We Ignore Egypt Situation at Our Peril
By Morton A. Klein and Daniel Mandel
Since the toppling of the Hosni Mubarak regime last year, matters in Egypt – and thus in the Egyptian/Israeli relationship and in the surrounding Middle East – have steadily gone from bad to worse. Strangely, few are taking notice. The Obama Administration actively encouraged the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in the eventual successor regime and has legitimized this avowed anti-American, Islamist organization. Editorials around the country show little indication of being aware of how bad the situation is becoming. Yet the evidence is plentiful.
The MB has never made a secret of seeking to abrogate the 1979 Egyptian/Israeli peace treaty. The MB leader, Muhammad Badi’, has spoken enthusiastically of jihad and called for a state based on Islamic law. He also spoke optimistically about the U.S. heading for a collapse. His second-in-command, Rashad Al-Bayoumi, emphasized last year that abrogating the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was a prime MB objective. In January, Bayoumi said that, for the MB, the peace treaty “it isn’t binding at all … On no condition will we recognize Israel. It is an enemy entity.”
Only weeks ago, the MB presidential candidate, Mohamed Mursi, said that “Egypt’s next president can’t be like his predecessor, he can’t be a follower who executes policies put to him from outside.” Mursi’s aide has said that Mursi, if elected president, would not meet with the Israeli president. Also last month, the MB criticized Egyptian Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa’s visit to Jerusalem as “not acceptable.”
None of this should surprise: The MB has been opposed to Israel’s existence from the day it was established. Indeed, its Palestinian off-shoot, Hamas, calls in its Charter for Israel’s destruction and the murder of Jews.
In recent weeks, the Egyptian legislature’s lower house unanimously endorsed demands calling for the deportation of the Israeli ambassador in Egypt; halting export of natural gas to Israel and “reexamining” the Camp David peace accords with Israel. Yet, the U.S. State Department’s Vitoria Nuland has responded to MB calls for rescinding the peace treaty by blithely contendingthat “People say things in a campaign and then when they get elected they actually have to govern.” In other words – all this can be ignored.
The natural gas pipeline, through which Israel receives energy in accordance with the 1979 Egyptian/Israeli peace treaty, has been blown up or sabotaged innumerable times. Last month, Egypt’s state-owned natural gas company said that it is ending a 2005 deal to export gas to Israel because of a payment dispute.
Israeli Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, calls this “a dangerous precedent that overshadows the peace agreements between Israel and Egypt” and he is right: government-owned Egyptian companies do not decide on canceling a contract without government knowledge and approval. Reports suggest the cancelation could be a form of pressure on Israel to drop a suit for damages for past disruptions of supplies. Whatever the case, the Egyptian/Israeli relationship is clearly deteriorating.
Palestinian terrorists have already struck in August 2011 from Sinai, murdering eight Israelis. In addition, terrorist infiltration into Sinai has become so dangerous that Israeli officials have warnedIsraeli tourists to leave immediately on account of a “critical and immediate threat … terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip are continuing to work energetically to carry out terrorist attacks against Israeli targets on Sinai’s beaches in the immediate term.”
These developments have important ramifications. They show that the Egyptian/Israeli relationship is in a state of collapse. They show that the security situation in Gaza and Sinai, already in a poor state, is likely to deteriorate further. They show that the immense U.S. funds (more than $60 billion over three decades) assets and weaponry that have poured into Egypt under the 1979 treaty will soon be in the hands of a hostile, Islamist, anti-American, anti-Israeli regime. They also show that Egypt is moving from being an unreliable U.S. ally to an active antagonist.
If Egypt cancels the treaty, the U.S. must consider canceling all further aid to Cairo and removing its military advisers, who have expertly trained Egypt’s armed forces. Such aid is not only no longer in the U.S. interest and the U.S. taxpayer is entitled to see its money support a genuine ally, not an enemy regime.
Israel must make it clear that, in the event that Egypt cancels the peace treaty, Israel major concessions will no longer be legally binding. This means that it would consider retaking the Sinai desert, with its Israeli-built air bases and four oil wells.
And whether the peace treaty is openly abrogated or not, both the U.S. and Israel must adapt to the already established fact that Egypt is no longer even the unreliable ally it once was.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy.