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31
Jan
2017

The Egyptian President’s Payment to Hamas


In a couple of days, a Hamas security delegation is expected to arrive in Egypt to meet with Egyptian senior intelligence officials on issues concerning Gaza border security. Egyptian officials are demanding the extradition of 20 fugitives tied to terror activities in Egypt and organizations like ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood.

Sisi speaking at the 2015 funeral

Sisi speaking at the 2015 funeral of an assassinated  Egyptian public prosecutor. (Office of the Egyptian Presidency)

Hamas has agreed, in principle, to hand over wanted persons to Egypt if it is proven that they hurt Egyptian national security.

Egypt, for its part, agreed to measures significantly easing the Gaza blockade, led by the opening of the Rafah crossing.

This visit of a high-level Hamas delegation to Egypt is a direct consequence of opening a new page in relations between Hamas and Egypt for the first time since Mohammed Morsi was ousted in July 2013.

It is now clear that the new Egyptian security deal with Hamas is intended to help Egypt battle with ISIS in northern Sinai. This direct contact is a result of reshuffling of the Egyptian intelligence.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has agreed to pay “compensation” to Hamas and to remove General Wael al-Safati who is in charge of “Palestine” for Egyptian intelligence.

A presidential decree issued by the Egyptian president “retired” General al-Safati along with 18 other senior Egyptian intelligence officials “in accordance with their request.”

General al-Safati caused trouble for Hamas, according to Hamas officials, and the organization worried that the general would continue to create new tensions between the Egyptian leadership and Hamas. Two weeks ago, Ismail Haniyeh,a  senior leader of Hamas, and Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau, visited Egypt and met with Egyptian intelligence officials.

They complained about the state of relations between General al-Safati and Hamas.

As part of the new security deal with Hamas, Egyptian President al-Sisi agreed to retire General al-Safati from his position.

The name of General al-Safati has been published extensively in the Arab world last year after a recorded conversation between him and Muhammad Dahlan, a leading opponent of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, was leaked to a television channel in Turkey, in which al-Safati harshly criticized Abbas, Fatah, and the PFLP.

President Sisi agreed to give up on the service of General al-Safadi in order to remove any Hamas excuses to the security demands of the Egyptians.

Egyptian expects Hamas to “straighten up” quickly with new Egyptian policies regarding Gaza and completely disconnect with the terrorist activities of ISIS and the “Muslim Brotherhood” in Egypt.

But one needs to look at the purge of Egyptian intelligence forces more broadly.

A Revolving Door Position

This is the third time in two years that the Egyptian president al-Sisi made significant changes within the ranks of the Egyptian intelligence in order to reinforce the state control mechanisms and appoint entrusted officials.

Al-Sisi is very familiar with the Egyptian intelligence system; he was head of military intelligence before President Mohammed Morsi appointed him defense minister.

Members of Islamic State, reportedly in Gaza.

Members of Islamic State, reportedly in Gaza.
(Image source: Islamic State YouTube video)

In July 2016, President Sisi retired 17 senior Egyptian intelligence officials because of their opposition to the agreement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia concerning the transfer of sovereignty of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.

President Sisi intends to take complete control of the General Intelligence Service and rid it of his opponents. Currently heading the intelligence service, established by President Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1952, is General Khalid Fawzi.

Al-Sisi has appointed his eldest son Mahmoud to be in charge of internal security in Egypt; he is considered a “strong man” in Egyptian intelligence agencies and attends all of his father’s formal meetings.

The “Muslim Brotherhood” is defined as a terrorist organization in Egypt and is considered the main threat to the rule of President Sisi, so the ability to completely control the Egyptian General Intelligence apparatus is of utmost importance.

About Yoni Ben Menachem

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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