Responsibility of Egypt to solve the problem

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

The Egyptians are deployed along the border between Gaza and Egypt. It is their responsibility to ensure that the border operates properly, in accordance with the signed agreements. Israel expects the Egyptians to solve the problem.

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IBA News interview with Mark Regev, Prime Minister’s Foreign Media Adviser
February 3, 2008

Q: The Egyptians have sealed the border between Gaza and Sinai with the quiet cooperation of Hamas. What is Israel’s response to this development?

Mark Regev: We have been following closely what’s been going on the last week or two and it’s most concerning. There are new developments that have to be analyzed, specifically the period when there was total anarchy there. Who knows what went into Gaza, what terrorist equipment, what trained activists, what explosives, what rockets? We’re also concerned regarding movement in the other direction – terrorists leaving Gaza, going to Sinai and trying to come into Israel through that very long border we have between Sinai and the Negev.

Q: You’re presenting a very dire picture of the security situation that Israel is facing as a result of that?

Mark Regev: Yes. There’s no doubt that there are new challenges that we’ll have to meet. We have to talk about both tightening up security at our border in the Negev, which has been basically a very peaceful border since the peace treaty was signed with Egypt. We didn’t have serious security challenges on that border; it appears now that we will have such concerns. And we have to beef up our presence along the frontier between the Negev and Sinai and also in Gaza itself. If, as has been reported, there are newer, longer-range missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, possibly anti-tank missiles, other weapons coming into Gaza now, these are challenges that cannot be ignored.

Q: Earlier in the week, Hosni Mubarak said Israel wanted to dump the Palestinians on his country and that in fact that our closure of the Gaza Strip has just made the Hamas stronger rather than weakened them, which was the purpose of the closure. Do you agree with him?

Mark Regev: Hamas is the problem; there’s no doubt about that. Hamas is holding the whole region hostage. It’s holding the Israeli population in the south hostage to these daily missile barrages. It’s holding the Egyptian government hostage with this attack into Egypt, forcibly breaking down the border and forcing themselves into Egypt. And of course it’s holding the civilian population of Gaza hostage, who are suffering because of the extremists and hateful agenda of this regime.

Q: Hamas is saying now it wants to sever economic ties with Israel and rely more on Egypt. Is this in Israel’s interest and is it at all feasible?

Mark Regev: We have to wait and see because what Hamas says and what they do aren’t necessarily identical. We can say the following, though: Hamas has an extremist agenda, a hateful agenda, and they have an interest in promoting instability. All the other actors in the region, whether it’s us, the government of the PA, the government of Egypt, the Europeans, the Americans, we have the contrary interest – to try to weaken Hamas and to strengthen regional stability.

Q: Can Israel rely on Egypt?

Mark Regev: We constantly engage with the Egyptians. We have a peace treaty with Egypt. That peace treaty with Egypt is one of the foundations of Israeli foreign policy.

Q: Does that mean we can rely on Egypt?

Mark Regev: We want to continue talking with the Egyptians. We have a common interest: neither Egypt nor Israel has an interest in Gaza becoming a zone where terrorists can export their extremist agenda to other parts of the region, attacking Israel and forcing themselves into Egypt.