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Pundits: Egypt Developments Should Put PA Peace on Hold

How should Israel respond to the crisis in Egypt? Many say it should not rush into an agreement with the PA.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 2/2/2011, 6:00 PM / Last Update: 2/3/2011, 5:12 AM

How should Israel respond to the crisis in Egypt? Many say it should not rush into an agreement with the Palestinian Authority.

A former Deputy Defense Minister – Ephraim Sneh of the dovish Labor Party – says that in light of the potential dangers from Egypt, Israel must retake the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza-Egyptian border. This is the area that Israel allowed the Palestinian Authority to control following the Disengagement from Gaza in 2005 – despite warnings that Israel could not afford to grant Hamas control over the crossing.

If Israel does not take back the Corridor, Sneh wrote in Yediot Acharonot today, "the military strength of Hamas in Gaza, already intolerable, will increase.  The cost of taking over the Philadelphi Corridor [now] is less than the unavoidable price of dealing with Hamas in the future in the Gaza Strip after it is reinforced with sophisticated weapons and instructors from Iran.”

Sneh also recommends a change in IDF deployment and size, given the apparent new enemy on our southern border. He similarly advocates speeding up construction of the barrier between Egypt and Israel in the Sinai.

Make Peace With the PA?
Surprisingly, Sneh also feels that Israel should seize the opportunity to reach a peace deal with "moderates" in the Palestinian Authority.

This last is not the approach of Manfred Gerstenfeld, director of the Institute for Global Jewish Affairs and Chairman of the Board of Fellows at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Israel can now "even less afford to take risks for a doubtful “peace” with the Palestinians," he writes. " There are two clear key messages Israel has to stress in its public diplomacy. The first is that the major unrest in Egypt shows that peace treaties with Arab countries are not assured, as they are concluded with non-democratic rulers. Security issues thus become even more important for Israel. In times of great uncertainty in the region, a responsible government should not increase this by adopting agreements with a Palestinian partner who may be overthrown in the near future."

Similarly, former Defense and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens writes in Haaretz today that Israel 's two peace agreements with Arab states – Egypt and Jordan - were made with Arab dictators who were able to guarantee two main conditions: That the agreement put an end to further claims on Israel, and that terror activities against Israel from within the country could effectively be combated.

Can PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas meet these same conditions, Arens asks? Does he "have the authority and capability to bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Any realistic appraisal of his position among the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria and Gaza leads to the conclusion that he cannot meet this condition… As for suppressing terrorist activity directed against Israel, he obviously does not have that capability [either]."