Sunday, August 28, 2011

Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty In Light Of The New Realities

By Nath Aldalala’a
Peace in the Middle East is crucially dependent on the extent to and the manner in which the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty will be upheld.
The treaty shows clearly the inequality between the demands of the new realities and the old mechanisms that has seen a calm political exchange between the two countries for the past three decades. Its implementation in 1979 was followed by Hosni Mubarak’s rise to power, in 1981. Since then, the treaty has determined the relationship between Israel and the recently ousted regime in Egypt. Mubarak himself was a symbol of its durability; he actually acted as its personal guardian.
Despite four wars in the period 1948-73, Mubarak was able to steer the relationship between the two countries on a fairly calm path, based on the principle “we have peace so that we do not have war”. Beyond that, there was no much social interaction between the two countries, and the treaty did not affect the Egyptian people’s attitude towards Israel.
Having secured its defence lines with Egypt and Mubarak’s friendship, Israel felt free to commit massacres in Lebanon and Palestine, strike Iraqi and Syrian nuclear sites, and generally continue its aggressive and expansionist policies in the West Bank.
This convinced the Arabs, as well as the wider world, that Israel is not overly concerned with peace.
Following the fall of Mubarak, the treaty is in precarious situation. The recent killing of five Egyptian soldiers on the border with Israel further erodes the treaty’s fragility and makes debate about its validity necessary.
The treaty, it must be acknowledged, granted Israel peace but diminished Egypt’s role and regional influence. When the man in the street has no say over the policies agreed between politicians, any notion of peace loses currency. Egypt’s role in future peace negotiations in the Arab world has been undermined.
Peace implies justice, but so far, due to Israel’s belligerence, there is no belief among Arabs that peace between them and Israel is achievable.
If Egypt is to reassume a leading role in the Arab world, its policies towards Israel need to be corrected. Egypt should use its influence to achieve a wider and more far-reaching peaceful solution to regional difficulties and conflicts.
The treaty is bound to undermine any incoming government, particularly if it cannot demonstrate a radical break in style and substance with the old regime.
The stipulations of the treaty weaken Egypt’s authority over its territories in Sinai. It dictates that Egypt maintain Sinai as a demilitarised zone. The recent Egyptian request to move its soldiers into Sinai, and the permission given by Israel, demonstrates Israel’s superiority over Egypt, rather than a relationship between two equals.
There is a window of opportunity for change in Egypt now. While there is a desire for political transformation, the country must change the spirit of peace. The continued confiscation of Palestinian land and the ongoing settlement building must keep Egyptians wary of Israel’s “peaceful” intentions.
For peace to be genuine, it must go beyond the will of the political classes.
-This commentary was published in The Jordan Times on 28/08/2011
-The writer is School of English Literature, Language, and Linguistics at Newcastle University

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