Sinai, the New Egypt, and the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Alan Baker - The peace relationship established in 1978-9 between Israel and Egypt constituted a significant and groundbreaking change in the entire mindset of the international community, in general, and in Middle East relationships, in particular. It was a revolutionary change in the entire concept of Middle East political, military, economic, and social relationships that laid the foundation for the ensuing Middle East peace process between Israel and its other neighbors. In Article III of the peace treaty, Egypt and Israel undertake: "to ensure that acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, or violence do not originate from and are not committed from within its territory, or by any forces subject to its control or by any other forces stationed on its territory." Thus, both states are obligated to prevent the use of their territory for acts of terror against the other. In the context of the present situation in Sinai and the enhanced terror activity by such organizations as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda, this means that Egypt has the full sovereign responsibility and obligation to act in order to prevent any such terror activity which could pose a threat to Israel. The semi-demilitarization of Sinai, while considered necessary and agreed-upon in 1979, clearly did not visualize the possibility that thirty years hence the area would become a haven for arms smuggling and terror infrastructure. In order to cope with just such eventualities, the treaty enables various mechanisms to handle situations that crop up on an ad-hoc basis and there is no express need for formal amendment to the peace treaty itself. Conversely, any changes in the level of forces of the Egyptian army in Sinai without Israel's agreement would constitute a violation of the treaty. The present challenge and threat to the integrity of the peace treaty posed by the evolving character of Sinai is a challenge that can and should be handled within the context of the peace treaty. It is perhaps the most serious test of the capability of Egypt to prove to the world that even in an era of extreme political change, its interest is in protecting and maintaining the integrity of the peace relationship with Israel. The writer, Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center, is former Legal Adviser to Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador of Israel to Canada.

2012-08-22 00:00:00

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