Biden says US looking at 'new ways' to address Israel's Gaza blockade
Vice President Joe Biden spoke about Israel's Gaza blockade after meeting with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak today. But he did not say anything about reported election irregularities last week.
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The Rafah crossing is used primarily for the passage of persons, not goods, and only students or those seeking medical treatment are generally allowed to cross the border. While some trucks carrying aid including tents, generators, and wheelchairs were allowed to cross into Gaza, Egypt has refused a request from a physicians’ union to send supplies into the Palestinian territory.Skip to next paragraph
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Emad Gad, an analyst at the government-financed Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said Mubarak is largely on the same page as Biden.
“Frankly speaking, I think Egypt is understanding the Israeli point of view on this issue,” he says. “So that is why Egypt criticized Israeli action but Israel didn't take the decision to recall the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv.”
Government-linked newspapers, Mr. Gad says, have muted their criticism of the flotilla raid because Egypt is wary of the flotilla activists, whom it fears are close to Hamas.
Biden and Mubarak also discussed Iran’s nuclear program, with Biden reiterating Washington's desire for UN Security Council action against Tehran.
Biden skates over democracy issue
Biden also touched on an issue that activists say has been largely absent from the US agenda in Egypt recently: improving the climate for democracy. Biden said the US “looks forward to a continuing dialogue” with Egypt on political reform.
“Elements such as respect for human rights and the need to continue working for a vibrant civil society and more open political competition are vital for Egypt to remain strong and serve as a model to the region,” he said.
He did not mention the reports of widespread irregularities in parliamentary elections here last week. Gad says the issue of democracy promotion and free elections has taken a back burner to Palestinian mediation and peace talks.
The Obama administration has avoided pushing publicly for democratic reform in Egypt, which the Bush administration did in 2004-05 before backing off. One year after President Obama's historic speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, many are disillusioned by his failure to deliver on promises of a "new beginning."
Since Obama took office, the US has cut aid for Egyptian democracy promotion by half, and has agreed to send aid only to those nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) approved by the Egyptian government. Egypt is now seeking an endowment for US aid that would remove congressional oversight from the largess and keep the US from using it as a tool to apply leverage for democratic reform.
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