As Egypt plays host to the push for a cease-fire, it is already seeing positive effects on its global image. "The United States is very grateful for Egypt's leadership and we're here today — I am here personally at the request of President Obama — to immediately try to find a way to support Egypt's initiative," Kerry said after meetings in Cairo on Tuesday. And back in Washington, President Sisi garnered a "round of applause" at a pro-Israel event when the host mentioned how many Hamas tunnels he has shut down.
Egypt is sorely in need of the good Western press after a rash of political moves that earned it worldwide censure over the last year. Sisi led what was effectively a coup against the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed Morsi in 2013, leaving his post as commander in chief of the military to take on the presidency. A presidential election in late May of this year to solidify his takeover saw Sisi walk away with almost 97 percent of the Egyptian vote, amid widespread boycotts and allegations of a political landscape profoundly skewed in the general's favor.
Since the election, two separate mass death sentences were handed down to more than 800 dissidents accused of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and three al-Jazeera journalists remain in captivity after being sentenced to seven- to 10-year prison terms for "falsifying the truth" in their reporting. The sentences drew the condemnation of U.S. lawmakers, who in June suggested that U.S. aid to Egypt should be pulled as Egypt descended "toward despotism."
Despite all this, Egypt remains the last best hope for a cease-fire in Gaza. Egypt's strong ties to Israel put it in a good negotiating position — these ties were affirmed when Israel quickly accepted Egypt's earlier cease-fire proposal. It is in a better position than even the U.S., whose efforts have been maligned by the Israeli side. A former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had "not invited" Kerry to try to broker a cease-fire on Monday. Nonetheless, Kerry is playing a leading role in the push for an agreement based on the "Egyptian framework."
Egypt faces more of a hurdle in dealing with Hamas, a group that was close with the previous Morsi administration in Cairo, but which has clashed with Sisi. But Egypt's situation right now is something of a political win-win for Sisi at home: if Hamas and Israel agree to its cease-fire proposal, he looks like a diplomatic hero; if not, then Israeli forces will continue to chip away at an organization that Egypt is happy to see weakened. But the president must be careful: popular support for the Palestinian cause within Egypt could make Sisi look out of touch if his distaste for Hamas gets in the way of negotiating for Gazans' lives.