Gaza arms smuggling could scuttle summit, warns Israel

Sunday, October 14, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

Israeli officials warned their American counterparts last week that the continued entry of illicit arms into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via the Egyptian Sinai could drastically reduce the chances for a positive outcome at an Israeli-Arab peace summit scheduled to take place in Annapolis, Maryland next month.

The Israelis noted that sooner or later they will be forced to launch a sweeping ground operation in Gaza to curb the growing strength of Hamas forces based there, according to Ha'aretz. If that happens in the next month, it would be detrimental to the summit, which is seen as a last ditch effort by the Bush Administration to oversee a final status peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs.

Increasing the likelihood that Israeli forces will have to enter Gaza just prior to or during the summit are Hamas threats to torpedo the talks. If Hamas uses the advanced weapons that are flowing almost unchecked across the Gaza-Egypt border, Israel will have no choice but to retaliate in force.

In order to prevent such a scenario, Israel is urging the US to put pressure on Egypt to more effectively police the short border. Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter on Friday said that if it wanted, Egypt could stop the flow of arms into Gaza in a single day.

Several Israeli lawmakers have long warned that Egypt is not the friend it pretends to be when international news cameras are trained on it.

Dr. Aaron Lerner of Independent Media Review & Analysis (IMRA) suggested that Egypt and other regional powers likely want Israel to invade Gaza either before or during the upcoming summit, as such an action would give the Arabs a tremendous advantage at the negotiating table.

"Pressure on Israel would be incredible to reward the Arabs for 'generously' participating despite the [Gaza] operation," noted Lerner.

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