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Aug 28th 2007

Peace in the Middle East II: Is the peace with Egypt an encouraging example for Israel?

This article is reprinted with permission from FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East). Visit FLAME’s website, factsandlogic.org, to read every one of their excellent articles debunking common misconceptions about the history and current events of the Middle East. — Admin

In the on-again/off-again Mid-East Peace negotiations the Arabs expect that, in exchange for peace, the territories that they consider to be “occupied” by Israel be restored to them, specifically, the so-called “West Bank,” Gaza, and the Golan Heights.

What are the facts?

Peace with Egypt is the coldest possible. For its agreement to make true peace with Israel, Egypt received the huge Sinai Peninsula in which Israel had invested over $10 billion. It had created flourishing cities, some of the most advanced military and naval installations in the world, and had developed oil fields that would have made it energy independent for the foreseeable future. Without firing a shot, Egypt received all of this, plus generous grants from the United States — $40 billion to date. What Egypt gave in return was a piece of paper. And even that was hedged. It would allow Egypt to join in an “Arab War” against Israel. The peace between Israel and Egypt, which the Israelis had envisioned to be like the peace between Germany and France, turned out, unfortunately, to be the “coldest peace” possible. It is less of a peace than a de facto state of non-belligerence. The Israeli ambassador in Cairo is isolated and blacklisted and does not participate in any official functions of the Egyptian government. There is practically no trade between the two countries and no cultural exchange. The public sector of Egypt, which constitutes 80% of the total economy, is forbidden to do business with Israel. Private enterprises are actively discouraged and often threatened when they try to become engaged with Israeli firms. Israeli firms are barred from submitting tenders for local projects. For “security reasons” Israeli firms are not allowed to participate in trade fairs. Although quite a few Israelis visit Egypt, hardly any Egyptians go to Israel since those who do wish to visit are summoned to the security police for lengthy interrogation.

Not forthcoming on diplomatic front. Many Israelis have been killed in Egypt or on the Egyptian border. The Egyptian media, including the official and semi-official press, are full of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish venom, preaching hatred and prejudice. There have been numerous instances of “crazed” Egyptian soldiers shooting up Israeli buses traveling along the border highways, to the general applause of the state-controlled media. On the diplomatic front, the Egyptians aren’t any more forthcoming. Egypt spearheaded the campaign to keeping the “Zionism is racism” resolution in the U.N., contrary to U.S. wishes. Egypt exerts much effort to prevent African countries from establishing or renewing diplomatic relations with Israel. Egyptian diplomats, including Butros-Butros Gahli, now secretary general of the United Nations, lobbied fervently against the loan guarantees that Israel needed to absorb and to settle the hundred of thousands of Jewish refugees who have already arrive or will still arrive from the former Soviet Union.

The saving grace for Israel in its very cold peace with Egypt is that the Sinai is very large, and serves as a buffer zone. But in the Golan Heights, which the Syrians wish to have returned in exchange for “peace,” and the “West Bank” and Gaza, which the Palestinians wish to have given to them as a “reward” for stopping the “intifada,” there is no room at all for buffer zones. Although autonomy for the native Arab population is definitely an Israeli policy goal and a commitment under the Camp David Accords, the “West Bank” and Gaza and the Golan cannot possibly be surrendered to another sovereignty for any foreseeable future. It would make Israel totally indefensible. If the peace with Egypt is an example of what peace with Syria or with the Palestinians would look like, Israel’s present government must be commended for proceeding with the greatest caution in the current negotiations and not to entrust its survival to empty promises. Only when the Arabs truly accept Israel as part of the Middle East should any further “land for peace” adjustments be considered.

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