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October 10, 2013 9:39 pm

Senior Israeli Official: Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty Will Outlive Cuts in U.S. Military Aid to Egypt

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Satellite image of the Sinai.

A senior Israeli official on Thursday described the peace treaty between Egypt and the Jewish state as “the most significant foundation stone for security in the entire Middle East,” and minimized the role a 20% reduction in U.S. military aid to Egypt would have on that relationship. Common interests in combating lawlessness in the Sinai have led to the most “co-ordination, co-operation and communication” between the two countries’ security forces “in the past two decades,” the source said.

The 1979 peace treaty, negotiated together with the U.S. at Camp David, “is in everyone’s interests, beyond just Egypt and Israel, there is a global interest for that treaty to be maintained,” said the senior Israeli official, in an interview with The Algemeiner.

The agreement led to Israel returning sovereignty over the Sinai to Egypt, and both countries were rewarded with foreign aid deals from the U.S. where the military component — most of Israel’s package and part of Egypt’s — comes in the form of cash rebates to buy different classes of hardware from U.S. defense companies.

While the decision by the U.S. administration on Wednesday to hold back a disbursement of $260 million, out of some $1.5 billion destined to Egypt, may allow the U.S. to dictate by veto how its largesse can be spent, the co-ordinated defense operations in the Sinai are too important to both Cairo and Jerusalem to suffer from the aid cut, the official said.

“From our point of view, the Sinai, on the one hand threatens to be, rather than already is, a lawless land, an ungoverned territory. On the other hand, it is critical there’s stability there, and the Egyptian Army has done great things in the past two months, more than they had done in the past two decades,” the official said.

“It is in our interest for the Egyptian army to be able to ensure stability and law and order at a minimum in the Sinai — I understand Sinai is not their number #1 issue, but it is our #1, and where we work closest together,” the official said.

In the Sinai, once the Egyptian Army took power away from the elected Muslim Brotherhood leadership in July, Egypt and Israel have seen a tremendous surge in violence in this vast badlands, where Brotherhood hardliners, militant groups and Hamas fighters, who enter the Sinai from Gaza, work together to terrorize military forces and border control outposts. High-level communication and meetings between the directors of the security forces of both countries were reported by the press and soldiers co-ordinated efforts in July and August to close hundreds of the tunnels that connect Sinai to Gaza, cutting off smuggling revenues used to pay for black market arms caches, including anti-aircraft missiles and motorized paragliders.

Internally, Israel split up responsibilities, with the IDF collecting intelligence from Sinai balloons, cameras stationed along the Sinai border fence and satellite photographs, while a Shin Bet team focuses on preventing planned attacks from being carried out. Shin Bet estimates there are 15 militant groups operating in the Sinai, with four being extremely violent. The militants have used bombs to destroy a pipeline at El-Arish that transports gas to Jordan. But armed attacks, which peaked in early September when Egyptian helicopters raided militant hideouts, have been on the rise.

After Egyptian security forces cracked down on Brotherhood protestors, killing 53 and injuring 271, in Cairo this past Sunday, the Sinai was immediately aflame with retaliation attacks, several nearly simultaneously, at Egyptian military installations; one brazen bomb attack on a highway injured an Egyptian general. At one of the sites, an unexploded bomb was found attached to a Palestinian mobile phone, indicating that Hamas operatives from Gaza were likely involved.

“The present Egyptian leadership sees Hamas as a real danger, a bad player, because Hamas thought they hit the jackpot when the Muslim Brotherhood came into power in Cairo two years ago,” the Israeli official said.  But, after being excluded from power, and now outlawed as political party, “if the Brotherhood comes to the conclusion there’s no choice but to fully resort to violence, then little brother Hamas will be the people to teach them how to do it; Hamas knows destruction better than anyone else in the whole world,” the source added.

“For our interests, we’re doing our best not to be involved in Egypt’s internal problems. Egypt has got problems with Ethiopia, which wants to dam up the Nile River. They don’t need to have problems with Israel; they have got problems with themselves right now! What Israel wants for Egypt is three things; one, stability; two, a return to a political process; and three, prosperity.”

In terms of the actual monetary loss that may be suffered by Cairo because of the delay or permanent reduction in U.S. aid, the senior Israeli official said the funds were minimal if other countries move forward with financial aid packages for Egypt that are also on the table.

