Yakir Elkariv – Yes
Last week, in the wake of the death of Egyptian police officers in the terror offensive near Eilat, Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Araby declared that “the Camp David Accord isn’t holy.” Even though the Arab statesman’s words included a hint of provocation and threat, there is no reason for anxiety. The opposite is true. The modification of the peace treaty with Egypt – which will mark its 33rd anniversary in March of 2012 – is indeed the order of the hour.
In the years that have passed since the treaty was signed, the Middle East changed its face: Next month we shall mark the 10th anniversary of the Twin Tower attacks; Iran has turned into a dominant power in what has been dubbed the “axis of evil”; two wars took place in the Gulf, Saddam Hussein was eliminated and the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya (and apparently Syria as well, soon) were toppled by popular uprisings.
Yet despite hatred for Israel on the Egyptian street growing over the years, the treaty perpetuated a situation that was characterized as “cold peace.” Indeed, there may not be much love lost between the two peoples, yet the quiet was maintained, tourism trickled in, gas flowed and trade between the states totaled some half a billion dollars in 2010.
What greatly changed is the situation in the Sinai. If 10 or even five years ago a normative Israeli family could vacation on one of the peninsula’s magical beaches, a series of terror attacks eliminated this possibility. This harms Egypt, with tourism being an important part of its income, no less than it harms Israelis.
If the Camp David Treaty forbade the deployment of Egyptian forces in the Sinai for fear of a ground invasion into Israel, the time has come to change this clause and allow Egypt to freely operate in the Sinai against the terror cells active there. And if we are already creating a new clause, there is no reason not to sharpen it and obligate the Egyptians to bear responsibility for the safety of Israeli tourists.
And if we are opening the treaty for discussion, perhaps we should add a clause obligating the Egyptians to also operate in the Gaza Strip and exercise control over missile launching cells. After Egypt succeeds in this mission, we can add a clause that reaffirms Cairo’s obligation to maintain regular flow of gas to Israel, despite the odd mishaps that have maligned the pipeline as of late and disrupted the supply – after all, they are committed to this on the basis of existing agreements.
So what do you say about that, Mr. al-Araby? Do you still feel like opening the peace treaty for discussion, or did you lose the urge to do so?
Nechama Duek – No
You know how an appliance that you bought years ago refuses to break? You pass by it and think to yourself: Perhaps we should replace it by a new, modern, nicely designed appliance? And then you say to yourself: We’ll replace it when it breaks.
This is precisely the situation with the Egypt peace treaty. Why replace it, why change it, and why open it up for discussion? Ever since the treaty was signed by Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat 32 years ago, with US President Jimmy Carter as mediator, the agreement has functioned and adhered to the strict terms set within it.
The treaty withstood the regime change in Egypt after Sadat’s assassination and it shall also withstand the Tahrir Square revolution. Why? Because the Egyptians need this peace no less than we do. There is symmetry here between us and them – neither of us can renounce this peace.
The state of affairs in Egypt is even worse than our own. Tens of millions of people are unemployed, millions of Egyptian academics cannot find work in their field, and the country relies on the US, which provides some $2 billion per year in aid. Hence, the new regime in Cairo cannot afford – especially at this time while officials are rebuilding their government institutions - to deal with Israel or even think about declaring war against it, even if Egypt’s army is the 2nd largest in the region behind Israel’s military.
Indeed, following the recent events in the south and given that the long Egyptian border is completely vulnerable, with Cairo not doing enough to put an end to arms smuggling or infiltrations into Israel, the sides must sit down and discuss the required actions. That is, how to handle specific scenarios: How to avoid a situation where Egyptian soldiers are again failing to prevent terror cells from entering Israel, and how to ensure that Israeli soldiers don’t fire at Egyptian troops while pursuing terrorists.
This discussion should be undertaken via dialogue and talks based on mutual trust. If Defense Minister Ehud Barak believes that at this time there is room for deploying thousands of Egyptian police officers or soldiers in the Sinai, no problem, as long as it’s clear this is done by agreement and for a limited time to be determined by both parties.
As opposed to the position articulated by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, I do not think that such move would require the Knesset’s approval. We can relax and not think that the solution is to destroy the old in order to adjust to the new.
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