New President in Egypt May Not Spell an End to Gaza Blockade

Article Summary
Much of the Gaza population was elated by the victory of the new Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. But although Hamas announced that the new regime in Egypt will lead to an economic upturn at home, writes Danny Rubinstein, Egypt is justifiably apprehensive about becoming Gaza's lifeline.

On Monday (June 25), Gaza celebrated the victory of Egypt’s president-elect, Mohammed Morsi. Hamas spokesmen voiced confidence that the new regime in Egypt would bring about an economic turnaround in the Gaza Strip. After all, the Muslim Brotherhood (Morsi's movement) is the Hamas mother movement, the ideological patron of the Gaza government. And if the Egyptians fully open the Rafah border crossing to the free passage of goods and people, it will mean the end of the lengthy Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip. Still, other sources in Gaza maintain that although the Egyptian regime is capable of improving the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza, it will not hurry to change the present state of affairs.

The Egyptian regime can ease the power shortages

"They are deluding themselves," Professor Mahsein Abu Sa'da of the political sciences department at the Gaza al-Azhar University told me in a talk we held over the weekend. According to Abu Sa'da, the economic situation in Gaza has gone from bad to worse in the past few months, this being primarily due to the fuel shortage and frequent power failures. According to the data he collected, normal electricity consumption in Gaza is about 300 megawatts per day. Israel supplies 100 megawatts of the daily electricity consumption, while 60 megawatts are supplied by the local Gaza power plant and some 20 megawatts are imported from Egypt. There is therefore a daily shortage of approximately 120 megawatts. The Gaza electricity company copes with the problem by supplying power in alterating eight-hour shifts. "It destroys the trade and economy," Abu Sa'da says.

The Egyptians can ease the situation by opening the Rafah border crossing for transportation of fuel to Gaza. Anyway, large quantities of fuel are smuggled through the Rafah tunnels. However, Abu Sa'da is skeptical that the new regime in Cairo will indeed make such a move. "You should bear in mind that the decisions concerning Gaza are in the hands of the military Intelligence in Cairo and neither the parliament nor the president or the government has a say in the matter," he notes. In recent months, the Egyptian military intelligence authorized the virtually free passage of people through the Rafah border crossing, but it has not approved any commercial traffic of goods.

The Egyptians are not interested in the Palestinians' problems  they have enough of their own

According to Abu Sa'da, if the Egyptians open the Rafah border crossing to the free passage of goods, the move will fully and officially cut off Gaza from the Palestinian Authority, as well as from any customs and trade arrangements it has with Israel and lead to its total reliance on Egypt.

The Egyptian regime is deeply apprehensive about the possibility that the Gaza Strip, along with its 1.5 million inhabitants, will come under its responsibility. The Egyptians have enough problems of their own as it is, and the last thing they need or want is to be burdened with the problems of Gaza on top of theirs.

Found in: status quo, rubinstein, rafah crossing, prof. mahsein abu sa'da, muslim brotherhood, morsi, hamas, gaza, elections, egypt, economic upheaval, economic, blockade

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