Powered by WebAds

Friday, August 26, 2011

Knesset approval needed?

Defense Minister Ehud Barak wants to allow Egypt to move helicopters and more troops into the Sinai Peninsula, even though it is forbidden under Israel's 1979 treaty with Egypt.
“SOMETIMES you have to subordinate strategic considerations to tactical needs,” says Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, former prime minister and the country’s most decorated military man. This is one such time: Mr Barak, backed by the current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, is going to agree to Egypt deploying thousands of troops in Sinai even though the Israel-Egypt peace treaty strictly forbids it. They will have helicopters and armoured vehicles, Mr Barak says, but no tanks beyond the lone battalion already stationed there.


Israel faces a dilemma with far-reaching strategic consequences. Thirty years of peace with Egypt have rested, above all, on a demilitarised Sinai. The peninsula is patrolled by an international force and monitored by America from the air, to ensure that both sides keep their armies out, even though Sinai is sovereign Egyptian soil. Until now, Israel had said no to Egyptian demands to let more troops on to the peninsula, beyond what is specified in the 1979 peace treaty. Yet it urgently needs Egypt to tighten security. “If nothing is done today,” an aide to the Israeli prime minister says, “you will see extremist groups establishing a larger footprint in Sinai.”

Egypt has for years had difficulty imposing order on the peninsula. The situation has worsened since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, in February. At the end of July, dozens of gunmen attacked a police station in el-Arish, Sinai’s biggest city. A mixture of banditry, tribal infighting and jihadist activity means the authorities “have little control beyond the city,” says an el-Arish resident. Criminals—some of whom escaped from prison during Egypt’s revolution—have blocked roads and carried out numerous carjackings. Jihadist groups (sometimes claiming to be “al-Qaeda in the Sinai peninsula”) have called for the creation of an Islamic emirate.

The sudden change of power in Cairo has accelerated the collapse of central authority in Sinai. It has also given freer voice to a widely felt animosity towards Israel among the Egyptian public, a sentiment which the Mubarak government kept carefully muffled.

Mr Barak does not downplay Israel’s long-term concern or the risk in what he is proposing. The new troops allowed into Sinai are unlikely ever to be withdrawn by any Egyptian government. In themselves, the few thousand men in question will not pose a serious threat. But Sinai was an Israeli-Egyptian battlefield in four bitter wars. Troop movements there have tended in the past to generate pernicious dynamics of their own.
Barak's response is knee-jerk and wrong. First, no decision should be made until the incidents are thoroughly investigated. And second, if an attack is carried out from your country on another country, you are responsible. No excuses from the Egyptians should be accepted. There were almost no attacks in the 30 years that Hosni Mubarak was in power. That's because as much as Mubarak kept the peace between Israel and Egypt a cold peace - he also did not talk about abrogating or renegotiating the treaty. Maybe the Egyptians ought to deal with that before they insist on breaching the treaty's terms.

In any event, Barak may not be able to do this by himself. Knesset Speaker Ruby Rivlin says that Barak cannot give Egypt permission to violate the treaty without the Knesset's approval.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Friday instructed Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yanon to examine whether the option of deploying thousands of IDF troops in Sinai would require Knesset approval, in response to reports that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had agreed to the move.

"It is quite possible that the permission to allow the introduction of Egyptian forces in Sinai, which is defined as a demilitarized zone as part of the peace agreement, will require the approval of the Knesset," said Rivlin. "It is not enough that there is an agreement between the defense minister and prime minister, without the approval of the government."
Deploying more troops or equipment on the Egyptian side of the border is not what is required. What is required is the will to live by the treaty. Until the Egyptians decide that they will live by the treaty, nothing will help.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home