POW: Egypt Could Dump Treaty

Few Israelis know the Egyptian mind as does Sinai war hero Yonatan Etkes and he's not optimistic about the peace treaty. INN interviewed him.

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David Lev , | updated: 08:16

Riots in Egypt in February
Riots in Egypt in February
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons, Jerry J

When it comes to Egypt, there are few Israelis who have the firsthand experience and knowledge of the minds and behavior of our neighbor to the south as does Yonatan Etkes,   That's because after the Sinai Campaign of 1956, Etkes spent months as a prisoner – an unintended and unwelcome guest– of the Egyptian government, when the plane he was flying was shot down over Sinai. He was the only Israeli taken prisoner in that mini war.

And while Israel and Egypt may have a formal peace treaty – the terms of which many Israelis fear may be changed or even eliminated altogether in the post Mubarak era – Etkes says there is no new reason to worry. “Regardless of what we have on paper, there has never been real peace between Israel and Egypt, and there never will be.”

Extending that logic to the Palestinian Authority, Etkes says that “the issue is not more or less land or this and that border demarcation. There will never be peace with them because they simply do not want us here.”

Etkes' familiarity with the Arab mind began in the closing days of the 1956 Sinai War, in which Israel captured Sinai for the first time after Egypt's act of war in nationalizing and closing down the Suez Canal. Israel sent out several fighter planes in order to encourage Egyptian troops to abandon the Sinai. Etkes, flying in a second squadron that took off from Tel Nof, heard on his radio that an Israeli plane from the first contingent of IDF planes had been shot down.

He proceeded to attempt to bomb the area where the takedown had occurred, Ras Natsrani, but was shot down himself and captured. For 40 days, his fate was unknown, but eventually it emerged that he had been captured. Etkes became a prisoner of war, and was returned to Israel in the POW exchange between the two countries in January 1957.

As an involuntary guest of the Egyptians, Etkes developed a good sense of what they are all about – and he does not believe they were ever serious about peace, with their only objective getting back the Sinai. The regime change – the removal of Hosni Mubarak, the man who enforced the treaty as minimally as possible for over 30 years, mostly in order to keep American aid flowing – is a good opportunity for Egypt to formally break the treaty, which is what it really wants to do.

The same goes for the Palestinian Authority, says Etkes. “The two state solution is a fiction, and they will never agree to any deals, because they do not want us here at all. Those who say that the 'occupation' is to blame do not remember that Arabs attacked us already in 1920.”

And yet, Israelis still pursue the false dream of peace with their sworn enemies – peace treaty or otherwise., says Etkes. “It's not the Americans or Europeans I am afraid of, it's the Jews, with their foolish ideas, that I am afraid of.”





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