Commentary Magazine


Topic: Israel-Egypt relations

Israel and the Stakes in Egypt

Today’s report of an Israeli drone strike on a terrorist target in the northern Sinai is more than just another incident in the Jewish state’s long war of attrition against Islamists. The incident reportedly took out a missile launcher on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza in the city of Rafah and resulted in five terrorists killed. But the most important aspect of the story is the fact that according to the Associated Press, sources in the Egyptian government confirmed that the Israeli pre-emptive attack took place with the cooperation of authorities in Cairo. This comes on the heels of another reported incident during which Israeli authorities briefly closed the airport in Eilat as a result of a tip from the Egyptians that a terror cell in the Sinai was planning to launch long-range missiles that could have hit the city.

While this may seem remarkable to friends of Israel who have been made aware of the depth of anti-Semitic sentiment that seems to pervade all of Egyptian society, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who was aware of the cooperation that went on when Hosni Mubarak was in power. As cold as the peace between the two countries was, for decades Cairo was more interested in combating potential Islamist insurgents than in having another go at Israel. After Mubarak fell and especially once the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt, that changed and the Sinai became an open range for all manner of Islamists. But as a result of the coup that toppled the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, the military is determined to clean up the Sinai and to end any terrorist threats to the peace between Israel and Egypt. As the United States ponders what to do and say about the impending conflict between the military and the Brotherhood, an understanding of what is happening in the Sinai since the coup should influence American decision-making.

Read More

Today’s report of an Israeli drone strike on a terrorist target in the northern Sinai is more than just another incident in the Jewish state’s long war of attrition against Islamists. The incident reportedly took out a missile launcher on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza in the city of Rafah and resulted in five terrorists killed. But the most important aspect of the story is the fact that according to the Associated Press, sources in the Egyptian government confirmed that the Israeli pre-emptive attack took place with the cooperation of authorities in Cairo. This comes on the heels of another reported incident during which Israeli authorities briefly closed the airport in Eilat as a result of a tip from the Egyptians that a terror cell in the Sinai was planning to launch long-range missiles that could have hit the city.

While this may seem remarkable to friends of Israel who have been made aware of the depth of anti-Semitic sentiment that seems to pervade all of Egyptian society, it shouldn’t surprise anyone who was aware of the cooperation that went on when Hosni Mubarak was in power. As cold as the peace between the two countries was, for decades Cairo was more interested in combating potential Islamist insurgents than in having another go at Israel. After Mubarak fell and especially once the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Egypt, that changed and the Sinai became an open range for all manner of Islamists. But as a result of the coup that toppled the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, the military is determined to clean up the Sinai and to end any terrorist threats to the peace between Israel and Egypt. As the United States ponders what to do and say about the impending conflict between the military and the Brotherhood, an understanding of what is happening in the Sinai since the coup should influence American decision-making.

As Haaretz notes:

Egyptian security forces claimed Wednesday that it had killed 60 militants in the lawless Sinai Peninsula in the month since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Citing widening “terrorist operations” in “recent times,” the Egyptian army said it was conducting an intensified campaign in Sinai in coordination with the interior ministry to crack down on militants that “threaten Egyptian national security.”

Unlike the Brotherhood, the post-coup government in Cairo understands that the primary threats to “Egyptian national security” are Islamists that are determined to foment violence against both Israel and the Egyptian military. The goal of the Islamists, whether members of an al-Qaeda franchise or the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad group based in Gaza, is to set the border with Israel aflame in an attempt to foment a new war that will both hurt the Jewish state and undermine support for an already unpopular peace treaty in Egypt.

Were the military to be undermined in its conflict with a Brotherhood that is determined to put Morsi back in power and get a second chance to remake Egypt in the image of its Islamist beliefs, all bets are off in the Sinai as well as along the border with Gaza. The military is determined to prevent the Brotherhood from getting that chance and understands, unlike many in the United States, that it is locked in a zero-sum game with the Islamists. Though some Americans may cling to the illusion that the Arab Spring created an opening for democracy in Egypt, the choices there are not between the military and freedom but between military rule and an Islamist tyranny that represents a threat to regional stability.

