Morsi has not completely thrown open the crossing as Hamas would like. But during the past week, Egypt let in wounded Palestinians and bolstered Hamas with waves of delegations entering Gaza to show their support — from Egyptian activists to the foreign ministers of Turkey, Qatar, Algeria, Sudan and others.
Morsi also dispatched his prime minister to Gaza soon after hostilities began on a heavily symbolic visit. A photograph of a tearful Hesham Kandil kissing the lifeless body of a Palestinian child was splashed across the front page of every Cairo newspaper.
Since his presidency began, Morsi has used foreign policy to make a splash. Critics say that allows him a high international profile with little accountability and is easier than tackling the daily hardship of a population already weighed down by unemployment, price hikes and surging crime.
Morsi began with a hard hitting speech in Iran last August calling on Tehran’s ally Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. He founded a working group with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to look for an end to Syria’s civil war. It has gone nowhere and the Saudis have since pulled out, but, Morsi is none the worse for it.
Gaza is more hazardous for him if the cease-fire fails. Egyptians feel strongly about what they see as decades of suffering by the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. Their opposition to Israel runs deep after four full-blown wars with it in six decades. A resumption of Israeli attacks on Gaza, for example, could land Morsi in hot water with the Egyptian public.
Also, Morsi has to contend with growing criticism by critics that his preoccupation with Gaza pulled him away from pressing issues at home.
More than 50 children were killed last week when their school bus was hit by a train at a railway crossing in southern Egypt, an incident that led to charges of negligence against Morsi’s government. Street protests against his policies and the Brotherhood left one person dead and hundreds wounded in Cairo since Monday. Charges of illegitimacy now swirl around a panel drafting a new constitution after liberals and Christians pulled out in protest against the domination of the process by Morsi’s Islamist allies.
On top of that, Egypt announced Tuesday it reached an initial understanding with the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8 billion loan to kick-start the ailing economy. Egypt will have to reduce subsidies from basic items like fuel, risking social unrest over price hikes.
‘‘Morsi’s popularity can’t go on eroding like this forever’’ without a backlash, said rights activist Mohsen Kamal. ‘‘He is vulnerable to dramatic and maybe even violent changes if he ignores what is happening.’’
Sensing the mounting problems at home, Morsi called off plans to travel to Pakistan for a summit of eight Islamic nations, sending his vice president instead.
Morsi will stay home, an official announcement said, ‘‘to follow up on domestic issues and the observation by all parties of the cease-fire in Gaza.’’