A stable if somewhat cold peace has endured between Egypt and Israel for nearly fifty years, a peace that includes serious diplomatic and security cooperation. Much of that has to do with Gaza. After Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel and Egypt jointly imposed a blockade and began to control its borders, since each had its own reasons to fear Hamas. Hamas was, after all, an outgrowth of the very Muslim Brotherhood that threatened the Egyptian government’s rule.

Since October 7, Egypt has catapulted itself into a role as a key mediator between Israel and Hamas. The country’s leader, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has seen the crisis as a lever he could use to grow his country’s economy and restore some of its diminishing political clout. Has that worked?

Haisam Hassanein is an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In this podcast, he joins host Jonathan Silver to think through how Cairo assesses the war on its border, how it sees its own interests there, and what lasting consequences Israel’s war with Hamas may have on the future of Egypt’s relations with the Jewish state.

In the last few days, it’s been widely reported that Egyptian mediators were responsible for surreptitiously changing the terms of a recent hostage negotiation between Israel and Hamas, thereby deceiving the American and Israeli negotiators. That news broke after the two recorded their conversation, and so while they won’t discuss it explicitly, this news can be better understood in light of how Hassanein describes how Egypt understands its own national interests.

Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.