Cairo Shuns Peace Treaty Fete

A cold peace gets icy: Egypt was the first Arab country to recognize Israel, but it is shunning the 30th year marking the historic peace treaty.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu and Hillel Fendel ,

Mubarak still shuns Israel
Mubarak still shuns Israel
Israel News Photo

Egyptian government officials say the country will not be hosting celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Egypt was the first Arab country to grant Israel full diplomatic recognition, but relations between the two have remained cool.

The treaty was signed in Camp David on March 26, 1979, and its implementation was concluded in April 1982 when Israel withdrew from the seaside town of Yamit and a dozen other neighboring communities.  The forcible removal of well over 1,000 Jews from their homes was a traumatic event for Israeli society, though it was not as intensely volatile as was the withdrawal from Gush Katif 23 years later.

According to both Israel and the United States, Egypt has failed to make major efforts to stop arms smuggling into Gaza. The smuggling allows Hamas to stockpile a huge quantity of explosives and rockets, including anti-aircraft missiles.

Eygptian-Israeli relations worsened briefly with the nomination of Yisrael Beiteinu leader Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman as Foreign Minister. Egypt is miffed over his statement that President Hosni Mubarak can “go to hell” if he continues to insist on not visiting Jerusalem. In the end, however, Egypt stopped short of turning Lieberman's appointment into a major incident.

Egyptian media have reported Lieberman's quote out of context, omitting the reference to Mubarak’s self-imposed boycott of the Jewish state.  The only time the Egyptian president visited Israel was for the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. 

Israeli Commemorations
Israel has held commemorations this week in honor of the peace treaty. Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda attended a ceremony on Wednesday at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, after initially saying he would not. 

The Reuters report on the ceremony reported on Reda’s speech at length – quoting his remarks on the need for a “just solution for the Palestinians,” criticism of Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria, and more – but did not quote any Israeli officials.  In fact, however, Israel's Ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, spoke in praise of the cooperation between the two countries, while warning that the countries' citizens appear to shun contact with each other.

In addition, the Foreign Ministry and outgoing Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hosted a reception in honor of the anniversary on Wednesday evening.

Arab Media
Egyptian television has featured the anniversary of the peace treaty in its programming this week.  Al Ahram, Egypt’s largest daily newspaper, stated in an editorial Thursday morning that the country has no  reason to celebrate because Israel “tries to destroy relations with Arabs by spilling blood in Gaza” while expecting peace in return.

The London-based Al Quds daily editorialized that the peace treaty is a “tragedy” that has not helped Egypt. The treaty has resulted in Israelis being allowed to visit the Sinai Peninsula, while Israel has used the Egyptian government as “messengers for Hamas,” according to the newspaper.

Gulf News wrote, “The peace treaty, known as the Camp David accords, has not created the anticipated ‘warm peace’ between Egypt and Israel. Quite the opposite - many Arabs find the treaty problematic especially with the continuing suffering, occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, and Israel's sporadic wars on Lebanon and most recently Gaza.” 

Al Ahram Strategic Studies Centre senior researcher Dia Rashwan was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “The peace treaty has negatively changed the Arab situation.”