A third of a century ago Israel wanted peace with Egypt and Israel actually believed there could be peace with Egypt. So did Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and perhaps even the Egyptian people.
But what a difference 33 years makes.
We’ve discovered since then that we got a bum deal. We signed with an unreliable and unfaithful partner who did not meet its obligations. And though we got at least got a 33-year cease-fire out of it, we did not get peace.
Instead, the Egyptians spent 33-years ever-escalating their hatred of Israel while missing the opportunity to drag themselves up from being a third world country. And while it’s easy to blame former Egyptian president Mubarak for the hatred, Mubarak’s enemies on both side of the religious spectrum, the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian secular pseudo-intellectuals, such as historical revisionist Abdel Wahab El-Messiri did their part too.
DESPITE EGYPT’S failure to deliver on its own side of the bargain, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy recently said he wants to reopen up the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty, to renegotiate and link peace to Palestinian statehood, and to remilitarize the Sinai. For Morsy this is a one-way street: Egypt will demand and Israel will give.
If only Morsy had actually read the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty.
There were, in fact, two agreements signed by Israel and Egypt. As international law expert, Professor Avi Bell, has recently explained,
“The 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty and the 1978 “Framework for Peace in the Middle East” are not the same treaty. However Morsy may [choose to] misinterpret the 1978 Framework for Peace in the Middle East agreement, it has nothing to do with Egypt’s obligations to uphold its treaty obligations in the 1979 peace treaty.”
It is the 1979 peace treaty that requires Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai, the demilitarization of the Sinai, and of course normalization of relations between the two countries – the last being something the Egyptians never properly implemented. The 1978 treaty deals with “negotiations on the resolution of the Palestinian problem.”
Bell argues that,
“If Morsy believes that the 1978 Agreement is not merely an agreed upon framework for future negotiations, but a binding treaty still in force, Morsy must abandon several anti-Israel positions adopted by Egypt and the United States in recent years”
That’s because, as Bell explains, the 1978 Agreement recognizes U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 as the basis for resolution of the conflict. That resolution recognizes Israel’s right to secure boundaries, but fails to mention Palestinian statehood or the Palestinians at all. While it calls for an Israeli withdrawal from terrotories captured in 1967, as part of the establishing a “just and lasting peace” it does not describe the extent of the withdrawal and many of the documents drafters have said that the word “all” was left out so that Israel would not be required to withdraw from all the territory, but only some of it based on negotiations with Jordan, Syria and Egypt.
The Road Map (Bush’s plan for a democratic Palestinian state), U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (the partition resolution), the 2002 Arab League decision (Israeli return to the pre-67 borders), the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1397 (envisioning a Palestinian state and recalling 242) as well as recent “U.S. efforts to state that final status negotiations should be on the basis of the “1967 borders” or presumed Palestinian statehood,” all conflict with Resolution 242.
In short, Egypt’s stated positions and actions are in direct contradiction and violation of the signed peace treaty, including the one which Morsi is claiming Israel is not fulfilling.
In addition, the 1978 agreement does not discuss or require an Israel withdrawal from Judea and Samaria or Gaza. Instead it only discusses setting up a “self-governing authority,” “autonomy,” and “self-government” for the Palestinians in those areas – for a five-year period. It does not discuss or require the establishment of a Palestinian state nor does it require that the Palestinians shall continue to have autonomy at the end of the five-year period.
Like the Oslo Accords, it confirms that Israel will retain a military presence in “specified security locations” in the disputed territories, and recognizes that, “All necessary measures will be taken and provisions made to assure the security of Israel.”
As the Palestinian Authority governs the Palestinians, and Israel has withdrawn completely from Gaza, Israel would have fulfilled its obligations even if five-year transitional arrangement still applied.
And as Professor Bell pointed out, the treaties do not require that Israel evacuate all of the West Bank and Gaza, as they state, “The negotiations will resolve, among other matters, the location of the boundaries,” clearly indicating the 1967 Armistice (Green) Line was not going to be the border.
LEGALITIES ASIDE, in the new Middle East, Israel should make its own counter-demands. And, unlike Egypt, Israel has valid complaints about the implementation of the treaty and what it has and has not received in return for its withdrawal from the Sinai.
While Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has already made it absolutely clear and said “No” to any renegotiating of the peace treaty, let’s consider the alternatives.
If Morsy wants to renegotiate the treaties, then the primary item Israel gave up in exchange for the promise of a comprehensive peace – the Sinai – should also be on the table.
For each demand and change Egypt asks from Israel, Israel needs to, in turn, discuss the depth of Egypt’s withdrawal from the Sinai in exchange for that demand.
For instance, demilitarization of the Sinai was the key factor in Israel’s willingness to cede the territory. In clear violation of the treaty, Egypt apparently seeks to re-militarize the Sinai. The solution then is a tangible trade. For each battalion Egypt wants to add to the Sinai, Egypt should return a 25-kilometer strip of the Sinai territory back to Israel.
Egypt wants to raise gas prices (not actually part of the treaty and not that we need it anymore), we want Yamit back.
Egypt demands a Palestinian state? Well, that’s a very big demand, in which case, Israel should demand the return of the entire Sinai (and perhaps the Palestinian state can be placed there).
The formula is simple, they get, we get. This time, however, Israel should get something tangible, unlike that mere “piece of paper” which Sadat told the New York Times in 1980 “poor Menahem” got in exchange for the Sinai and the Alma oil fields.
Time has taught us a lesson in dealing with the duplicitous Egyptians. And it’s time we tried a radically different variation on the now proven to be failed Land-for-Peace formula, at the core of the Egyptian-Israel peace treaty. In the new version, the depth of Egyptian demands will determine the depth of the Egyptian withdrawal from the Sinai.
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