Peace treaty in times of revolution

Published on Al-Ahram, by Abdel-Moneim Said, 20 – 26 October 2011.

Whenever there were Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, officials and observers in Israel, the US and even Europe would inevitably ask whether a peace agreement would survive a change in Arab leadership. The anxiety was not unjustified. There have always been Arab political forces opposed to the very idea of peace with Israel and that saw the conflict with that state not as a territorial/border dispute but as an existential clash. An Arab president or king may have sufficient “authority” to impose a peace on his people, by force if need be.

However, the perpetuation of this authority was contingent upon his continued grip on power. If that were to weaken, or if he were overthrown by a coup or revolution, or if death, which spares not even president or king, struck, then one of the first victims of his demise could be the peace with Israel … //

… The Egyptian revolution has remained ablaze in one way or another during the past months. The discovery of an alleged Israeli spy in its midst fanned the flames as it drew attention to the connection between disturbing political conditions and the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict. Then tensions flared up along the Egyptian-Palestinian and Israeli borders when an attack by a Palestinian militia unit against Israeli civilians in Eilat precipitated an Israeli cross-border raid that killed five Egyptian soldiers. As a result, the already flaming Tahrir Square emitted an angry flare that lapped the walls of the Israeli embassy, where a young revolutionary among the demonstrators scaled the building, seized the Israeli flag and burned it. Several days later, a second flare lashed out at the Israeli embassy, causing Egypt considerable embarrassment for this attack on a diplomatic mission, even if it was an Israeli one.

In short, the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord was now being put to the test, as so many had anticipated it would be since the moment the agreement was signed. Initially, it appeared that the treaty was at death’s door and some were even seeing the spectre of impending war. However, once again developments proved that the matter is not so simple. The Israeli flag, after having been burned a second time, returned to its pole atop the embassy building and the people involved in the second embassy attack were arrested. Although the gas pipelines were blown up again, they were repaired and the flow of gas resumed. Moreover, with mutual Egyptian and Israeli agreement, the Egyptian military presence in the northern Sinai has been augmented even without amending the security cooperation protocol that is annexed to the peace agreement. Then came a greater surprise yet. After five years of futile efforts on the part of the former Egyptian regime, the current Egyptian government succeeded in securing the release of the Israeli soldier captured by Hamas, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for 1,027 Palestinians detained in Israel. The prisoner exchange was topped by another deal in which the alleged Israeli spy Ilan Grappel was swapped for 81 Egyptians who had been imprisoned in Israel for various reasons. We should add, here, that not only has the Egyptian military presence been intensified on the ground in the north Sinai, it has been supplemented, for the first time, by air force coverage — to the accompaniment, moreover, of an official apology from Israeli Minister of Defence Ehud Barak for the deaths of the Egyptian soldiers. This is highly significant, especially given that Ankara has so far failed to secure such an apology from Israel for the deaths of the Turkish citizens killed by Israeli forces during their attempt to bring aid to the people of Gaza … (full text).

Links:

Arab League chief looks for solutions, on Al-Ahram, by Dina Ezzat, 20 – 26 October 2011;

Syria: no way back, on Al-Ahram, by Bassel Oudat in Damascus, 20 – 26 October 2011.

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