Traditionally Egypt has looked after its own interests and Palestine can hardly call it a friend. The state of war between Egypt and Israel since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war ended in 1979, with the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty a year after the Camp David Accords. This cold peace between the two jeopardises any efforts that Egypt can make to help the Palestinians. Yet Egypt is the only country in the region that Israel will talk with; US senator John Kerry will be involved in these talks. Egypt sees the conflict as Israel versus Hamas, not Israel versus Palestine, and this type of convenient diplomacy has given Egypt room to wash its hands of supporting Palestine for humanitarian reasons.

The Egyptian government has hated Hamas for a long time and sees it as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s new President wants to reassert his country’s direct interest in the conflict by isolating Hamas from early cease-fire iterations and wants Hamas neutralized. Egypt’s interest is in protecting Egypt, which means helping Israel help itself by weakening Hamas. In 2012, Egypt was able to broker a cease-fire. Now, Hamas is not interested. This has been a boon to Israel, buying it valuable time and silencing some critics of its bombing campaign in Gaza. The Obama administration has endorsed Israel’s right to defend itself and both Israel and Egypt have rejected Hamas’ demands, and for all practical purposes are allied. Neither Egypt nor Israel want to see Hamas reap a victory from this round of fighting. Yet Egypt has to be very carful as there is a lot of pro-Palestine and pro-Brotherhood sentiment in the country spelling trouble for the new administration.

Since the deposing of the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi and the instatement of Retired Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as President in May, the transition government he led distanced itself from Hamas. The smuggling of weapons to Gaza through the tunnel networks that link Gaza with Egypt and Israel has stopped. Additionally, Egypt had quietly increased military cooperation with Israel to combat Islamist terrorism in the Sinai. For Palestinians in Gaza, the tunnels are a life-line that transport not just weapons, but foodstuffs, petrol and gas, medicines, and even livestock into Gaza. In such a situation, Hamas has appealed to Turkey and Qatar to help mediate, further alienating Egypt for the Palestinian cause. This is a cruel reminder that though Muslim hearts bleed for the plight of the Palestinians, national interest comes first for the Arab states of the region. In the international system, all nations are on their own.