With the death toll rising as Israel and Hamas near the end of the sixth straight day of fighting, the international community is looking to Egypt to act as a broker for a cease-fire.
Longtime Middle East diplomat Dennis Ross told Andrea Mitchell Reports Monday that it is in Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi’s interest to make a more dramatic attempt at a peace process than what’s been done in the past.
“Mubarak did very little to shut down the movement of arms in Gaza,” Ross told Andrea Mitchell, referring to Egypt’s former president who was ousted in last year’s Arab Spring after three decades in power. “They allow these smuggling tunnels to exist. They represent a threat to the Egyptian government even today. In the Sinai, you have a lot of jihadi forces there now who end up focusing on not only the Israelis, but also Egypt.”
The Israeli cabinet has moved to mobilize 75,000 reservists for a possible ground offensive, and more than 30,000 have been posted at the border since Friday. Ross called a ground offensive “the last thing the Israelis would like to do” but noted, “[Israelis] don’t want an outcome that produces a cease-fire and then two weeks from now, this starts all over again. When they mobilize this many troops, it’s not so easy to keep them mobilized for a long period of time. The notion that somehow this is just posturing on their part should be taken as something far more serious.”
Israeli air strikes have killed at least 101 Palestinians according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. More than 500 Hamas-fired rockets have struck Israel, and three Israelis have been killed.
President Obama called for a truce, but sided squarely sided with Israel’s right to self-defense at a press conference in Thailand this weekend.
“There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said. “So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.”