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Thursday, March 26, 2009

30 years of cold peace

Thirty years ago today, Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter signed the peace treaty under which Israel gave every grain of Sinai that it liberated in the 1967 Six-Day War to the Egyptians (except for the Gaza Strip, which they refused to take back) in return for what can best be described as a cold peace. Anwar Sadat was assassinated by Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood shortly after Israel completed its withdrawal and the peace with Egypt has never become what Israelis had hoped for.

Perhaps the best way to see this is to contrast how the event is being marked in Israel with how it is being marked in Egypt.
The Foreign Ministry, as well as local academic and cultural institutions, have planned a number of events this week to commemorate three decades of peace between Egypt and Israel.

In Egypt, on the other hand, not much fireworks or fanfare is planned.

There is "nothing official that I know of" going on in Cairo to commemorate the March 26 anniversary, Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. He said he did not know why.

The Israeli embassy in Egypt, along with Egyptian experts, said they too were not aware of any ceremonies, receptions or events - other than television and other media coverage - to mark the signing of the historic Camp David Accords.

"We didn't receive any invitations that I am aware of" said Shani Cooper Zubida, the spokeswoman of the Israeli embassy in Cairo. "We think that it is an Egyptian decision whether to have an event or not, but we are very happy to commemorate it, and we are very proud to have relations for the last 30 years with Egypt."

Egyptian experts were split as to what the lack of both official and unofficial commemoration meant.

"I think it's because of the result of the last Israeli parliamentary elections," said Emad Gad, head of the Israel unit at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu has yet to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state, while Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who is likely to become the next foreign minister, has said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak could "go to hell" if he didn't want to visit Israel, he said.
Maybe. But the fact is that no other anniversary of the treaty's signing has been commemorated by Egypt. And in the 26 years that he has been President, Mubarak has visited Israel exactly once: For Yitzchak Rabin's funeral.
Egyptian institutions or organizations seeking to host commemorative events now, at a time when Israel's Gaza war was still fresh on their minds, would face heavy criticism both from Egyptian political parties and ordinary citizens, Gad said.

"Celebration for what?" he said people would wonder. "Killing Palestinians? For Lieberman and Netanyahu?"

But Abdel Monem Said Aly, the director of the Al-Ahram Center, said it was customary in Egypt to hold celebrations to commemorate the evacuation of foreign troops from Egyptian territory rather than the signing of agreements or treaties.

For example, April 25 is a national holiday that commemorates the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula as per the Camp David accords, while March 19 is celebrated as the day that Taba was liberated from Israeli control.
And unfortunately, that makes sense. For Egypt, Camp David was never about peace. It was about getting back what they had lost when they launched a war against Israel in 1967.

But then I rememebrd that we- the majority of us anyway- don't want peace with Israel, and are not interested in any real dialogue with them. We weren't then and we are not now. The Entire peace process has always been about getting the land back, not establishing better relations. Even when we do get the land back, it's not enough. People in Egypt lament daily the Camp David treaty that prevents us from fighting. In Gaza they never stopped trying to attack Israel. In Lebanon Hezbollah continued attacking even after the Israeli withdrawel. And the people- the majority of the arab population- support it. Very few of us are really interested in having any lasting Peace or co-existance. I mean, if our left is asking for war, what do you think the rest of the population is thinking?

I think that the Israeli want peace with us because they don't want their lives disrupted. They don't want to have the IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, rockets coming into their towns from Hamas or having to go to wars against Hezbollah to get their soldiers back. I think they want peace because they want their peace of mind. They view us as if we were a headache. We view them as if they are a cancer.

That quote came from an Egyptian blogger. Meanwhile, here in Israel....
At a seminar in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda praised the "courageous decision" of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin and former President Anwar Sadat to make peace on the White House lawn.

Despite the Israeli-Egyptian relationship being subject "to numerous challenges," he said, "our gathering today is just another testament to the strength of vision of peace and stability vis-a-vis the choice of war and bloodshed."

But Reda also said that expanding relations with Israel was part of a vision for comprehensive peace that "entails reaching a just settlement of the different dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, in particular the Palestinian quandary."

Mubarak has said that the year 2009 should be "the year of peace" in the region, Reda said at the Hebrew University seminar, organized by the university and the Foreign Ministry. "For that, he calls upon the coming Israeli government to seize this opportunity and to respond positively to the Arab peace initiative."


In addition to the Hebrew University seminar, the Foreign Ministry also hosted a reception for dignitaries and guests on Wednesday evening during which Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former officials who had been involved in Camp David spoke.

On Sunday, the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem opened the "Echoes of Egypt" exhibit, which presents the works of leading artists, cartographers and photographers and their impressions from the mid-16th to the 19th centuries.

The Menachem Begin Heritage Center is also opening a historic display at the Shalom Railway Station in Tel Aviv Thursday at 12 p.m. The multi-lingual display, entitled "No More War" tells the story of the making of peace between Egypt and Israel from 1977 onward.
For those of you who are in Israel, that Bible Lands Museum exhibit will be there for a year, and is free during the Intermediate Days of Passover.

But it's not just a question of events marking the 'peace.' The Egyptian government newspaper al-Ahram published an editorial today with scathing criticism against Israel.
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 n Gaza” while expecting peace in return.
After thirty years, the Arab world still hates Israel as much as ever. This is from the Gulf News from the 'moderate' UAE:
While Israel is set to celebrate its first peace treaty with an Arab state its partner Egypt plans to leave the 30th anniversary almost entirely unmarked.

In fact, 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.
I can sum up the peace treaty with Egypt: Why bother?

We made peace with a man - not with a country. To make peace with a country, hearts and minds have to be changed. Once Sadat was gone, no one else in power in Egypt was interested in doing that. We gave up hundreds of square miles of land for a piece of paper. And we set a precedent (of giving the Arabs everything they lost) that haunts us to this day.


To get an idea of just how hostile things really are between Israel and Egypt, have a look at the comments here.


At 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What "cold peace"?

It's minimally "cold war", when said "piece partner" covertly uses terrorist regimes as their proxy to undermine Israel's existance.

And that's just for starters.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Yep. Tzipi Livni in her cluelessness, has sealed her reputation as the stupidest woman in Israel. Peace is not a value. Justice is a value and true peace cannot exist in its absence.


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