Reading the Egyptian Sphinx

(Jerusalem Post) Efraim Inbar - The new change in tone from Cairo does not necessarily reflect a strategic decision to change Egypt's policy toward Israel. The democratization component of U.S. policy is particularly threatening to dictatorships like the Egyptian regime. Egypt prefers to see the Americans busy with peace efforts in the Israeli-Palestinian arena rather than pushing for reform in the Arab world. Egypt well understands that the Bush vision of a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict is closer to its own vision than to Sharon's prescription. A renewal of Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace talks might therefore put stress on Israel's relationship with Washington. In addition, the impetus for Cairo's new approach stems from the uncertainty surrounding the future of Gaza following an Israeli withdrawal. Cairo's fear that a Hamas-led Islamic state would be established on the Gaza-Egypt border forced it to abandon an understandable reluctance to play a more active role there. Moreover, the terrorist attack on the Taba Hilton in October has a Palestinian link which has pushed Egypt into greater cooperation with Israel. It wants to improve the overall security environment so as to reduce terror emanating from Gaza. Israel should welcome any improvement in bilateral relations. However, Jerusalem must demand that Cairo live up to its peace treaty commitments, including a reform of the Egyptian school curriculum with a view to imbuing the next generation of Egyptians with a more positive attitude toward Israel. The slight changes in Egyptian positions we are now seeing are easily reversible, but they could reflect a step toward the reluctant acceptance of Israel as a fait accompli.

2004-12-16 00:00:00

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