Since taking office in June, Egypt's Islamist President Morsi has upheld Egypt's peace treaty with Israel and strictly controlled border crossings. Could the Gaza conflict change his calculus?
Israel's new air assault on the Gaza Strip, which has so far killed 15 people in the tiny enclave and raised the prospect of a longer conflict, has also presented Egypt's Islamist president with the first real test of how he will manage his country's ties with Israel.
The Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi took office June 30 amid worry in the West that he would not uphold Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, while at home, where the treaty is unpopular, he faced pressure to reorient Egypt's foreign policy and take a stronger stand against his northern neighbor.
Now, his response to the crisis in Gaza could indicate the extent to which his foreign policy will be influenced by the ideals he espoused as a Muslim Brotherhood member, or whether it will follow the course laid out by his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
Mr. Morsi's spokesman announced today that the president had instructed Egypt's prime minister to visit Gaza tomorrow in a show of solidarity with the Palestinian people,. If the visit occurs, it would be a bold move by the new president.
But so far, there have been few other indicators that Morsi will break strongly with the past. Last night, Morsi's spokesman announced the recall of Egypt's ambassador to Tel Aviv. But Mubarak himself did the same several times during his rule. Morsi also reopened Egypt's Rafah border crossing with Gaza, which was closed today for the Islamic new year holiday, but it remained open only to those with government permits to cross, as well as those wounded in the assault. Mubarak also allowed wounded Palestinians to seek treatment in Egypt during the last major conflict in Gaza – Israel's three-week ground assault that begin in late December 2008.
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