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The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Renegotiate The Camp David Accords
By David Isaac
The leaders of Egypt's revolution, from the secular to the Islamist, have stated that the Camp David Accords should be renegotiated. Muslim Brotherhood leaders say "there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel," and that "We cannot respect such agreements..." The head of the secular party declares, "The Camp David Accords are over. Egypt has to at least conduct negotiations over conditions of the agreement."
Those who know a thing or two about the Camp David Accords will view these statements with amazement: After all, how do you "dissolve" a treaty you never complied with, never implemented, and had nothing but contempt for in the first place?
Still, if it's a renegotiation they want, Israel should oblige, provided Egypt agrees to start at the beginning, with the Sinai Peninsula in Israel's hands.
Israel has as much right to the Sinai as Egypt. A noteworthy historic fact, as Shmuel Katz points out in this video, is that the Sinai did not, in fact, belong to Egypt.
It's important to tell the world that Sinai was not part of Egyptian territory. People thought that Sinai was Egyptian territory. It wasn't. Most people don't know that to this day. Sinai was what you might call no man's land, politically speaking. In an agreement between Britain and Turkey [in 1906], Egypt was given the job of administering Sinai, but it wasn't given sovereignty over Sinai. It meant that if Egypt used this administered territory to make a war on Israel, there was certainly no historic reason for us to give back Sinai. ... And the few Bedouin who lived in Sinai, if they wanted to visit Egypt, they had to get a visa.
Shmuel derided Egyptian President Sadat’s preposterous proclamation that the Sinai was “holy” soil. Eliezer Livneh, a long-time member of the Labor Party and a founder of the Land of Israel Movement in which Shmuel took part, examined Egypt’s claim.
“The Egyptians saw Sinai as a foreign territory, at the most a border colony, and they treated it accordingly,” Livneh wrote. In all the years that Egypt administered the Sinai, "the Cairo government did nothing to populate and develop the peninsula, in spite of Egypt’s overabundant population and the tremendous birthrate in the Nile Valley.”
“With the rise of the Nasser regime Cairo’s attention turned to Sinai and Sinai was to some extent ‘developed’: developed as a base of aggression against Israel,” he wrote.
While Israel is making its case for the entire Sinai, it should, at the very least, as author Victor Sharpe suggests, immediately retake the Philadelphi Corridor, a stretch of border running between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Egypt did little to stop arms smuggling into Gaza under Mubarak. In all likelihood, a "government of the people" - an extremely anti-Zionist people - will do still less to police that area.
Shmuel Katz would have viewed Egyptian calls for renegotiating the Camp David Accords with some amusement, as he made similar demands years ago, albeit for far different reasons.
As Shmuel wrote in "Into the Jaws of the Catastrophe" (The Jerusalem Post, April 3, 1981):
It is preposterous and hypocritical to suggest that any valid reason remains for Israel to consummate the remaining territorial terms of the treaty.
Shmuel noted more than once that the only reason the Egyptians entered into a treaty with Israel was in order to get back the Sinai Peninsula they lost in the Yom Kippur War - a war the Arabs started in an attempt to wipe out the Jewish State. Once the Egyptians had the Sinai down to the last grain of sand, they no longer had any use for the treaty and proceeded to ignore its other provisions. Israel's political class in turn ignored Egypt's disregard for the treaty and continued hailing it as a success.
As Shmuel wrote in "Cairo's True Position" (The Jerusalem Post, December 23, 1983):
Again and again in these near-five years the believers - or pretending believers - in the pure motives of the Egyptians have been offered grim reminders that for Egypt the peace treaty was a heaven-sent instrument - initiated by Menachem Begin, not by Anwar Sadat - for Israel's surrender of Sinai; and that surrender brought Egypt one step nearer to the next phase of the projected shrinking of Israel: its withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice Lines. That withdrawal is the essential condition for the future goal, to be sought in cooperation with the other Arab states, of the elimination of the Jewish State from the map.
It's worth noting that the Camp David Accords had the effect of increasing anti-Israel attitudes among the Egyptian people. As Daniel Pipes revealed in an article in the New York Sun in 2006, "I lived for nearly three years in Egypt in the 1970s, before Sadat's dramatic trip to Jerusalem in late 1977, and I recall the relatively low interest in Israel at that time. Israel was plastered all over the news but it hardly figured in conversations. Egyptians seemed happy to delegate this issue to their government. Only after the treaty, which many Egyptians saw as a betrayal, did they themselves take direct interest. The result was the emergence of a more personal, intense, and bitter form of anti-Zionism."
It appears that the Egyptians lacked the sophistication (not that it would take much) to understand the true nature of the Camp David Accords. Shmuel wrote in "The Bare Realities" (The Jerusalem Post, March 30, 1979):
[Sadat] inserted in the heart of the treaty a legitimation of Egypt's future adherence to the all-Arab purpose of making war on Israel when the time is ripe. ...
Israel will be complaining bitterly, sorry that it ever signed the agreement. Violence is on the rise in Sinai as the Bedouin there assert themselves, most recently attacking an Egyptian police station with rocket-propelled grenades. These Bedouin make a living smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip for Hamas to hurl at Israel, as well as smuggling African migrants across Israel's southern border - more than 35,000 are said to have entered in the last few years - transforming Israeli neighborhoods and overwhelming social services.
Israel's response has been to revisit the Egypt-Israel treaty, but not in the way one would hope. Israel has agreed to allow more Egyptian troops into Sinai to restore order, itself a repudiation of the treaty which stipulates that the peninsula remain demilitarized.
The Muslim Brotherhood must be pleased.
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