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The Great Debate

Egypt should realize Israel is not the enemy

August 9, 2012

Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Mursi, should learn a valuable lesson from last weekend’s terrorist attack in Sinai that killed 16 Egyptian border policemen. Israel is not his country’s enemy, and it could and should be one of its most valuable allies.

Suspected radical Islamist gunmen on Sunday attacked an Egyptian border checkpoint, killing the troops and stealing two vehicles. One managed to burst through a security fence and penetrate about a kilometer inside Israel before Israeli aircraft scrambled and knocked out the truck and killed several of the attackers.

As his first major national security issue, the attack was a rude awakening for Mursi, who comes out of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political tradition of deep hostility to Israel. The Brotherhood was quick to issue a knee-jerk statement on its Ikhwan Online website blaming the Israeli spy agency Mossad for the weekend attack and calling it an attempt to undermine the Mursi presidency.

According to the BBC: “Conspiracy theories are popular across the Arab world and suspicions of Israel often feed into them. Two years ago, the governor of South Sinai even blamed the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, for a series of shark attacks at Red Sea resorts.”

But it goes beyond that. Analyst Jeffrey Goldberg recently wrote: “Anti-Semitism, the socialism of fools, is becoming the opiate of the Egyptian masses. And not just the masses … Today it’s entirely acceptable among the educated and creative classes there to demonize Jews and voice the most despicable anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

Much of the focus on ties between the two neighbors revolves around the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which has been a pillar of regional stability, but which many in the Muslim Brotherhood would like to either amend or scrap altogether.

Mursi himself recently said he did not want there to be an impression of cooperation with Israel; nor did he want to strengthen security ties, due to his fear that Egyptian public opinion would be against both those moves.

But the reality is that Israel presents no strategic threat to Egypt. The real threat to both nations comes from al Qaeda and other jihadists who have established a dangerous foothold in the vast desert reaches of the Sinai Peninsula.

As the State Department’s annual report on terrorism worldwide released last week made clear, the situation in the vast and sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula has approached a crisis point.

“The smuggling of humans, weapons, cash, and other contraband through the Sinai into Israel and Gaza created criminal networks with possible ties to terrorist groups in the region. The smuggling of weapons from Libya through Egypt has increased since the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime,” the report said.

The ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 created a power vacuum in Sinai that was quickly filled by jihadists. According to Michael Herzog of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, they joined local Bedouin, many of whom felt alienated from the central government and hoped to improve economic conditions in their underdeveloped region through activities such as cross-border smuggling.

These Bedouin, especially those in the northeast and the mountainous central areas, are well armed and increasingly influenced by extreme Islamist ideology. They cooperate closely with Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups from Gaza, which have established a foothold in Sinai by recruiting local tribesmen for various operations.

“Egyptian authorities have evidently lost effective control over large parts of Sinai, and the peninsula has become a no man’s land. In the past eighteen months, militant Egyptian and Palestinian groups have attacked dozens of police stations, checkpoints, and government institutions there, killing several policemen, while the Egyptian-Israeli gas pipeline in northern Sinai has been sabotaged 14 times,” Herzog wrote in June.

The fall of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya created a bonanza for weapons smugglers. Among the most dangerous weapons taken from unsecured dumps in Libya are advanced SA-24 shoulder-launched ground-to-air missiles. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, there are reportedly al Qaeda forces in Sinai from Yemen, Iraq, Syria and other Arab and Muslim countries. These groups are supported by the local Bedouin. Meanwhile, various other terrorist groups are assisting al Qaeda and smuggling arms and goods into the Strip.

Israel is trying to cope with the new situation through various means, including constructing a new security fence. Unlike the Egyptians, who seem to have been taken totally by surprise, Israel’s forces reacted swiftly and forcefully to Sunday’s attacks, neutralizing the threat with no losses. Moreover, it emerged that the Israeli military had warned Egyptian counterparts that an attack might be coming – and had been ignored.

This is one of those occasions when rhetoric meets reality. Egypt should face the reality that Israel is a useful ally, and leave the old rhetoric behind.

IMAGE: Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi participates in a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the presidential palace in Cairo, July 31, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Wilson/Pool

Comments
20 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Israel could make things better right away by starting to treat the people of Gaza like human beings instead of dogs. It could allow shipments of food, medical supplies and other necessities, rather than forcing the movement of goods underground. What did the commentator expect would happen? He only sees things through the prism of security management, but what’s needed is a fundamental change in the way the Palestinians are treated. The Israelis could have helped themselves years ago by supporting Abbas’ accommodationist approach, showing the Palestinians they would be rewarded for being moderate and compromising. Instead they chose to humiliate Abbas time and again. Now the chickens have come home to roost.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive
 

In response to Calfri, the problem lies in Hamas’ rejectionist stance. As soon as they accept reality and stop brainwashing their people that they will conquer the land of Israel, they will be welcomed into the family of nations. The current situation is Gaza is simply a response to the terrorism that springs from its loins.

Posted by CharlesParisFR | Report as abusive
 

Food, medical supplies and necessities are not blockaded; only weapons and things like that which can be used for attacking Israel.

