Tuesday, June 19, 2012

19-Jun-12: Something uniquely troubling about what is happening on Israel's Egypt border

Cairo crowds demonstrate what they want to do to their
neighbours on the Israel/Egypt border.  So what's smart and good
for us to do?
Yaakov Katz has a thoughtful piece in this morning's Jerusalem Post under the headline "A hybrid of peace and terror". His thesis is that two of Israel’s quietest borders today are with Lebanon and Syria, which happen to be states with whom Israel is officially in a state of war. But it's Egypt, with whom we have a peace treaty, that has become our biggest defence and security problem.

As terrorism takes on greater proportions on Israel's Egypt  border, and Egypt spins into a whole new post-Mubarak shape, the challenge cannot be dealt with by Israel alone. The Egyptians, somehow, are going to have to be involved, and in a large way. But how is that going to happen with the Moslem Brotherhood taking on a much more central role?
This sums up the strategic predicament that Israel faces when confronting the growing terror threat brewing on the hot Sinai sand dunes. If rockets are fired from Lebanon or Syria, Israel would know what to do, just as it has done in the past – respond. If shots are fired at troops along the border with the Gaza Strip, it would also know what to do – fire back. When it comes to Egypt, though, the black-and-white rules of engagement which apply to Israel’s other fronts are not applicable due to the nature of the two countries’ relationship. It is tense, but there is peace. There are attacks, but there is peace... While Israel can retaliate and respond militarily to attacks from Gaza, its hands are – for the time being – tied in the face of the same threats from Egypt.
Katz says the government of Israel will use yesterday's terror attack near Kadesh Barnea [see '18-Jun-12: They're attacking on Israel's Egyptian border again this morning"] to persuade Egypt's new leadership that 
it needs to begin taking the Sinai threat seriously and to move it up its list of priorities. For Israel, it makes no difference who the president is and whether he is from the Muslim Brotherhood or not. Either way, officials explained on Monday, only Egypt can stop terror in Egypt... While it is unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood was directly involved in the attack, the anti-Israel rhetoric by some of its leaders is not helpful in fostering good relations between the two countries... The occasional rocket attack from Sinai might turn into the least of Israel’s worries. What happens if in a year from now, Morsy decides to send the military into Sinai for exercises, something forbidden under the peace treaty? What will Israel do then? Rip up the peace treaty? Go to war? It is unclear when dealing with the new Egyptian hybrid of peace and terror.
Not that we were doing so great with the old pre-hybrid model of pure terror.

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