Far from being minor incidents, recent events illustrate the high stakes for the West in the prevention of another Brotherhood government in Cairo. Secretary of State John Kerry was right when he said the military was trying to restore democracy when it took power last month. But if the United States cuts off aid in response to more violence in the streets between the military and the Brotherhood or in any way seeks to undermine the new government in the coming weeks, it will, in effect, be voting for even worse violence in the Sinai and along the border with Israel.

Read Less

Hamas a Threat to Egypt as Well as Israel

The outcome of the latest terrorist attack along the Egyptian-Israeli border leaves the two nations with a confusing situation. Masked Palestinian gunmen from the Gaza Strip entered Egyptian territory at sundown from the smuggling tunnels run by Hamas and then proceeded to attack an Egyptian military post. They killed 16 Egyptian soldiers who were settling down to their Ramadan feast, stole vehicles which they then loaded with explosives, and headed to the Israeli border with the apparent goal of kidnapping and/or killing Israeli soldiers and civilians. Fortunately, the Israel army reacted swiftly, blowing up one vehicle, killing several of the terrorists and forcing the others to flee into the Sinai. No Israelis were harmed.

The attack is an embarrassment in more than one way for the Egyptian government that is now dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is allied with Hamas, which along with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, condemned the incident. But the lax security in the Sinai since the fall of the Mubarak regime has led not only to Sinai becoming a lawless region where terrorists roam freely. Even more important, the attack, which is just the latest attempt by Gaza-based Palestinians to assault Israel via the Sinai, makes it clear the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza has made it a terrorist enclave that presents a danger to Egypt as well as Israel. Though Israel is the boogeyman of Egyptian popular culture and the focus of a relentless hate campaign in the media there, it may turn out that the Palestinians are the real threat. The question is whether the slaughter of their soldiers — a crime that cannot be blamed on Israel — willl motivate the Egyptian army and the government in Cairo to crack down on both Sinai and Hamas-run Gaza.

Read More

The outcome of the latest terrorist attack along the Egyptian-Israeli border leaves the two nations with a confusing situation. Masked Palestinian gunmen from the Gaza Strip entered Egyptian territory at sundown from the smuggling tunnels run by Hamas and then proceeded to attack an Egyptian military post. They killed 16 Egyptian soldiers who were settling down to their Ramadan feast, stole vehicles which they then loaded with explosives, and headed to the Israeli border with the apparent goal of kidnapping and/or killing Israeli soldiers and civilians. Fortunately, the Israel army reacted swiftly, blowing up one vehicle, killing several of the terrorists and forcing the others to flee into the Sinai. No Israelis were harmed.

The attack is an embarrassment in more than one way for the Egyptian government that is now dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is allied with Hamas, which along with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, condemned the incident. But the lax security in the Sinai since the fall of the Mubarak regime has led not only to Sinai becoming a lawless region where terrorists roam freely. Even more important, the attack, which is just the latest attempt by Gaza-based Palestinians to assault Israel via the Sinai, makes it clear the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza has made it a terrorist enclave that presents a danger to Egypt as well as Israel. Though Israel is the boogeyman of Egyptian popular culture and the focus of a relentless hate campaign in the media there, it may turn out that the Palestinians are the real threat. The question is whether the slaughter of their soldiers — a crime that cannot be blamed on Israel — willl motivate the Egyptian army and the government in Cairo to crack down on both Sinai and Hamas-run Gaza.

The Israeli government has been calling for Egypt to police Sinai more thoroughly. Their neighbors have said this would require the two countries to renegotiate the 1979 peace treaty that calls for Egypt to keep its main forces away from the border. But the problem is not really limited to the Sinai. The danger stems from the fact that Gaza has become a haven not just for every armed Palestinian terrorist group but also global jihadis who may not be willing to take orders from Hamas.

In the wake of Mubarak’s fall, Egypt largely dropped its enforcement of the blockade of Gaza, making it easier for terrorists as well as arms and material to enter the Hamas-run statelet. But the majority of Egyptians who support the Brotherhood must now reckon with the fact that having an Islamist terror state on their border presents a danger to them as well as to Israel. It may be asking a lot of a country where anti-Semitism is so deeply engrained in popular culture and where hatred of Israel is endemic to realize that keeping the border with the Jewish state quiet is in their interest. But as ordinary Egyptians as well as the new government begin to realize that what they have nurtured in Gaza is a danger akin to Afghanistan prior to 9/11, traditional Egyptian antipathy for the Palestinians could begin to rein in a reckless policy of antagonizing Israel.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.