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Monday, October 12, 2009

The meaning of 'peace' with an Arab country

It's been more than 30 years since Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter signed the Camp David accords on the White House lawn and ostensibly brought an end to the state of war between Israel and Egypt. But for many in Egypt the war never ended, and Sadat's assassination in 1982 has only reinforced the feeling that the war continues.

Today, an Egyptian reporter is being brought up on charges by her union for interviewing Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Shlomo Cohen, in her office in Cairo. The reporter, Hala Mustafa, is editor-in-chief of a government-run monthly magazine called - of all things - Democratiya. This case symbolizes all that is wrong in Israel's relations with Arab countries, and why a treaty signed with an Arab country does not bring peace, but a cessation for some period of time of the state of war. It illustrates why it is likely that at some time in the future, Israel will have to fight Egypt again to preserve its existence. And it shows why there is no point to Israel reaching a treaty with Syria, let alone the 'Palestinians.'
"It's ridiculous not to have any contact with Israelis as a journalist," said Mustafa. "Many have done it before me."

She said Cohen visited her office to discuss a symposium they were organizing that would include Egyptian, American and Israeli participants.

"There is a reality on the ground that we have to deal with: we have a peace with Israel," said Mustafa. "If people want to boycott Israel, they should do so on an individual basis, but according to our law we have normal relations."
Mustafa is right, but she is a rarity. The Egyptian journalists' union has a list of excuses why she should not have met with Cohen.
Other factors also likely played a part, including lingering anger that the Egyptian government did not do more to stop the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year that killed some 1,400 Palestinians, said Salah Eissa, a prominent writer and editor of the cultural weekly al-Qahira.

"The incursion in Gaza, the loss of UNESCO ... and the politics of an upcoming
union election - it all added up," said Eissa.
Excuse me, but the time to measure when a country is free is when things are tense and not when they are normal. Although this is the first prosecution of a journalist for violating the boycott against Israelis in 25 years, that is because contacts are rare.

The Egyptians have not fulfilled their obligations under the treaty, and Israel must take that into account in determining how to deal with other Arab countries. For the Arabs, treaties are pieces of paper to be treated with taqiyya. They are temporary measures - hudnas - intended to remain in effect until the Arabs are ready to fight another day. They don't know how to live in peace. There is little sense in trying to teach them.

Yes, had Anwar Sadat lived long enough, the Israel - Egypt treaty might have been different. But when Sadat signed the treaty, he was signing his own death warrant.


At 11:41 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The basic problem is Israel made peace with the Arab regimes - not the people. That is why peace agreements with the Arab countries and the Palestinians don't change anything. An Arab regime change is likely to endanger Israel's strategic position. Without peace on a people to people level, there is no real peace to speak of. The peace with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians should have taught Israel that lesson.


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