Tag Archives: terrorism

Egypt on the Edge

By Adina Rosenthal

Tensions in the Middle East have sadly reached a familiar high.  Recently, Gaza militants ambushed Israeli vehicles in southern Israel near Eilat, killing eight people in the deadliest attack in three years. In addition to this premeditated act of terrorism, militants launched more than 150 rockets and mortars into Israel—despite a ceasefire—killing one, injuring scores of civilians and inciting panic throughout southern Israel.

While such hostilities at the hands of terrorists are a tragedy, unfortunately, they are not an anomaly. When news breaks concerning violence against Israelis, the word “Gaza” usually seems to follow closely behind. Despite the recent events being perpetrated by Gaza militants, the backdrop behind the atrocities should also raise some eyebrows.

Despite the difficulty in entering a heavily guarded Israel, the Gaza militants were able to travel through a lax Egyptian border to commit their atrocities. In 1979, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed a peace treaty, thereby ending the war that had existed between the two nations since Israel’s inception in 1948. Though a cool peace, the treaty has kept tensions between Egypt and Israel relatively quiet for three decades.

But since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster from office last February, much has changed in the discourse between Egypt and Israel. Over the last six months, there have been five separate attacks on the Egyptian-Israeli natural gas pipeline compared to “zero successful attacks” since the pipeline opened in 2008. Such actions have deprived Israel of gas and Egypt of foreign currency. Last June, Egypt lifted its four-year blockade on Gaza, which arguably contributed to the terrorists’ ease in committing last Thursday’s attacks. Moreover, such a political move may even highlight a shift in Egyptian policy and power, according to Evelyn Gordon in the Jerusalem Post Magazine, as the “cross-border attack took place in broad daylight, right in front of an Egyptian army outpost, without the soldiers lifting a finger to stop it.” Such inaction is particularly surprising, as the violence also resulted in the deaths of Egyptian soldiers. As Gordon also points out, “The Egyptian border policemen on patrol whom Israeli troops allegedly killed in their effort to repulse the terrorists were also clearly at the scene; otherwise, they wouldn’t have been in the line of fire. Yet they, too, did nothing to stop it from happening.”

Although last week’s attacks were clearly initiated by Gaza terrorists, Egypt blamed Israel for the deaths of its border policemen and demanded an apology. According to Haaretz, the IDF stated that its soldiers had “returned fire ‘at the source of the gunfire’ that had been aimed at Israeli soldiers and civilians from the area of an Egyptian position on the border…and at least some of the Egyptian soldiers were killed by the [Popular Resistance Committee’s] terrorists’ gunfire and bombs.” Though Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak immediately apologized after the attacks, adding that they “demonstrate the weakening of Egypt’s control over the Sinai Peninsula and the expansion of terrorist activity there,” Egyptians were not satisfied and popular sentiment amongst Egyptian quickly became apparent. Angry Egyptians responded with protests outside of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, which included the “Egyptian Spiderman” scaling the 21-story building to take down the Israeli flag. The Egyptian government also threatened to recall their ambassador to Israel, though they later revoked their decision.

Clearly, tensions between Egypt and Israel are high, and a shaky relationship has become even more precarious. Such contention not only affects Israeli concerns with hostile Palestinian neighbors. Now, Israelis realize that their relationship with Egypt has changed in a post-Mubarak era, with popular sentiment growing more vocal and antagonistic against the Jewish state and, subsequently, a future Egyptian government reevaluating peace with Israel.

With tensions mounting daily and popular sentiment coming to a forefront, how can relations between the two states remain cordial?

According to Wafik Dawood, director of institutional sales at Cairo-based Mega Investments Securities, Egypt’s stocks fell to the lowest in two weeks as “The negative global backdrop and the killings on the Israeli border’ are driving shares lower…The main fear is the escalation.” Even more worrisome for Egyptians should be that there has been talk in Washington about cutting the $2 billion in their annual aid if the country backs out of its peace treaty with Israel. As Congresswoman Kay Granger, Chairwoman of the U.S. House Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee told the Jerusalem Post, “The United States aid to Egypt is predicated on the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, and so the relationship between Egypt and Israel is extremely important.”

If the mutual interest of keeping peace walks, the hope remains that money talks.

Now What? How Israel Should Respond to Palestinian Unity

By Sophie Taylor

In light of the recent upheaval in the Middle East, Moment’s Niv Elis spoke to 16 experts on what the changes mean for Israel and how it should move forward in light of those changes. While the range of thinkers expounded upon many different scenarios, none could predict what happened next; today, the opposing Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo and proclaimed a unity deal, complicating peace efforts for Israel and the United States.

Here are what a few of the thinkers in our roundup have had to say about the newest development:

Aaron David Miller, who argued in Moment that Israel lacks a coherent strategy in the face of dramatic change, writes in Business Week:

 “This peace at home will guarantee greater political conflict with both Israel and the U.S. and, if Palestinians aren’t careful, tensions with the broader international community. One thing is clear: An already mortally wounded peace process is, for now, dead.”  He also notes that “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gains some maneuvering room. After all, how can anyone criticize Israel for not wanting to deal with a Palestinian Authority that has Hamas in it? U.S. President Barack Obama’s hopes to revive the peace process—never terribly realistic—will become dimmer still.”

Daniel Levy, who encourages Israel to make clear its desire to for a sovereign Palestinian state in our roundup, now tells the Guardian:

“Palestinian division, playing so-called ‘moderates’ against ‘extremists’, had been a cornerstone of US (and Israeli) policy. If the Palestinian unity deal holds – and caution is well-advised with the details yet to be agreed, and with a history of false dawns – that cornerstone will be no more.”  Yet, “this time, Fatah’s move appears to be a more calculated and profound break with past practice—and the anticipated opprobrium of the US seems to weigh less heavily.”

Meir Javedanfar, who thinks new developments in the Middle East provide an opening for Israel in its rivalry with Iran, tells the Christian Science Monitor:

“The PLO-Hamas rapprochement will be a boost for Netanyahu—albeit in the short term. He can say that [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas is now in with a group that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist…Israel is going to be forced to show compromises due to the higher credibility which the international community seems to be giving to the Palestinian side, especially the PLO under Abbas.”

M.J. Rosenberg, who says that Israel should work to negotiate with the Arab League Initiative, rather than just Palestine, writes for Political Correction:

“In fact, the [U.S.] administration’s demand that Hamas recognize Israel in advance of any negotiations with Israel could well ensure that there won’t be any. So could our demand that it accept all previous agreements negotiated by the Palestinian Authority.”  In that view, “There is only one demand we should make of Hamas, that it cease all acts of violence.  Hamas has, in fact, lived up to that commitment during various cease-fire periods with Israel. In partnership with Fatah, it would likely do so again.  In any case, a mutual cease-fire is a reasonable demand, one that would facilitate negotiations. But the people issuing demands in Jerusalem and in Congress seem to have no interest in negotiating. Their goal is delivering for Israel which, of course, is a way of delivering for their campaigns.”

We don’t yet know how long the unified Palestinian government will last or what it will mean for Israel, but check out our article “What Is Israel’s Next Move In The New Middle East?” for fascinating insights as to what Israel’s top priorities should be.