As the death toll continues to climb, Egyptian leaders are getting creative as they tackle the seemingly impossible task of bartering a truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. They're making progress, too. On Monday morning, Egypt's prime minister Hisham Kandil told the press that they were "close" to reinstating the ceasefire between the two sides that was broken in October, but by Monday night, talks had progressed to the point that the tens of thousands of Israeli Defense Force soldiers that were on high alert, ready to invade Gaza, were ordered to stand down. That looks like progress, but Egypt is not being subtle about where its allegiances lie. Or perhaps they just need a better public relations team.
To make a long story short, Egypt's role in negotiating a peace between Israel and Hamas is not helped by headlines like, "While Trying to Mediate, Egypt Blames Israel for Gaza Conflict." That's not from some local paper or pro-Palestine interest group. It's from The New York Times, who published a short but symbolically powerful piece on Egypt's true feelings about the Israel-Hamas talks. Somewhere at the United Nations, there has to be a Diplomacy 101 class that explicitly instructs mediators from blaming one side for all the problems, right?
Well, at least one Egyptian official did just that, however anonymously with The Times's star Middle East correspondent, David D. Kirkpatrick. "It is so strange people are talking about the rights of self-defense," this unnamed Egyptian official told The Times. "The self-defense of whom? Of the occupied people? Of the besieged people? Of the hurt people? No, the self-defense of the most powerful state in the region and the self-defense of the occupying force of Gaza and Palestine. This is what some of the international community are talking about." Kirkpatrick compares the leaders of Hamas to George Washington and his tireless fight against foreign occupiers to make this official's statements a bit more powerful for the American reader. He also cites the "Egyptian government's inexperience at such public-relations campaigns" in handing out pamphlets about Gaza with headings like "Prison Camp" and "(Un) fair fight."
This is hardly a death blow to the Egyptians quest for peace. It's just a silly New York Times story. Nevertheless, the country is struggling to balance its 32-year-old peace agreement with Israel and the strong ties between President Kandil's Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. On the same token, Egypt also has to deal with mounting unrest at home, as hundreds of protesters returned to Tahrir Square on Monday to demonstrate against both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. A loose-lipped government official is probably the least of the Egyptian government's worries right now.