Shteinitz: FM Livni Withheld Egyptian Smuggling Video From US

MK Shteinitz criticized the Foreign Minister for withholding from the United States Congress a video of Egyptian police assisting Hamas terrorists.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

An Egypt-PA smuggling tunnel (archive)
An Egypt-PA smuggling tunnel (archive)

Knesset Member Yuval Shteinitz (Likud) criticized the Foreign Ministry and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Monday, saying the ministry had suppressed a video showing Egyptian police assisting Hamas terrorists involved in smuggling outlaws and goods into Gaza. The
The IDF obtained videotaped evidence of Egyptian policemen helping nearly 80 Hamas terrorists.
recording was originally sent to the Israeli Embassy in Washington and would have convinced the US Congress that Egypt is not capable of defending the border ahead of a crucial Congressional vote on foreign aid, he claimed. American legislators penalized Egypt anyway.

Minister Livni herself criticized the Egyptian security forces for failing to secure the border. Speaking before a Knesset committee on Monday, Livni said, "Egyptian actions in the war against smuggling in the Philadelphi Corridor are terrible and definitely have implications for future problems in the region, such as the arming of Hamas in Gaza."

The IDF obtained videotaped evidence of Egyptian policemen helping nearly 80 Hamas terrorists cross illegally into Gaza through a hole in the border fence. Other evidence indicates that the Egyptians have been assisting Hamas in smuggling weapons from the Sinai through tunnels under the Philadelphi Route and into the Palestinian Authority in Gaza.

Despite her criticism and the evidence provided by the IDF, Livni rejected Shteinitz’s complaint, telling him “every move must be calculated.” Israel should carefully consider the options before risking its ties with Egypt, she said. “Some things are done behind the scenes,” she added, refusing to give a more direct explanation for her ministry’s decision. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is expected to raise the issue with his Egyptian counterparts when he visits Cairo on Wednesday.

US Withholds Egyptian Aid; Israel Blamed
Despite the Israeli government's official hesitation in presenting its recording of Egyptian security forces' collusion with Hamas, the US Congress has decided to suspend part of America's annual military aid to Egypt. The 2008 foreign aid bill legislators approved on Sunday would hold back $100 million out of a $1.3 billion allocation on condition that Egypt takes certifiable steps to "detect and destroy the smuggling network and tunnels that lead from Egypt to Gaza." According to the draft legislation, the US Secretary of State has the discretion to release the withheld money within 45 days.

Egyptian officials blamed Israel for the unique Congressional move. "We are not revealing a secret when we say that the pro-Israel lobby (inside the Congress) has played a role in issuing this decision to achieve its well-known objectives and interests," said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki. “The Egyptian people and national powers, who are committed to Egypt's freedom in taking its own decisions, will categorically reject this bill,” Zaki said.

In reaction to the claims that Egypt is not fighting cross-border smuggling between Egypt and the PA, the Egyptian government claims that its manpower is limited by the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. In the fall of 2005, just weeks after the last Jew was forcibly removed from Gush Katif and other areas in Gaza, Israel transferred control of the Gaza-Egyptian border to Egypt. The agreement stipulated a 750-man Egyptian border force patrolling the border line known as the Philadelphi Route. This was contrary to the Israeli-Eyptian peace treaty of 1979, which banned any armed Egyptian presence in the Sinai Desert. Egypt announced last week that its forces had discovered two smuggling-tunnels.