According to the Israeli official, a group of Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, have offered between $12 billion and $15 billion in unrestricted aid to Egypt’s military rulers.

“We are probably less concerned than in the past about the impact of the loss of cash for two reasons: one, because there is an acute awareness of how important the stability of the peace treaty is to everybody’s interests, and, two, because they have money coming in from the Gulf, it’s not like they are going to be short on money now,” the official added.

As well as to support stability in the broader region, the two heavyweight donors are seen acting to counter Qatar, which has been financially supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

“The Saudis don’t want Islamists in power in Egypt, or anywhere,” the official said, describing a theological arms race being played out in mosque building across Europe, where Saudi Wahabi Islam vies for more new pulpits to counter the Qatari support of venues for Muslim Brotherhood preachers, and in Syria, where the two countries are supporting rival rebel groups seeking to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

“There is a battle going on for Sunni Islam, and we only talk about the relationship with Shia, but within the Sunni, the West is completely oblivious, because a Muslim, is a Muslim, is a Muslim, which would be like for us, saying [Jewish denominations] Litvacks, Hasids of Breslov and Conservative are all Jews, but are all very different. Our enemies don’t get into it — we’re all Jews to them,” the official said.

“Ultimately, the Saudi [financial aid] position, may facilitate the Americans to close the tap for now, but it is not in anybody’s interest for the Israel-Egypt peace treaty to unravel,” he said, adding “the only people in Egypt who can create stability today is the Army.”

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  • Matt

    All they said is don’t massacre people, never mentioned the coup. So Obama the office has to run around like some Arabs poddle. Iran has got the bomb via Russian help. The Saudi do some deal (we know it is in Vlads favor) 16 billion in weapons and a veto. So the US is not swapping spit in the shower with Iran. Maybe. It is unacceptable so we are going to speak to Iran an ease sanctions. Not going to tolerate that some poddle.

  • Vivienne Leijonhufvud

    I fail to see how being funded by SAUDI will be good for Egypt or any gulf state. Saudi prefers extreme Wahabism and Sharia Law. There is much evidence that Saudi is still carrying out atrocities to their own women and children. Forbidding any other religion in the Kingdom. I suspect Saudi is aware of the fossil fuel lying under the Sinai Desert – this resource needs to be developed by Israel and Egypt excluding Gulf States. Saudi already finances a number of Terrorist Organizations one of which is Al Quada so how can Saudi be of help to Egypt? Israel & Egypt are better united in peace and arms, researching another source of capital. Persuading Russia, China and India to form a joint capital venture consortium for the provision of arms and men against the rest of the Middle East is more favorable, more likely to produce stability. Sunni and Shia is in old war of power, nothing to do with religion. Different denominations of Jews havn’t to my knowledge fought one another in recent history. Israel is Secular, Egypt I would believe prefers to be the same. Secularism lends itself to stable governance and economy. North & Southern Ireland, a nation split by Catholics & Protestants is as bad as SHIA and Sunni! Southern Ireland has been gripped by superstition and religion since 1916, falling behind in its economy, corruption and incompetent governance, now in the worst recession due to payoffs to various individuals. Fraudulent banking practices and payouts to individuals by Shell 40% owned by Saudi OIL. Thus leaving Ireland without control of her OIL/Gas fields. Good governance would have sort the expertise of another European Oil company, i.e. Stat Oil or Brent. SFR are now financing a mega Islamic complex in Dublin value €45 million. Northern Ireland’s economy due to the cost of the endless civil wars between Catholics and Protestant is struggling. Both North & South are still perpetuating these old hatreds and into the 21st Century.

  • abraham Dattner

    All parties concerned should take the Anthem of the U.S. as a model: “One nation under God”

  • Luigi Rosolin

    The Islamic extremist ideology is base on the Islam basic abuse or imposition to other they credo, considering other inferior because of different religion or race is the bigger problem with Islam but not only: such thing is the poison that undermine relation with human. The Egyptian Muslim are as show by 30 million people protest that is possible to respect each other. Most Muslim are acting by secular ritual and rules like Jews. Most want to live in peace and freedom not under extremist religious brain wash.My hope is that the collaboration with the two country will keep mature for peace and equality. Also I hope that the Jews will support in any way possible Christian abuse-genocide as they believe in the same God that is not a monopoly of the Jews.