December 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Egypt’s Sisi Wins on Anti-Palestinian Ticket

December 20, 2023 | Flash Brief

Egypt’s Sisi Wins on Anti-Palestinian Ticket

Latest Developments

Egyptian incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi secured a third term as Egypt’s president on December 18. Sisi faced no serious challengers in the December 10-12 elections, coasting through with nearly 90 percent of the vote. The election took place against the backdrop of the war in neighboring Gaza. “Egyptians lined up to vote not just to choose their president,” Sisi said in a victory speech, “but to express their rejection of this inhumane war to the entire world.”

Sisi later spoke with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and “reiterated Egypt’s commitment to making all possible effort to protect the Palestinian people,” according to a readout from Cairo. However, under Sisi’s leadership, Egypt has refused to absorb Palestinians looking to flee the Gaza Strip and has failed to stop Hamas from using tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border to smuggle weapons and ammunition into the strip.

Expert Analysis

“The Egyptians have done a lot to help Israel manage the Hamas challenge in recent years. But the current Egyptian policies are unsustainable. After initially attacking Hamas tunnels with vigor, the Sisi regime has turned a blind eye to weapons smuggling at the Philadelphi Corridor. This must be addressed when reconstruction begins, if not sooner.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“The Hamas-Israel war served as a lifeline for the Sisi regime. First, it mobilized the public around Sisi after people started to lose hope due to Egypt’s poor economy. Second, it reinvented Cairo’s regional role after it waned in the past decade due to domestic terrorism issues, economic problems, and political upheaval. Surely, the Sisi regime will try to exploit the Gaza war to boost its domestic image, obtain Western and Gulf financial aid, and save the Egyptian economy from crashing.” — Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow

Red Line

Sisi said on October 12 that Egypt will not absorb displaced Gazans because “it’s important for [Gaza’s] people to stay steadfast and exist on its land.” On October 17, Jordan’s King Abdullah announced that neither Jordan nor Egypt would take in Palestinians seeking to leave war-torn Gaza. “That is a red line,” he said. Egypt has opened its border with Gaza several times since November 1 to admit limited numbers of wounded Palestinians and foreign passport holders, but most of Gaza’s civilian population remains stuck in the enclave.

Political Motivations

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on December 8 maintained that “the political ramifications” of absorbing displaced Gazans are detrimental. He said that any effort to move Palestinians outside of the Gaza Strip “is an effort to liquidate the Palestinian cause” and is a “totally unacceptable” policy. Cairo continues to promote this view despite an assurance from Israel that the Jewish state has “no intentions” of permanently resettling Palestinians in the Egyptian Sinai in lieu of establishing a Palestinian state.

If Egypt support Gazans, it should offer them temporary housing,” by Haisam Hassanein

Hamas Tunnels to Egypt Played Key Role in Arming Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief

Egypt Accepts Only Small Number of Temporarily Displaced Gazans,” FDD Flash Brief

Egypt, Jordan, and Other Arab Governments Reject Gazan Refugees,” FDD Flash Brief


Arab Politics Egypt Israel Israel at War Palestinian Politics