26 March 2009

Israel & Egypt-30th Anniversary Not Happy One

Egypt & Israel,
Happy 30th Anniversary?
Maybe not!

Egypt has suffered greatly due to the recent genocide in Gaza and it's shameless silence and support for fellow Arabs being slaughtered en mass. Many in Egypt and other Arab states are not celebrating the Egypt-Israeli treaty’s 30th anniversary, and with good reason. Great report from the BBC just out:

In Cairo, the 30th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is seen by many as a moment for regret, not celebration.

"It's a celebration for Israel - not for Egypt, not for the Arabs, not for the Palestinians," says Issam al-Aryan of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist opposition movement which is officially banned in Egypt.

"I think the majority of Egyptians are against the treaty after 30 years."
Israel is holding events to mark what it calls a "watershed" moment, the first time an Arab nation recognised the Jewish state.

But there are no commemorations in Egypt, where discussion of the treaty focuses on concerns over Israel's new right-wing government and a campaign in the courts to stop Egypt selling its gas to Israel at below-market rates.

Pariah status

Under the deal, Israel agreed to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula which it had occupied in whole or in part since 1967. In return, Egypt agreed to demilitarise the area and normalise relations with Israel. Promises of a comprehensive peace agreement for the whole Middle East quickly ran into the sand and Egypt went from a leader in the Arab world to a pariah.

Despite public outrage, the government refused to open its border with Gaza, leading to accusations that Cairo was putting its relationship with Israel and the US above the suffering of the Palestinians.

But some say Egypt could worry less about antagonising Israel.

"Since Israel violated its commitments [under the treaty] by carrying out military actions on Egyptian borders, by not going along with the intention in Camp David to reach a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, and violated its commitments to the Palestinians, and its commitments under international law, I think Egypt has a good argument for offering more support to the Palestinians," says Professor Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed of the American University in Cairo

Undiplomatic presence

But the arrival of Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud-led government in Israel, including the hardliner Avigdor Lieberman as a possible foreign minister, brings fresh concerns for stability. Mr Lieberman said Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak should "go to hell", and has suggested bombing the Aswan Dam, drowning Egypt in the waters of the Nile.

Such language does "not make Israelis very good partners", admits former diplomat Ahmed Maher:

"The Israelis are so arrogant... We are on a very shaky foundation, but a shaky foundation which has endured because we Egyptians have been wise.
"You can't live by the sword alone, this is something the Israelis, in the arrogance of power, have not yet realised."

Many Egyptians are bitter that their precedent of exchanging land for peace did not lead to a comprehensive settlement.

Instead, some believe Israel returned Sinai to consolidate its hold on other occupied territories and free its hand to pursue military action against the Palestinians and in Lebanon.

Fact of life

Although there is now talk of a possible deal between Israel and Syria, Issam al-Aryan warns the Syrians not to believe it will help in the wider conflict:
"I hope they can study and review 30 years of discomfort and struggle in Egypt against the treaty.

"They are intelligent enough to get the lesson: the problem is not in Golan or Sinai, it is in Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Gaza, Ramallah, that is the problem."
But even the Muslim Brotherhood shies away from calling for Egypt's treaty to be ripped up.

"Many people are opposed to this treaty," says Professor Mustafa Kamel al-Sayed.
"Israel did not live up to its treaty... But I think the Egyptian public considers the treaty to be a fact of life".

In three decades, Egypt's cold peace with Israel has never warmed.
The treaty may now be a fact of life. But it is still not a comfortable one.