Recent aggression reexamines Egypt s normalization with Israel
CAIRO: The Camp David Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty has had its supporters and denouncers among Egyptian politicians of late, but the debate has been reignited since Israel launched a massive air, land and sea assault on Lebanon following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah on July 12.
Ongoing controversy and sensitivity has surrounded the treaty. Egyptians are divided between supporting former President Gamal Abdul Nasser and his pan-Arabist views and former President Anwar El-Sadat who succeeded him. While Nasser attacked Israel, Sadat reached out to sign a peace treaty in 1979, making Egypt the first Arab country to sign such a treaty with Israel.
The treaty has advantages and disadvantages for both parties. It led to the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Sinai Peninsula over the course of three years, a process that was completed in 1982. But the treaty also puts strict limits on the number of Egyptian military stationed in Sinai.
Egyptians have been speaking out in articles in newspapers, on TV channels and at demonstrations about what should be done with the peace treaty, if anything at all.
In recent demonstrations organized in solidarity with the Lebanese people, some of the protesters shouted slogans demanding the Egyptian government go to war with Israel, in support of Nasrallah, calling him a hero. Others preferred a diplomatic approach, suggesting the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, the return of the Egyptian ambassador to Israel and a freeze on the normalization process with Israel, including diplomatic and economic relations.
Other protesters blame both Hezbollah and Israel for the damage taking place in Lebanon, claiming that they both have interests in keeping this struggle going, and that both of them should be stopped.
Previously the Egyptian government, along with the Saudis and the Jordanians, issued a statement describing the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah as an adventure, refraining from condemning Israel at the same time. The statement aroused anger among most Egyptian protestors, denouncing the shameful stance of Arab governments and demanding a braver approach.
Of course the government s stance in the beginning was discouraging, and it contributed to giving legitimacy and coverage for the Zionist enemy in their merciless raids on Lebanon and Israel. But pressure exerted by the people, and criticism of the governments has led them to somewhat change their stance, and in some ways it s in harmony with the people s demands for a ceasefire and prisoners exchange, says Muslim Brotherhood First Deputy Chairman Mohamed Habib.
The Egyptian government s stance on the Qana massacre is quite good, he added in a show of support.
Sunday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abul-Gheit summoned the Israeli Ambassador Shalom Cohen to express Egypt s anger, voicing Egypt s strong condemnation of the Israeli strike against civilians in Lebanon, which took the lives of a large number of children and women during their meeting. The air raid on the village of Qana that killed 52 people, mostly children, sparked the condemnation. The raid is known in Arab media as the Qana massacre.
President Mubarak also condemned the attack. Egypt, which triggered the peace process, warns of the consequences of its collapse, he said on Monday.
When asked whether he thinks the treaty should be dissolved, Habib answered, At least the normalization process with Israel should be stopped. Respectful countries that care about their citizens interests should regularly revise all treaties held with all parties. There must be a revision to this treaty by economic, strategic and international law experts. The treaty should also be accepted by democratic entities, later to be accepted or denounced in a referendum where the people could decide whether they want to maintain or dissolve it.
Referring to the treaty, Amr Shobaki from Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said, The main problem is not the Camp David peace treaty. The main problem is that Egypt isn t succeeding in the battle for peace.
However, he added that, It is not demanded from Egypt, especially at this time, to convert from the peace battle to war.
It s not logical that Egypt, which has liberated all its lands, enter a war, while meanwhile Syria, which still has occupied lands, not enter the war, Shobaki continued, Egypt s failure in the last three decades in its battle for peace is because of its internal situation, where there s been only one elite in power for 25 years. Only when Egypt solves its problems that are causing its weakness in relation to Arab countries, and internationally, can it become an influential peace [broker]. Agencies