Many Israeli diplomats have told us that they just don’t trust the United Nations and they feel surrounded by enemies in the Middle East.
Now we have a report that one of the nations currently trying to broker a cease fire between Hamas and Israel was actually the “pipeline” for the Hamas weapons supply effort.
The Associated Press is reporting today that the U.S. paid some $23 Million to assist Egypt to stop the arms supply from Egypt into Gaza….the money, at least some of it we are told, went to the U.N….
Angry at Hamas’ ability to fire rockets at Israel, the United States last year allocated $23 million to help train Egyptian officials to stop the smuggling into through tunnels at a border plagued by crisis and corruption.
Months later, there is little noticeable effect: Smuggling has continued at a robust pace, allowing Hamas militants in Gaza to gain rockets to shoot at Israeli citizens. Israel’s military says about 300 tunnels ran under the Gaza-Egypt border before its military offensive began Dec. 27. Since then, Israel has bombed dozens of them.
The story of the U.S.-funded program and its lack of impact on the problem is a cautionary tale of how hard it has been to control Gaza’s border with Egypt — at a time when patrolling that frontier and stopping the weapons flow are once again hot issues as mediators seek a cease-fire in Gaza.
Previous attempts to close the tunnels have largely failed, partly because of the mutual mistrust between Israel and Egypt and partly because of Egypt’s inability to rein in corruption and alleviate poverty in the Sinai. The region near Gaza is home to tens of thousands of mostly disaffected Bedouin. Many of these nomads earn their living through smuggling.
Some critics say Egypt has never undertaken a truly robust effort because it hopes to use the issue to gain something it wants in turn: the right to deploy troops at the Sinai border, which was denied under the 1979. Egyptian officials also have been leery of making the border with Gaza truly normal and functioning, fearing an influx of Palestinian militancy into Egypt.
President George W. Bush’s national security adviser, , would not point fingers when asked Tuesday whether Egypt had done enough to stop the smuggling of rockets.
“Preventing them is very hard because Hamas clearly wants them, and countries like Iran and clearly want to supply them,” he said. More work also needs to be done to interdict the weapons that come from supplying nations before they get to the tunnels leading into Gaza, he said.
International Mideast envoy Tony Blair said this week that arrangements to stop the smuggling would be key to any cease-fire. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said as part of a plan put forth by Egypt and France, Cairo had agreed to work more on border security.
But pessimism about Egypt’s political willingness or ability to stop the smuggling remains.
Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., said Egypt has long lacked the political will to crack down.
“It’s about changing the entire attitude, whereby you do enforcement in a very intensive and aggressive way, which we have not seen yet,” Ayalon said.