The semi-official Al-Ahram daily laid bare the dilemma at the root of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's position in an editorial last week: "Israel's loathsome crime with Hamas assistance," reads the headline.
Alongside a scathing attack on Israel, the paper emphasized the fact that had Hamas not fired missiles at Israel, the war would not have taken place. Egypt does not hesitate to blame Hamas, but at the same time it must pay lip service to Arab public opinion by accusing Israel of barbaric behavior against the Palestinian population in Gaza.
Egypt is the biggest Arab state and does not want to relinquish its position as the leader of the Arab world. This is a fact that should never had been forgotten, and this is the mistake the Israeli government made when, pursuant to the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the defense of the Philadelphi Corridor was entrusted to Egypt - which it accepted reluctantly. It did not relish the idea that it would appear to be defending Israel against the Palestinians of Gaza.
The smuggling of weapons is the main problem in this war on Hamas. Without the supply of explosives and missiles, Hamas would lose its capability to harass Israel and therefore its avowed Islamic vocation to fight against Israel. This would take from Hamas its raison d'etre.