Article 22.2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the international treaty defining a framework for diplomatic relations between countries, stipulates that the “receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of [a visiting] mission against any intrusion or damage[.]”
Accordingly, last week’s decision by the head of Egypt’s ruling Supreme Military Council, Mohammed Tantawi, to ignore Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s plea for intervention while the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was being ransacked constitutes a gross violation of international law. And, as Article 3 of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty requires that the “Parties apply between them…the principles of international law governing relations among states,” and that “each Party undertakes to ensure that acts or threats of belligerency, hostility, or violence do not originate from and are not committed from within its territory,” Tantawi, in effect, conveyed to Israel a powerful message: The peace treaty is over.
If this was ever in question, Egypt’s acting Prime Minister, Issam Sharaf, alleviated all doubts shortly thereafter by affirming that “the peace agreement with Israel is not sacred and is always open for discussion.”
Coupled with the fact that Israel last week was forced to evacuate its embassy in Amman, Jordan—in response to an organized march under the banner of “No Zionist Embassy on Jordanian Territory”—and that Jordanian King Abdullah II this week blamed Israel uniquely for the impasse in peace talks with the Palestinians, accusing leaders in Jerusalem of “sticking their heads in the sand,” and a frightening reality emerges: peace treaties are transitory.
Proponents of Israel’s pacts with Egypt and Jordan invariably retort with the following: “At the very least, was it not worth 30 years of security?” They have a point, as any length of tranquility is preferable to war. However, ultimately, the assertion is myopic. The reason being that peace and security, although inter-connected, represent two distinct states. Peace is long-term, a by-product and benefit of which is security; whereas security is short-term and cannot usher in peace, but rather acts in the manner of a temporary ceasefire.
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