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by Dr. Steve Carol


Twenty-eight years ago this month, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the first peace treaty between an Arab state and the Jewish state in Washington D.C. At the time, it was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough of near biblical proportions. Glowing predictions were made about a rosy new future for the entire Middle East and the beginning of an end to the then, over 100 year-long Arab war against the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.

But Egyptian public opinion never favored peace. Two years after the signing, Sadat was murdered, for making peace with Israel. His legacy was repudiated, and he himself remains un-mourned. In the thirty years since Camp David, Egyptian sentiment against Israel has gone from bad to worse. In overwhelming numbers, Egyptians from all walks of life, reject peace with Israel and to malign and revile the Jewish state. In a most recent poll, conducted Nov. 1, 2006, ninety-two percent of respondents in a poll of one thousand Egyptians over 18 years of age called Israel an enemy state. In contrast, a meager 2% saw Israel as "a friend to Egypt."

The Egyptian national mood can be summarized by the words of current Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a 1991 speech to students at Cairo University. President Mubarak explained the lessons and consequences of the October 1973 (Yom Kippur) war: "Against us stood the most intelligent people on earth--a people that controls the international press, the world economy, and world finances. We succeeded in compelling the Jews to do what we wanted; we received all our land back, up to the last grain of sand! We have outwitted them, and what have we given them in return? A piece of paper!" In 1996 Mubarak described Israel as "a knife plunged into the heart of the nations of this region." Would Mubarak allow a piece of paper signed by his late predecessor, Anwar Sadat, to deprive him of a chance to pull the knife out?

Returning the Sinai peninsula to Egypt three times--under British pressure in 1949, under U.S. pressure in 1957, and of its own volition in 1979 -- has not ended Israel's pariah status in the eyes of Egyptians, nor has it deterred high-ranking Egyptian officials from continuing to issue dire threats.

In retrospect, Israel's total withdrawal from Sinai was a mistake for it set the precedent of total withdrawal from all other areas claimed by the Arab-Muslim side be it Judea, Samaria, Gaza, Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Negev, or any other part of Israel. This concept of "total withdrawal" is now expected not only by the Arab-Muslim states, but also by the European Union, the majority of UN members and by many in the United States.

But it is not only words that demonstrate Egypt's continued hostility to Jews in general and Israel in particular. It is deeds. Some 50-odd agreements undertaken by Israel and Egypt under the terms of their peace treaty have not been implemented because of Egyptian intransigence. These range from trade, tourism, agricultural projects, transportation, and telecommunication to cultural relations, the exchange of youth delegations, and the cessation of anti-Israel propaganda. But that is hardly all.

Egypt today is the world's most prolific producer of anti-Semitic ideas and attitudes. Egypt's educational system and media are replete with vehement anti-Semitic Nazi-style propaganda directed at the Jews and the Jewish State. The anti-Semitic cartoons match if not exceed anything drawn by Philipp Rupprecht in Julius Streicher's infamous Nazi newspaper, "Der Stuermer." Schoolchildren in Egypt are taught that the Jews are the source of all the evil in the world. The traditional blood libel is still in wide circulation in today's Egypt. This is being reinforced by television productions that screen variations of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Tsarist forgery more than 100 years old. Egyptian school maps substitute "Palestine" for Israel. No map printed in Egypt (or, for that matter, in any other Arab country and most Muslim nations) mentions Israel. Even on the pop culture scene there is hatred for Israel. The May 2001 number one pop tune in Egypt was Shaaban Abdel Rehim's "I Hate Israel." The song criticized prominent Israeli leaders.

Israeli tourists and diplomats have been accused of importing every imaginable scourge, from hoof-and-mouth disease to AIDS. And Israel has been charged with perpetrating virtually every terrorist act which the rest of the world associates with Muslim extremists, from Pan Am 103 to the World Trade Center bombing and the events of 9/11. Terrorist attacks on tourists in Sinai have basically been unchecked by Egyptian authorities. Over 120 have been killed and over 200 wounded. Most recently, on Jan. 29, 2007, an Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade suicide bomber terrorist from the Gaza Strip, infiltrated via the Egyptian Sinai, traversing the entire length of Sinai and then attacked a bakery in Eilat, Israel. Three were killed and two wounded.

In the international arena, Egypt continues to use international forums and regional meetings to isolate and weaken Israel. Its actions are almost exclusively hostile. In 1992, Egypt led the campaign in the United Nations against the repeal of the resolution equating Zionism with racism. Beginning in 1994, Egypt has led the international campaign to disarm Israel of its nuclear option. Egypt openly criticized the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty. Rather than use Egyptian offices to make a positive contribution to peace elsewhere, Mubarak's pressure contributed to the scuttling of Moroccan and Qatari plans to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel in the mid-1990s.

Since the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, Egypt has given one excuse after another for not "normalizing" relations with the Jewish state. Despite Israel's 1993 recognition of the PLO and the signing of the Oslo Accords, despite its unilateral withdrawal from all of Lebanon in 2000 and from the Gaza Strip and parts of northern Samaria in 2005, Egyptian hostility remains.

The most recent Egyptian demands, before relations can be "normalized" is that Israel must conclude its total withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice lines -- the so-called "green line" -- and enter upon a peace treaty with Syria that returns the Golan Heights to that nation.

Despite the signing of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which established a recognized international boundary between the two nations, Egypt still harbors territorial claims against Israel. In 1995 Egypt's President Mubarak secretly assembled experts to build a case for Egypt's right to the Southern Negev. These "experts" provided Mubarak with "proof" that Egypt could demand large portions of Israel's Negev Desert. The Egyptians have built their case and stand ready at the appropriate moment to put forth their claim. Last December (2006), encouraged by Israeli unilateral territorial concessions, Egypt staked a claim to the Israeli southern port city of Eilat.