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive
 

Indeed ‘the chikens have come home to roost’. But ‘home’ is the entire Arab world, not Israel. Al-Qaeda and Hamas were not created by Mossad but by Islam.
Israel left Gaza in 2005 hoping that it will eventually turn into “Singapore of Mediterranean”. Instead it turned into a den of assassins with rocket pads.
Many more innocent people will die before people like Califri will see the light.

Posted by Fabra | Report as abusive
 

Hahahaha!!!

Where do you find these psychos reuters…?

Posted by pendingapproval | Report as abusive
 

Egypt is suffering from 3 acute problems, which are Poverty, Illiteracy, and Corruption.
Mursi is an engineer by profession, and at the very basic level, he should be able to analyze the situation, and realize that Israel is neither an enemy nor a problem for his country.
Like Mursi, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat was a deeply religious person. He was also patriotic, lucid, and exceptionally courageous, and he opted for peace with Israel.
But maybe this is not such a good example…

Posted by reality-again | Report as abusive
 

Israel should realize its isolationist stance and growing apartheid is Israel’s greatest enemy.

Posted by TheUSofA | Report as abusive
 

Like we Muslims are too dumb to know who our enemies are.

Posted by mustafaspeaks | Report as abusive
 

wow that was so biased it hurt my brain just to finish reading it, may i begin by asking where did the suspension of them being “Islamist” gunmen arise from?
- clearly neither states announced the results of any investigations except for rumors/baseless statements.
and don’t even try to play the “Jews” card you should be cleverer, it’s not antisemitism when you simply state the facts: Israel is egypt’s enemy. thats not racist thats a fact
when american journalists accuse Iran of being a threat we dont call them racists we call them opportunists.
and stop saying Alqueda, you give them credit for everything -you as in western media-

Posted by douf | Report as abusive
 

And vice versa.

Posted by borisjimbo | Report as abusive
 

Fuel and construction materials, as well as wheel chairs and medical supplies, are all blockaded by Isreal to a large extent against Gaza. Look up the news on the web to find out more.

Electrical power only reaches Gazans 4 to 6 hours a day because of the Israeli mass punishment aganist Gaza. And Egypt can only bow to Israeli rules when dealing with its Palestinian neighbours.

Posted by saharadweller | Report as abusive
 

A suggestion worth considering – after Israel returns the land stolen from other nations including Palestinians.

Posted by Eideard | Report as abusive
 

Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, leaving numerous greenhouses as a present. The Gazans promptly trashed the greenhouses, elected a terror group to govern them. The terror group then launched thousands of projectiles at Israeli civilians. Hamas is dedicated to Israel’s destruction and considers itself in a state of war with Israel. Thus, the people of Gaza are lucky they get any assistance from the “enemy,” Israel. All you critics should try to think of other countries which allow goods to flow into their enemies’ hands. Yet, no Gazans starve, their markets are full, and they still somehow have no shortage of ammo and AK47s.
Israel is not apartheid; I’ve been there and all religions and races freely mix. However, the terrorist state of Gaza must be isolated, or there would be 2-3 terror attacks every day in Israel. If that poses inconvenience for Gazans, too bad. Get rid of your terrorist overlords, then we’ll talk.

Posted by garybkatz | Report as abusive
 

Eideard, there was never a nation of Palestine. How can Israel steal land that it owned in the first place? You might as well say the Native Americans stole the land that makes up their reservations. At least Muslims get to live in Israel. You think an independent “Palestine” will allow any Jews in? They already have a death penalty for any Palestinian who sells his land to a Jew. Israel comprises one-thousandth of vast Middle Eastern land. It is the size of New Jersey. Amazing that you are so obsessed with this one sliver of land that is the Jewish homeland, going back 3500 years. In the early 1900′s, would you have been so focused on returning the Jews’ stolen land, so Israel could be restored? You act like the “Palestinians” are the only people who ever got displaced by war. They are only the most obnoxious, if one uses terrorism as the measure.

Posted by garybkatz | Report as abusive
 

Treat cancer !

Posted by abdulraufakhtar | Report as abusive
 

Saharadweller: Do you just make up stuff as you go along?
Gaza’s energy crisis has nothing to do with Israel:
http://www.france24.com/en/20120802-qata r-fuel-powers-gaza-plant-full-strength

Posted by markkerpin | Report as abusive
 

As long as the arabs have a fanatical hatred of Israel, it will distract them from everything else.

As always the arabs’ troubles are of their own making; they are the ones to blame for their problems, not Israel.

The facts no one wants to read.

Learn to think for yourself.

Censorship is evil.

Posted by ALLSOLUTIONS | Report as abusive
 

Tell this to the Brotherhood.

Posted by kommy | Report as abusive
 

elsner’s one-eyed approach casts more suspicion on those passport-stealing mossad assassins

Posted by scythe | Report as abusive
 

Disrespect breeds mistrust. Israel disrespects … well … seems like everyone. Arrogance is not very attractive either.

If Israel is not an enemy, it should take great care not to behave as one. This has hardly been a national priority for them.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive
 

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