ISSN 2330-717X

First Crack In Camp David Accords – OpEd

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By Mohiyeddin Sajedi

Israel has agreed with deployment of more Egyptian troops to the Sinai Desert.

Official Israeli sources said eight guerillas had crossed the desert to reach the vicinity of the port city of Eilat in Israel’s Negev desert to carry out their recent military operation, which killed eight Israeli military personnel.

Tel Aviv says it has killed all those responsible for the deaths. It has also blamed the Palestinian resistance movement of Hamas in the Gaza Strip for directing the operation, killing 20 Palestinians during subsequent airstrikes against the coastal sliver. Hamas has rejected involvement in the incident.

Unlike before, Israel did not disclose the identity of the guerillas and their political and organizational affiliation.

The aerial attacks seemed to be meant to assuage the public opinion inside Israel given the Israelis’ refusing to trust the military like they used to following its defeat in the Israeli regime’s 2006 war on Lebanon.

Israel’s Minister of Military Affairs Ehud Barak told the London-based weekly The Economist that Israel allows Egypt to station thousands of soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula — something the Israel-Egypt peace treaty forbids. He also said that Tel Aviv allows Cairo to bring in helicopters and armored vehicles, but not tanks.

It is not clear yet whether talks between Israel and Egypt over reviewing some of the Camp David Accords’ provisions have reached a definite end. The speaker of Knesset (the Israeli parliament) has asked Knesset’s legal advisor to comment on the legality of the regime’s decision so that it is made clear whether Tel Aviv can change the peace deal without obtaining the approval of the majority of the parliamentarians.

Introduction of change in the deal is nothing new. In 2005 and following Israel’s withdrawal from the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, Tel Aviv agreed to the presence of 750 Egyptian military personnel there. Latest WikiLeaks’ releases also show that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has raised with the United States ambassador the notion that part of the Sinai Desert is separated and attached to Gaza.

The peninsula, which is 61,000 square kilometers in area and has a population of 360,000 people, is surrounded on its sides respectively by the Mediterranean, the Gulf of Suez, and the Gulf of Aqaba and forms the contact point between Asia and Africa.

In 1906, British colonialism cut it off Palestine and joined it to Egypt. It came under the Egyptian rule in 1949 after the fabrication of Israel. Tel Aviv occupied Sinai between 1967 and 1982 and withdrew only after singing the bilateral accord with Cairo. Egypt managed to restore the Taba resort area in the South Sinai Governorate from Israeli occupation following a legal battle. The area, however, turned into a place for joint Cairo-Tel Aviv investment and the Israelis’ enjoyment on the coast of the Red Sea.

The Sinai Peninsula is divided in two southern and northern provinces. The government of Hosni Mubarak carried out most of the regional development plans in its southern part, particularly Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh, which instigated the discontent of this desert area’ residents, especially those living in its northern parts.

According to the Camp David Accords of 1978, the Sinai desert was divided into three vertical parts from the north to the south as well as a border area. Moreover, the bulk of the desert was turned into a disarmed zone so that Israel would not feel any threat from the side of the Egyptian army. The aforementioned zones include:

Zone A: a strip which stretches from the eastern shore of the Suez Canal up to the south and allows Egypt to deploy an infantry division of potentially 22,000 forces there.

Zone B: The central part of Sinai from the north to the south, where Egypt is entitled to deploy police forces and 4 army battalions.

Zone C: The area extends from the Egypt-Gaza border towards the Gulf of Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh, where Egyptian police officers as well as multinational forces are stationed.

Zone D: The part of the Sinai desert is a narrow border area between Egypt and Israel, where Tel Aviv is allowed to deploy 4 battalions.

Multinational forces have been deployed at the region since April 25, 1982, and consist of 3,000 forces and 1900 observers from 10 countries around the world (that is, the United States, France, Italy, Norway, Canada, Fiji, Columbia, Uruguay, Australia, and New Zealand). The $50 million annual budget of these forces, which are tasked with safeguarding Israel against the Egyptian army, are paid by Washington and Tel Aviv.

Though Israel tries to avoid translating the collapse of Hosni Mubarak as the collapse of its peace treaty with Egypt, the Egyptian public opinion is pressuring the government and the ruling military council to revoke and repudiate the Camp David Accords. Since Israeli forces killed 5 Egyptian border guards while chasing a guerilla group in the al-Naqab desert and infiltrating the Sinai Peninsula, Egyptians have been holding daily rallies in front of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in order to push for the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador from their country. The demonstrations developed further and further last Friday and most probably they will persist in the future.

Mubarak and Anwar El Sadat before him never managed to normalize the Camp David Accords for the Egyptian people. Even Mubarak himself never was ready to make a trip to Israel.

The expansion of the Egyptian army deployment deployments in the Sinai desert has invariably proved to be unfavorable to Israel. Such an expansion means the strengthening of the sovereignty of the Egyptian government over its territory. Nonetheless, the issue can also be viewed from another perspective. The deployment of the Egyptian military in the area takes place only with the permission of the US and Israel, and in order to eliminate the needs of the Israeli regime. The coincidence of this move with the Egyptian government’s declaration about its decision to destroy Rafah underground tunnels between Egypt and the Gaza Strip is still interpreted as acknowledgement of the fact that Cairo’s strategy towards Israel, Palestine, and Sinai has not yet changed.

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