Donald Trump’s Egypt hopes for Middle East peace deal fade

CAIRO — At a White House summit in April 2017, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi advised President Trump that he was assured the 2 leaders, working collectively, would “find a solution to the problem of the century in the deal of the century.”

In the early days of Mr. Trump’s administration, Mr. el-Sissi had excessive hopes of brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace take care of the Americans, repairing relations with Washington that had chilled beneath President Obama and reaping financial advantages from putting Egypt squarely on the heart of an japanese Mediterranean power hub and funding magnet.

Yet Egyptian zeal to companion with Mr. Trump’s particular envoys — son-in-law Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, a lawyer with 20 years of service within the Trump Organization — has dimmed in latest months with an absence of concrete progress. The pessimism is spreading to different Arab capitals.

Meanwhile, the scenario in Gaza has been heating up. On Thursday, at the very least 18 Palestinians have been wounded as Israel’s air pressure struck a constructing in central Gaza City after greater than 180 projectiles have been fired from the Hamas-ruled enclave into the Jewish state, injuring almost 20.

It was simply the most recent in an escalation cycle since May, when Gazans organized mass protests on the border, drawing Israeli hearth and renewed worldwide consideration to the Palestinian trigger.

Many Egyptians worry the U.S. blueprint for a Middle East peace deal fails to bear in mind Cairo’s priorities.

“American endorsement of Jewish claims in Jerusalem, a perception that the U.S. wants to make Gaza an Egyptian problem and increasing doubts that Trump can find a solution to the Palestinian issue have moved opinion here against the current process,” mentioned Mustafa Kamal, a researcher at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, a Cairo suppose tank with shut ties to Mr. el-Sissi’s administration.

The tensions have been on show as Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Mr. Greenblatt met final week on the Egyptian Embassy in Washington.

Mr. Shoukry warned the Americans that Israeli army actions within the Gaza Strip, together with latest strikes by the federal government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements and rights for non-Jews in Israel, have been escalating tensions and threatening Palestinian rights.

Mr. el-Sissi’s authorities was rocked by Mr. Trump’s announcement in December that it was shifting the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a transfer promised and delayed by earlier U.S. presidents for worry of inciting Palestinians and alienating Arab governments within the area. The embassy transfer was introduced earlier than any U.S. peace plan for the Palestinians had been floated, harming hopes for a negotiated deal.

“The continuing American identification with Israel’s positions is harming the confidence of the U.S.’s Arab allies — Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia — and kills any idea that the Trump team can be a neutral intermediary in the peace process,” mentioned Mr. Kamal.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responded to the embassy transfer by severing contacts with Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, leaving any prospect of negotiations stalemated.

Most just lately, Mr. Abbas rebuffed an Egyptian try and schedule a gathering when the American envoys toured the area in June.

“Any peace agreement that doesn’t clearly include eastern Jerusalem as a capital for the Palestinian state will not be acceptable to the greater Arab and Muslim populations,” mentioned Mohamed Soliman, an Egyptian political analyst primarily based in Cairo, echoing a sentiment extensively shared in Egypt.

“From college campuses to company boardrooms, the feeling is this deal is simply too risky even for our president, who was willing to go a long way to keep a special relationship with Trump,” mentioned Mr. Soliman. “The consensus now is that Egypt is taken for granted to solve the region’s problems at the expense of its own sovereignty and national interest and that Trump’s term will certainly last less long than el-Sissi‘s.”

Gaza plans

American efforts to steer Egypt to open its territory in Sinai to Gaza Palestinians notably rankle the safety institution in Cairo, which fought three wars with Israel over management of the peninsula.

Anxiety over the deal has intensified in Egypt because the American negotiators have targeted more and more on fast-tracking an Egyptian-Palestinian free commerce zone with plans for building of a solar-power grid, desalination plant and airport to be constructed on the Egyptian aspect of the border with Gazans shifting to the northern Sinai to work and probably reside.

“I am sure our president will not accept a resettlement plan under any circumstances,” mentioned Saeed Okasha, an Israeli affairs analyst on the Al-Ahram Institute in Cairo. “We can allow infrastructure for Gaza to be built in the Sinai, but there is no flexibility in terms of ceding our lands to solve someone else’s problem.”

Critics of the Kushner-Greenblatt plan say it’s unattainable to deal with the urgent financial wants in Gaza earlier than tackling with Israel the long-standing questions of borders and refugees that include the institution of a Palestinian state.

The refugee concern got here into focus once more final week amid studies that Mr. Kushner proposed that the greater than 2 million registered Palestinians dwelling in Jordan now not be listed as “refugees,” a phrase that means a proper to return to land inside Israel.

Washington has referred to as for the abolition of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees within the Near East, the primary worldwide physique offering providers to the Arab inhabitants who left the territory that’s now a part of Israel through the 1948 conflict.

“Trump is stirring the pot and increasing the fire thinking he will get faster results from Palestinians,” mentioned Sherif Fathi Elhelwa, chairman of iQ Power, Inc., a Cairo power growth firm specializing in renewables. “But stability requires a more carefully scheduled process. If Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian needs are ignored, the entire plan for eastern Mediterranean energy production and processing, including exports to Europe, will collapse.”

Mr. el-Sissi and his aides have made it clear that they’ll proceed speaking about regional peace with the Trump administration. At the tip of July, Washington launched $195 million in army assist to Egypt, funds withheld earlier due to considerations over the nation’s human rights document.

“We agree on the importance of consultations and coordination between Egypt and the United States in the upcoming period to de-escalate the situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories and to overcome the current stalemate,” Mr. Shoukry mentioned after Tuesday’s assembly with Mr. Greenblatt.

But outdoors of diplomatic quarters, Egypt’s alienation from Mr. Trump’s self-described “deal of the century” is bluntly obvious.

“The Americans need to know that other countries who are really interested in a just solution for the Middle East would work with Egypt to pursue one,” mentioned Mr. Kamal, the Al-Ahram researcher, saying Cairo is able to bypass the U.S. and work by way of the United Nations to safe statehood for the Palestinians.

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