Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority reached an agreement on Sunday evening to allow more than 1,000 Palestinians returning from the haj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to return to their homes in the Gaza Strip.What the news media is refusing to mention is that by Egypt acquiescing to Hamas demands to open Rafah, it is a slap in the face of not only Israel but also of the PA, which nominally is supposed to control the Gaza crossings. By Egypt allowing Hamas to dictate how Rafah operates, Egypt is giving de facto recognition of the Hamas government of Gaza as being legitimate.
Hamas had demanded that Egypt reopen the Rafah crossing to allow the pilgrims to pass directly into the coastal territory rather than force them to pass through Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom border crossing.
Israel was insisting that they must all pass through Israeli security checks on the grounds that some of them might be carrying arms or money for Hamas.
Palestinians sources claimed that the agreement stipulated that Egypt would check the Palestinians and report to Israel about any large sums of money found on the pilgrims.
Israel was concerned that senior Hamas members carrying large sums of money raised in Saudi Arabia were among the throngs of Gazans that were preparing to enter the Strip.
Hamas blamed Israel and the PA government led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for trying to use the pilgrims to leverage political pressure on the organization.
"Those Palestinians are our brothers. We'll find them a solution, but let's do without loud mouthing. Negotiations won't work that way," he told a news conference in Cairo.
The case of the pilgrims gave rise to a heated debate in the Egyptian parliament on Sunday, with most members favoring their return directly to Gaza without Israeli checks.
Hamas Islamists called on Egypt to open its shuttered border crossing with the Gaza Strip to let the Palestinians return to their Gaza homes on Saturday.
From this article is appears that a majority of Egypt's parliament supports Hamas' position concerning Rafah. For some reason, no one considers it strange that a nation, ostensibly at peace with Israel and an ally of the US, would so blatantly support Hamas at a time when its influence among Palestinian Arabs - and Gazans themselves - appears to be slipping. It doesn't seem to be in Egypt;s best interests to strengthen Hamas politically. So why does its government support Rafah being open in this case?
The answer, only half jokingly, is the Islamist Lobby.
A small population of Islamists can in many cases control the foreign policy of Egypt, as well as many other Arab countries. While the "realists" will try to cozy themselves up to the West, many in the government naturally sympathize with the hard-line, anti-West Islamist lobbies.
And, like the much talked-about Israel Lobby and Americans, the people in Arab countries are much more sympathetic to the Islamist lobby as well. Western aid is great but they don't like having any strings attached. Sure, some actions by some terrorists are beyond the pale, but in general they are solidly behind the goals of terror organizations.
For some reason, no one asks the Arab countries to be "even-handed" concerning Middle East peace. It is axiomatic that they will be 100% supportive of any side that fights Israel. But Western nations, when they naturally sympathize with the Western-oriented Jewish state, are accused of not being "honest brokers." Having 90% of the United Nations in knee-jerk opposition to Israel is not nearly enough for these hypocritical advocates of "even-handedness" - no, it is easier to blame a mysterious Jewish lobby for any possible pro-Israel actions in the West.
This is the power of the Islamist lobby. Just by adopting an anti-Western, anti-Zionist attitude, it wields great power in all Arab nations, and pro-Western "realists" cannot really fight it.
What is the major weapon in the Islamist Lobby arsenal? What does it do that makes it so effective?
The answer is as obvious as it is hardly mentioned: the implicit threat of violence. If Arab nations do not toe the Islamist Lobby line, they can expect terror attacks on their soil from thousands of Islamists already living there.
So even though Hamas is a threat to Egypt as well - even though the free flow of weapons and money to Gaza is not in Egypt's interests - the Islamist Lobby can ensure that Egypt toes its line. The implicit threat of Islamist violence, which is the real power of the Islamist Lobby, is far more seductive than the empty Western threats of cutting aid by a percentage point or two.
To some extent, the entire world is held hostage to this threat, but the likelihood of any nation capitulating to the Islamist Lobby threats is directly proportional to the number of Islamists on their land. And the number of Islamists is itself directly proportional to the number of Muslims.
The worst that anyone can say about the so-called Israel Lobby is that its members can threaten to support a different candidate in a free election. But, as Egypt and now Pakistan knows, the Islamist Lobby can threaten - and follow through on their threats - in much more bloody and effective ways.
Terrorism, and its implicit threats of violence, is just as much a political tool as fundraising or lobbying. But one doesn't see it being denounced quite as vituperatively when it is only a background threat that silently moves politicians to act in ways that are good for their self-preservation but bad for their nations and the world.
So don't expect any editorials denouncing Egypt's capitulation to those who support Hamas. The fear of the Islamist Lobby ensures that any criticism of it will be much quieter than that of other special interest groups.