Significantly, in the debate among the Egyptian MPs, the experts and the Foreign Ministry officials, no mention was made of possible legitimate Israeli sovereignty of Eilat. The debate in Cairo is between two camps: the Egyptian Foreign Ministry which claims that Eilat belongs to the Palestinians, and the opposition MPs who claim that Eilat belongs to Egypt. Interestingly, these Egyptian claims were made public as the Arab world sees daily evidence of Israeli weakness.

It is in the military sector that Egypt poses the greatest threat to Israel. Despite the peace treaty, the Arab League's 1948 declaration of war to liquidate the state of Israel remains in force. Egypt is a member of the Arab League and subscribes to its decisions.

Since the 2005 unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, an un-ending stream of weapons, supplies, money, and "volunteers" have streamed into Gaza from Egypt at the Rafah crossing, despite the "presence" of European observers. Overtly, the Egyptian government supports the "moderate" Palestinian Authority government of Mahmoud Abbas, while covertly most of the aid goes to Hamas, a terrorist organization. Hamas regards Egypt as its most reliable long-term supporter,

The Egyptian armed forces, largely equipped with U.S.-made weaponry thanks to US aid totaling over $70 billion since 1979, trains for a war against the named "enemy" -- Israel. According to the Congressional Research Service, Egypt purchased $6.5 billion worth of foreign weapons in the years 2001-04, more than any other state in the Middle East. In contrast, the Israeli government bought only $4.4 billion worth during that period and the Saudis $3.8 billion. If Egypt is at peace with Israel, what are all those weapons for? The answer to the question lies in Egyptian war doctrine which still views Israel as Egypt's main if not its only enemy. Egypt has and is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction. It was the first Arab country not only to develop chemical weapons but to use them (in the 1960s, during its war in Yemen.

A former Egyptian chief of staff has flatly said that "The combined weaponry of the Arab states today exceeds that of Israel. If all these weapons were directed against Israel, the Arab states could defeat Israel." The Egyptian military presence in Sinai, strictly regulated by the peace treaty has been increased under the guise of being "police."

Recent events show that Egypt is intent on breaking the peace treaty. Starting in Sept. 2006 Egypt's major democracy movement, Kifaya, ("Enough") has demanded an end to the peace treaty. Just last month, Mohamed el-Katatny of President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) told a special session of the Egyptian Parliament: "That cursed Israel is trying to destroy al-Aqsa mosque...Nothing will work with Israel except for a nuclear bomb that wipes it out of existence." Thus Egypt joins ranks with Iran, which has issued similar calls.

Other members of el-Katatny's party echoed a similar theme: "The war with Israel is still ongoing whether we like it or not," NDP legislator Khalifa Radwan said. Mohamed Amer, another ruling party member, said: "What this [Israeli] gang is doing makes me demand that we trample over all the agreements we signed." While, the parliament has little say in national security issues or foreign policy, which are ultimately dictated by Egyptian president Mubarak, one should remember that a previous Egyptian leader was removed with a single bullet. The public statements are indicative of the overwhelming Egyptian view, that Israel is the enemy, the treaty should be abrogated and Israel should be destroyed.

The political left in the United States, Israel and elsewhere like to emphasize that the treaty has held and that Egypt has in fact not made war on Israel since 1979. But under such logic if the mere absence of active warfare counts as peace, then peace has also prevailed between Syria and Israel for decades despite their formal state of war. Indeed under such logic "peace" exists between Israel and Saudi Arabia who have not physically fought each other since 1948-49. But as the record shows Syria continues to arm, train, supply, and provide sanctuary to terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, among others. Saudi Arabia has played a similar role as well as being the primary financier of those dedicated to Israel's destruction, donating $1 billion last week to the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority.

One should not forget Islamic history. Muhammad signed the Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyya with the Quraysh people of Mecca in 628, which pledged a period of truce for 10 years. Eighteen months later, seizing on the pretext of the murder of a Muslim by an ally of the Quraysh in 630, and having in the interim gained superior strength, Muhammad's forces conquered Mecca without resistance and seized all the territory of the Quraysh. This episode has been cited by Yasir Arafat, among others, as the model for later Arab/Islamic "peace agreements" with non-Islamic areas. Muhammad had stated that war is deceit. The concept of "taqiyya" (deceit) runs throughout Islamic history.

The situation between Egypt and Israel has been often described by many as a "cold peace." "Cold War" would be a more apt description. In reality the "peace" is a hudna -- a truce, until the next round. If a regional war erupts (e.g. Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, PLO) Egypt will find an excuse to enter, if for no other reason than to gain a share of the spoils (it already claims parts of the Negev and Eilat) and to maintain its claim to leadership of the Arab world.

So while some Arabs and Muslims, at this time Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and at least on paper, the PLO recognize the fact of Israel's existence, realities on the ground can change such facts. If Israel no longer exists, there is no fact to recognize.

Thus after 28 years of "peace," Egypt has not reconciled itself, emotionally or intellectually, to the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. The Arab-Muslim world needs to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state in the Middle East within secure borders. We are a long way off from that reality.

Dr. Steven Carol is Professor of Modern Middle East history (retired) and official historian of The Middle East Radio Forum He lives in Scottsdale, Arizona.

This article is based on a series of Historical Chronologies and Analyses presented by Dr. Carol on The Middle East Radio Forum, a call-in show on KKNT 960 AM, Phoenix, Arizona, hosted by Attorney William J. Wolf. It was submitted to Think-Israel March 5, 2007.


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