Op-Ed: Egypt: The Hollow Peace
“In contrast to previous days in the uprising, which were dominated by the young, the demonstrations Monday included a more obvious contingent of older, disciplined protesters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist organization, outlawed
It was only a matter of time before Egypt turned her guns on Israel
under the Mubarak government, has been playing a steadily larger role in the demonstrations, after holding back at the outset,” according to The New York Times on January 31, suggesting the worst will emerge from Egypt’s unrest.
The day before the Times reported “The street revolt in Egypt has thrown the Israeli government and military into turmoil, with top officials closeted in round-the-clock strategy sessions aimed at rethinking their most significant regional relationship.” The article quoted a senior Israeli official who said, “For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy. For Israel, it’s the whole arch.”
As Egypt riots, American punditry has had little to contribute in the way of insight, and much in the way of nonsense. As Investor’s Business Daily, one of the few sane voices on the topic, remarks on its editorial page: “As the radical Muslim Brotherhood schemes to oust a pro-American despot in Egypt, U.S. pundits have cheered the move as a boon for freedom. This is dangerous pablum.”
The kumbayas about democracy coming to the Middle East extends to both Right and Left. Elliot Abrams, a former policy analyst for President George W. Bush, claims in a Washington Post op-ed that the protests vindicate his former boss’s “freedom agenda.” And journalist Nicholas D. Kristof, in a video blog for The New York Times, reports enthusiastically from Cairo “on how extraordinary it is to see masses of people protesting for more democracy.” He adds: “It feels as if we should be their natural ally but right now we’re not.”
Who are those chanting marchers in Egypt’s streets? Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick offers some insight into their character through the results of a June 2010 Pew opinion survey. “59 percent [of Egyptians] said they back Islamists. Only 27% said they back modernizers. Half of Egyptians support Hamas. Thirty percent support Hizbullah and 20% support al Qaida. Moreover, 95% of them would welcome Islamic influence over their politics.” Natural allies, indeed.
A January 29 editorial of The New York Sun, “Egypt According to Sharon,” says that the opposition to Hosni Mubarak’s regime reminded them of something Ariel Sharon said at the paper’s first editorial dinner in 2000. He was asked which country was most hostile to Israel. “Suddenly Mr. Sharon fell silent and so did the rest of the table. We remember thinking to ourselves: Iraq? . . . Iran? . . . Syria? . . . the Sudan? But when the general finally spoke the country he named was Egypt.” The editorial described the “murmurs of surprise” – after all, Egypt and Israel had signed the Camp David Accords. But Sharon explained that Egypt was both most hostile and most dangerous, given its large military forces – American trained – at its disposal.
The Sun may be impressed with Sharon’s prescience, but Shmuel Katz had been warning about Egypt far longer and with far greater clarity than Sharon. Having left Menachem Begin’s government when it became clear Begin intended to sign a treaty with Egypt and hand over the Sinai, Shmuel spent years tirelessly warning against the treaty.
He would often use Begin’s own words against him, such as when Begin said he would not sign a “sham document”, that is to say, a document which would permit Egypt to honor prior agreements with other Arab states allowing it to go to war with Israel. Of course, Begin did sign such a treaty. But Shmuel didn’t stop reminding him in the press that he said he wouldn’t. This may, in part, explain why Begin once said of Shmuel that he “always made his life a misery”.
As a result of the Camp David Accords, Egypt took the entire Sinai Peninsula. Sadat, portraying himself as a man of peace, won the Nobel Prize, became Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, and, most importantly, won “the hearts of the Americans so that they should open their armories to him.” (pg. 299, The Hollow Peace, Dvir Co. Ltd.) Egypt’s military employs America’s most advanced weaponry. It receives more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid every year. It produces America’s main battle tank in its own factories. One can see many examples of them today rolling down the streets of Cairo.
Not only did Israel lose a gigantic chunk of land and its qualitative military edge, but also its energy supplies, having turned over valuable oil and gas fields found in the Sinai. Israel is now dependent on Egypt for some 40% of its natural gas. A leading Muslim Brotherhood member has already called for cutting off Israel’s gas and preparing for war with her.
Here, in short, is the legacy of the Egypt-Israel treaty.
Shmuel had zero faith in Egypt. As he said in a special “Firing Line” episode taped in Tel Aviv in 1979:
"I object to this treaty as a whole, because I don’t believe that this treaty will bring peace. I believe it’s a prescription for an earlier war than we might otherwise expect.”
Mr. Buckley: “Why do you say that?”
Mr. Katz: “Because I do not believe that the Egyptians, any more than the other Arab states, have given up their doctrine of annihilation of the Jewish state.”
Shmuel pointed out that the much-feted Sadat had made many anti-Semitic statements in the past. As he wrote in The Hollow Peace (pgs. 305-306):
In one of [Sadat’s] famous speeches, delivered at the El-Husein mosque in Cairo on April 25, 1972, on the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, he said:
‘The Jews were the neighbors of the Prophet in Medina… and he negotiated with them. But in the end they proved that they were men of deceit… The most splendid thing that the Prophet Muhammad did was to drive them out of the whole of the Arabian peninsula… They are a nation of liars and traitors, contrivers of plots, a people born for deeds of treachery… I promise you… the defeat of Israeli arrogance and rampaging so that they shall return and be as the Quran said of them ‘condemned to humiliation and misery’… We shall send them back to their former status.’
Sadat has never given the remotest hint of a change in this view of the people of Israel…
Moreover, it is significant that since the day Sadat addressed the Knesset in Jerusalem in November 1977, throughout the negotiations that preceded the Camp David agreement and continued till the signing of the peace treaty, and then during the period in which conditions of total peace have been theoretically in force between Egypt and Israel – during this entire period neither Sadat nor any of his aides, nor indeed any Egyptian, has been heard to say one word in recognition of the people of Israel’s right to the land of Israel or any part of it. There is no doubt that the recognition implicit in the peace treaty is a recognition of the fact of Israel’s “existence” and no more. None of the conditions agreed to by Egypt detracts from the Muslim precept, which permits the signature of a peace agreement with an infidel, if the agreement is designed to facilitate his ultimate subjugation.
In short, the peace treaty was no peace treaty. And while things will be worse if Egypt comes under the Muslim Brotherhood, it was only a matter of time before Egypt turned her guns on Israel. Against whom, after all, was she building up her massive armaments?
The Camp David Accords are celebrated as a great achievement. One of the greatest fears now is that an Islamist government will abrogate it. But as Shmuel pointed out, there was never peace with Egypt. The treaty was a “sham document” whose sole purpose from the Egyptian point of view was to get the Sinai back. That accomplished, Egypt ignored it.