasons for Egypt to reject taking refugees from Gaza. One is that, as Korybko points out, that Israel might not let them return. The reality is the point for Israel to push them across the border is to make sure they don’t come back.
The second is for Egypt not to facilitate ethnic cleansing. If you think Israel will stop if it succeeds with this gambit in Gaza, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Third is the cost of supporting such a huge influx of refugees.
Fourth is that odds are high that both Hamas members and their allies would attack Israel from Egypt and could cause other trouble for the Egypt government.
This article does not contemplate whether other Arab states and Muslim allies would launch their own attack against Israel if Egypt did so.
By Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst who specializes in the global systemic transition to multipolarity in the New Cold War. He has a PhD from MGIMO, which is under the umbrella of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Originally published at his website
The situation is grim since there aren’t any reasons to expect Israel to voluntarily stop its ground operation, nor any indications as of yet that the Arab states are seriously considering another oil embargo against the West. The risk of a genocide in Gaza is therefore growing by the day, and with Egypt threatening to go to war if these refugees are pushed across its border and Israel likely abandoning this pressure campaign in response, over two million people face a very dire fate.
Egyptian Prime Minister Madbouly said earlier this week that his country was ready to “sacrifice millions of lives” in defense of its territory and to prevent regional conflicts from being resolved at its expense. This ominous remark was interpreted as signaling that Egypt is prepared to go to war as a last resort to stop a flood of Palestinian refugees from Gaza. Before proceeding, readers should review this analysis about “Egypt’s Dilemma: Facilitate Ethnic Cleansing Or Allow Possible Genocide” for background.
In brief, Egypt can either open the floodgates and facilitate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Gaza or keep its borders closed and therefore tacitly allow their possible genocide by Israel. The first option has obvious humanitarian arguments in its favor, while the counterarguments are that “Weapons of Mass Migration” could destabilize Egypt and Israel might never let those refugees return once they’re gone. As for the second option, the arguments and counterarguments are reversed, but the logic stands.
Judging by Madbouly’s latest remark, Egypt has decided to play an extremely high-stakes game in Gaza after publicly signaling a desire to go to war as a last resort to stop a flood of Palestinian refugees, but this could end in genocide in the worst-case scenario that it fails to get Israel to stop its bombings. About that, while Russia supports Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorist attacks like Hamas’ infamous one in early October, it’s against the self-professed Jewish State’s collective punishment of the Palestinians.
Interested readers can learn more about Russia’s policy of principled neutrality towards the latest Israeli-Hamas war here since it’s beyond the scope of the present piece, but the point in referencing it is to show how complicated the conflict is and why it’s spiraled out of control over the past month. Egypt was the first Arab state to recognize Israel, with whom it’s since cultivated close multidimensional ties, and it largely shares its neighbor’s security concerns about Muslim Brotherhood-linked Hamas.
At the same time, Egypt is also the most populous Arab state too and tried leading this group of countries during the middle of the Old Cold War, plus many of its people sympathize with their co-religionists in Palestine. These factors worsen the dilemma that it’s been plunged into by the latest conflict since it would prefer to keep those refugees out of its borders, especially since some might be Hamas sleeper cells, but it’s also under some pressure to immediately relieve their suffering as well.
President Sisi seemingly chose to prioritize Egypt’s national security and political interests over the Palestinians’ humanitarian ones, which explains why his Prime Minister just said what he did. It also deserves mentioning that Israel just confirmed the existence of a scandalous so-called “concept paper” that was previously reported on by The Grayzone. The influential think tank behind it proposed “resettling” all the Gazans in Egypt, or in other words, ethnically cleansing them.
According to Israeli website Ynet, Israel proposed bailing Egypt out of its international debts in exchange for that country allowing Palestinian refugees to flood into the country. The abovementioned “concept paper” coupled with this latest Israeli report add context to Madbouly’s remark. They enable observers to reframe them as an indirect public response to Tel Aviv’s efforts to resolve the Palestinian conflict at Egypt’s expense, which could entail considerable national security and political costs as explained.
With these factors in mind, particularly Egypt’s willingness to go to war to prevent a flood of Palestinian refugees, Israel will probably stop pressuring its neighbor to accept them since it’s not worth ruining ties with the largest Arab state. The self-professed Jewish State’s perception managers might then try to divide blame for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by their government’s collective punishment of its people by claiming that it’s partially Cairo’s fault for not opening its border to save them.
If Israel’s ground operation continues as planned, then there’s a credible risk of genocide, which could only realistically be averted in the scenario that the Arab states agree on another oil embargo. This proposal was elaborated on here, but can be summarized as punishing Israel’s Western patrons with the intent of getting that bloc to coerce Tel Aviv into stopping its ground operation. It might still not succeed, and there might not be enough Arab unity to even try, but it’s the only realistic option available.
As it presently stands, the situation is grim since there aren’t any reasons to expect Israel to voluntarily stop its ground operation, nor any indications as of yet that the Arab states are seriously considering another oil embargo against the West. The risk of a genocide in Gaza is therefore growing by the day, and with Egypt threatening to go to war if these refugees are pushed across its border and Israel likely abandoning this pressure campaign in response, over two million people face a very dire fate.
Israel has proven itself impervious to global opinion so nobody should hope that any more pro-Palestinian protests will finally succeed in bringing an end to its ground operation. Instead, the case can be made that these demonstrations might have a better chance of getting the Arab states to seriously discuss another oil embargo or pressure Egypt to finally open its border in exchange for refugee aid. Once again, the primary dilemma is over facilitating ethnic cleansing or allowing genocide.
Since Israel isn’t expected to stop its ground operation even if it leads to genocide, Palestinian supporters at the civil society and state levels all across the world should defer to those people to see whether they prefer being genocided to make a political point or ethnically cleansed to save their lives. The best-case scenario of a ceasefire is increasingly unrealistic, and if there isn’t another oil embargo or an Arab pressure campaign on Egypt, then the Palestinians will probably be genocided.
Failure to consult them about their preferred fate in that event extends credence to claims that Arab states have exploited their cause for political reasons over the years and might therefore even think that there’s some benefit to be derived from over two million of these people being martyred by Israel. It’s the Palestinians’ own cause first and foremost, however, so they should be asked whether they want to die for this (and some might be proud to do so) or flee to Egypt to carry on their cause in exile.
If the Arab states either can’t agree on another oil embargo or the West fails to coerce Israel into stopping its ground operation in that event, then they might be influenced by pro-Palestinian protests into pressuring Egypt into finally opening its borders in exchange for refugee aid. Concerted pressure from these fellow states could succeed in saving over two million people from genocide, but at the expense of them being ethnically cleansed. It’s a terrible dilemma, but it shouldn’t be taboo to discuss.