Israel’s Seizure of Gaza Border Zone Strains Ties With Egypt

But Egypt has refrained from taking more serious steps against Israel. Unlike Jordan, it has not withdrawn its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

“No one is interested in any kind of escalation, so I believe they will find a solution to satisfy the Israeli side,” said Mohamed Anwar el-Sadat, an independent Egyptian politician and who is a nephew of the president who signed the 1979 treaty. “It’s in both our interests to reach an understanding or agreement to avoid any kind of confrontation.”

The government-managed news media appears to have been helping with efforts to limit public outrage.

Before Israel said that it had established control of the Philadelphi Corridor, the rhetoric from news outlets verged on bellicose. Egypt is “ready for all scenarios, and will never allow any encroachment on its sovereignty and its national security, either directly or indirectly,” Ahmed Moussa, a prominent talk show host, wrote in a column for Al-Ahram, Egypt’s flagship daily newspaper, on May 17.

Yet after Israel took the corridor, Mr. Moussa was on the air, fulminating against social media users who said it made Egypt look weak. He linked such “allegations” to the Muslim Brotherhood, the political Islamist group — of which Hamas is an offshoot — that Egypt’s government has long demonized as a terrorist organization.

“The Philadelphi Corridor is not Egyptian territory,” Mr. Moussa said in a nine-minute segment devoted to the issue, displaying a giant map. “It’s Palestinian territory. It doesn’t belong to us.”

The Israeli-Egyptian relationship has weathered wars and Palestinian uprisings, the 2011 Egyptian revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, and the brief presidency of Mohamed Morsi, the senior Muslim Brotherhood leader who won Egypt’s first free elections a year later.

Rafah and the eight-mile-long Philadelphi Corridor have often served as points of connection and friction between Egypt and Israel. The two countries jointly enforced a blockade on Gaza after Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2007, soon after Egypt and Israel had agreed on the number of troops that could be stationed around the buffer zone.

But the question of smuggling remained contentious. In 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew its forces and Jewish settlers from Gaza, many Israeli strategists said it was a mistake to abandon the corridor to the smugglers. Current and former Israeli officials say that once Hamas came to power, the Rafah crossing became a main channel for weapons smuggling, which peaked as Egyptian security broke down during Mr. Morsi’s tumultuous presidency.

But Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led a military coup that overthrew Mr. Morsi in 2013, and became president a year later. He has since forged a close security partnership with Israel over their shared interest in stamping out an insurgency in northern Sinai, the Egyptian region bordering Gaza and Israel.

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