And yet some have speculated that the Egyptian and Israelis – joint victims of the terrorists, but uncomfortable neighbors – might be drawn back into creative alliance. The New York Times referred hopefully to “early signs of cooperation and coordination.”
And, indeed, some will point to the fact that the latest terrorist incident is an embarrassment and setback for both the Brotherhood and Hamas, which had been busy cementing ties. They will note that Egypt has now closed its Gaza crossing and insisted Hamas shut down its tunnels into Sinai. And they will derive comfort form the fact that Morsi has vowed to “impose full control” over Sinai.
Don’t believe it.
Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, who carried out the latest attack, account for merely a part of the terrorist activities in Sinai or Gaza. The real traffic in men and arms is run by Hamas, which is turning Gaza in Sinai into a launching pad for war with Israel – with Morsi’s help. Last week’s slaughter of Egyptian soldiers did not provide Morsi with the incentive to constrain Hamas, but with the opportunity to purge the senior military leadership that acted as his bridle.
Last year, Israel acceded to Egyptian requests to amend the military annex to the treaty to allow Egypt to station another 2,500 troops in the demilitarized Sinai. Egpyt never filled the quota and nothing changed, except for the worse. Numerous attacks on the oil pipeline to Israel have occurred. A cross-border terror attack last August left left eight Israeli dead and another in June saw a further Israeli killed.
Now, in the wake of the latest outrage, Egyptian figures are calling for a further revision to permit still more troops. But as the failure to seal the Gaza/Egypt border is one of will, not numbers, Israel would be wise to refuse such requests. To do otherwise would be legitimize a remilitarized Sinai without any corresponding security dividend.
Egyptian forces will be brutal with those who attack them, not Israel. That’s why the Obama Administration’s offer to help Egypt reassert control over Sinai will have no practical impact on the general problem.
Instead, the Arab conflict with Israel is developing a new front in Sinai. Consequent border incidents between Israel and Egypt will heighten tensions and perhaps even one day ignite a war. At that point, no one will ask if the peace treaty remains binding. It is already a husk – and has been for some time.
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