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Saleh al-Naami

Why Sisi hates Hamas

Hassan Salameh has spent 19 years in an Israeli prison [Al-Araby]

Date of publication: 20 May, 2015

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Comment: Egypt's president has gone to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate his usefulness to Israel. The recent death sentences against Hamas members are the latest excess, says Saleh al-Naami.

Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi knows Hassan Salameh has been in an Israeli prison for the past 19 years.

He must also know that Salameh's conviction in an Egyptian court for his alleged involvement in a prison break from Egypt's Wadi Natroun prison in January 2011 is patently ridiculous.

The death sentence issued against Salameh, one of the most prominent commanders of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, who has languished in an Israeli prison for almost two decades, is the stuff of which jokes are made.

It will provide another example of the injustice with which Sisi has ruled Egypt since he usurped power in July 2013.

Sisi obviously decided from the outset to pay no heed to Arab and Egyptian public opinion.

Sisi obviously decided from the outset to pay no heed to Egyptian or wider Arab public opinion, and instead placate those who he thinks can strengthen his regime.

Powerful friends

Sentencing Salameh to death was another message to the Israeli rulers that their support for him was well placed, and that he served their interests.

Salameh was already a legend in his own lifetime. In the mid-1990s, when he was in his twenties, he was able to undermine Israel's security systems after infiltrating the West Bank from Gaza to set up paramilitary cells which turned the lives of illegal West Bank settlers into hell.

Sisi comically dragged Hassan Salameh and other al-Qassam leaders, several of whom have already been killed, into the case of the Egypt prison break. Sisi wanted to strengthen the stream of messages he has been sending Israel to reassure its rulers that it is worth continuing to invest political capital in supporting him.

Many in Israel interpret Sisi's hostile behaviour towards Hamas in just this way. Israeli commentator Reuven Berko is of the opinion that one of the most noteworthy aspects of Sisi's hostility to Hamas is that he wants to reassure Israel and the West he can be counted on to confront "Islamic terrorism".

Even Sisi's most enthusiastic supporters among the Israeli commentariat say that the convictions of Salameh and other senior Hamas figures have nothing to do with reality.

Sisi does not need to resort to this farce to convince the leaders of Israel and members of its elite of the benefits of betting on him. There is no need for a detailed reminder.

Former Israeli diplomat Ruth Wasserman-Lande wrote an October 2014 op-ed in Yediot Aharonot, titled Sisi, the People of Israel support you, in which she expressed her great admiration for "the lengths to which Sisi has gone to serve the people of Israel".

She did not forget to mention Sisi's most important contribution to Israeli "national security" was undermining the Palestinian resistance. Anyone following the debate inside Israel will notice the most right-wing and racist Israeli elites are Sisi's most enthusiastic supporters.

There is a long list of Sisi enthusiasts in Israel's right-wing, the most recent of which to come out is the delusional Likud minister of culture, Miri Regev, who leads campaigns to allow Jewish prayers on the Temple Mount, where al-Aqsa mosque is located.

Israel's realises the magnitude what it has gained following Sisi's coup in Egypt.

Sisi's vocal support for Israel

The strongest factor bolstering Israel's realisation of the magnitude of what it has gained following the coup in Egypt is that Sisi, unlike Hosni Mubarak, does not hesitate to admit his security policies also aim to serve Israel.

He has more than once affirmed that the deployment of Egyptian forces in Sinai also aims to improve the security environment in Israel.

It is noteworthy that official Israeli concern to protect Sisi is so strong that Israeli ruling elites avoid acknowledging his close relationship with Netanyahu for fear of embarrassing the regime in Cairo.

When Sisi acknowledged in a recent interview with the Washington Post that he spoke with Netanyahu "often", Tel Aviv declined to comment.

When Israeli Army Radio political correspondent Ilil Shahar quoted sources in Netanyahu's office saying that Sisi had proposed a Palestinian state be set up in northern Sinai, and that there was no need to vacate Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the office was quick to deny the report, although minister Naftali Bennett, a-member of the select security cabinet, confirmed it.

There is, nevertheless, a minority in Israel that warns of the risks of accepting Sisi's help for Israel's war against the Palestinian resistance.

That minority believes Sisi's attempts to help will ultimately backfire. Military commentator Amir Oren is of the opinion that Sisi's position during Israel's attack on Gaza last summer damaged Israel, because Sisi's intense hatred of Hamas caused him to delay a settlement to end the war, harming Israel.

The position Sisi is taking towards Hassan Salameh and his like stems from the fact that he realises that they are his complete antithesis.

Saleh al-Naami is a political science and economics professor at the Islamic University of Gaza.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic website.

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