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Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedlyallowed about 800 Egyptian troops to deploy around Sharm el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
Some reports said Bedouin in the area – as part of the unrest now roiling Egypt – were challenging the Egyptian authorities there and needed to be quelled. The demilitarization of Sinai, from which Egypt attacked Israel in the 1948, 1967, and 1973 wars, is a central plank of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. It was maintained for three decades – until now.
That is not to say Sinai’s demilitarization has made life easy for Israel. Particularly since the latter’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Sinai has been a smuggling route where missiles and other weaponry originating in Iran make their way to Hamas in Gaza.
More recently it has also been a route where illegal African migrants – smuggled, like the weapons, by gangs of Sinai Bedouin – make their way into Israel, creating serious social and crime problems in some of its cities.
Still, to most Israelis these have seemed prices worth paying in return for the Israeli-Egyptian peace – or lack of military hostilities – that has prevailed since the peace treaty was signed.
The remilitarization of Sinai – even if at a small, symbolic level, and done to help the Mubarak regime preserve control at a moment of crisis – rouses specters for Israelis already rattled by fears of that regime’s dissolution.
Indeed, Aluf Benn, a columnist for Haaretz who drew some attention last week when he called Barack Obama “the president who lost Egypt,” seesthe remilitarization as irreversible:
“The Egyptians view the restrictions to their sovereignty in Sinai that were established in the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty as a painful blow to their national pride. Now they have taken advantage of the situation and redeployed their army in the demilitarized peninsula. No future government in Cairo will return this force to the other side of Suez.”
That is not to say Benn is critical of Netanyahu’s move: whereas “the ideologue in [him],” he claims, “would certainly have advocated holding steadfast to the letter of the treaty Netanyahu the statesman opted to sideline the demilitarization arrangements, fearing what would happen if angry masses took over the Straits of Tiran and were in a position to threaten Israel’s freedom of navigation to [its southern port of] Eilat.”
From that point, though, Benn, a left-of-center columnist whose earlier criticism of Obama seemed notable for reflecting Israeli unity on the Egyptian crisis, does manage to mount a curious challenge to Netanyahu. For if the latter’s “predictions come true,” he writes, “and Egypt becomes a new Iran should [Israel] go back to the strategic situation that prevailed before the peace agreement? Should it prepare for confrontation on all fronts ? Or should it make peace in the east and the north and concentrate its force against a new enemy in the south?”
By “the east and the north” Benn means, of course, the West Bank Palestinians and Syria respectively. In other words, for him, the right response to the crumbling of one “peace” would be to “make” two more. Despite the facts that decades of attempts at forging Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian peace have led nowhere at best and to severe terrorism in Israel at worst, and that the present situation in Egypt reveals the fragility of any such “peace” in a fundamentally unstable Middle East.
Benn insists, though, that “peace treaties are not an expression of leftist messianism, as argued by the right wing. Diplomacy is an alternative to force . If an Islamic republic takes hold in Egypt, Netanyahu will face a reverse situation and will be forced to decide whether to withdraw from the West Bank and the Golan Heights in an effort to stabilize the eastern front and concentrate a deterrent force on the southern front.”
It makes perfect arithmetical sense, at least: if you find yourself facing three enemies, why not “stabilize” two of them and have only one?
Except that Benn thereby ignores all the painful lessons Israelis have learned about the depth and intransigence of Arab-Muslim rejection and hatred – not to mention the radical strategic precariousness of giving up the West Bank and the Golan; and puts the onus on Netanyahu – that is, on Israel – to make friends, as if the Palestinians and Syria exist only to be courted by Israel and will wilt as soon as Israel makes a move.
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My father took Yeshiva University debating into the national spotlight when he competed in the individual National Collegiate Debate finals.
My parents arrived as Austrian Jewish refugees in Switzerland almost exactly sixty years ago.
Israel is a country that understands security concerns. Many civil rights have been sacrificed in the name of security and Israelis are used to being checked every time they enter a shopping center, a large store or any public building. Americans recently learned that they, too, are subject to many checks on their most private activities.
No one can envy President Obama’s current dilemma over Syria.
His decision to begin arming the Syrian rebels challenging Bashar Assad’s regime drew charges that the rebel forces are driven by jihad movements, particularly al Qaeda. Further, many rebel spokesmen have regularly denounced Israel and suggested that once in power they will end Mr. Assad’s policy of not rocking the boat with Israel. How, then, critics ask, could the president align the U.S. with the rebels?
In a gushing report on the election of Hassan Rohani as Iran’s new president, The New York Times began with this: “In a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran, voters…overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered cleric who advocates greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world.”
Last month in this space we noted that the New York State Assembly was considering legislation that would prohibit domestic insurers from including on their financial statements investments in companies that engage in investment activities in Iran. These financial statements are relied upon by the state to determine whether the company is solvent and able to pay claims. That bill has since passed the Assembly, but the New York State Senate is balking at passing it as well.
There is no other candidate running for mayor who supports our community’s values as Salgado does.
If the eyes are the window to the soul, then children’s eyes are the window to the Almighty Himself.
Adding Turkey to the list of volatile states would mean even more uncertainty for Israel.
Is there no one who remembers this recent history?
Making Rouhani the president was a brilliant strategic move for Khamene’i.
Noone, least of all me, wants to see any Arab child suffer, God forbid.
Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has released its population data for 2012, the year that just ended. As usual, the trends are favorable. The total Israeli population rose to just under eight million, while the Jewish population for the first time rose to just over six million.
How well are Jews – and non-Jews – doing with regard to the Jewish state? If the question focuses on the highbrow world, and particularly its predominant persuasion of liberalism (or what is still called by that name), the answer that emerges from Edward Alexander’s new book is: not very well.
It’s been a bumpy road for the Palestinians lately.
Recent staged spectacles that were supposed to whip up sympathy for them and put Israel in a bad light again – the Nakba Day (May 15) and Naksa Day (June 4) marches on Israel’s borders, the flotilla, the flytilla – have been disappointments at best, if not outright flops. And the Palestinians’ long-hyped independent-statehood bid at the UN in September is meeting growing opposition from the West.
When Glenn Beck’s upcoming Jerusalem rally was first announced, he saidit would be called “Restore Courage” – modeled on his “Restoring Honor” rally last year in Washington that drew half a million. Or as Beck put it: “Last summer, we set out to restore honor in Washington, DC. This summer, it’s time to restore courage. It is time for us to courageously stand with Israel.”
In reaction to the Palestinian Authority-Hamas unity deal signed in Cairo, Israel decided to turn off the spigot. It halted the transfer to the PA of over $100 million in customs and tax revenues.
The day after last week’s announcement of a Fatah-Hamas rapprochement in Cairo, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas said he would keep pursuing peace talks with Israel. Almost concurrently, top Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said Hamas would stick to its stance of neither recognizing nor negotiating with Israel, but “if Fatah wants to negotiate with Israel over trivialities, they can.”
“With the winds of change blowing through the Arab world, it’s more urgent than ever that we try to seize the opportunity to create a peaceful solution between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” President Obama saidlast week after meeting with Israeli president Shimon Peres.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/on-egypt-short-lived-unity-in-israel/2011/02/09/
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