The Egypt-Israel Peace Test

Brooking's Tamara Coffman-Wittes and former senior Israeli diplomat Itamar Rabinovich write that for the Egypt-Israel peace treaty to survive it should be renegotiated:

In order to sustain the peace treaty, Egypt and Israel should renegotiate its military annex to allow Egypt to deploy forces in previously restricted zones and re-establish full sovereignty over the Sinai. Such a move would strengthen bilateral relations, generate goodwill in Egypt, and increase Israel’s confidence in the Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to peace.
During such a renegotiation, the two countries would discuss in detail the most effective approach to tackling their shared challenges related to terrorism and transnational crime, in order to ensure that Egypt’s increased military presence in the Sinai also enhances Israel’s security. Egypt’s newly democratic government would be more strictly accountable for fulfilling the treaty’s terms if it played an active role in establishing them. At the same time, the agreement would boost domestic support for Egypt’s government and enhance its regional standing.

This is the option I've heard many Israelis officials and pundits argue as a possible silver lining to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: getting Islamists to directly re-affirm their approval of the treaty in exchange for regaining full sovereignty. Between the lines is that such a negotiation would have to be carried out by elected civilian officials and approved by the president (and perhaps parliament), rather than conducted through the only existing channels of the Egypt-Israel relationship at the moment, the military, intelligence and lower rungs of the ministry of foreign affairs.

I'm not sure the Brothers would bite (although they could certainly be incentivized by "sweeteners" such as more US aid.) They are more likely to push for an arrangement that would gradually impose the regaining of sovereignty in eastern Sinai as a fait accompli, leveraging Western concern about the security situation there. Or, should direct talks be unavoidable, they would be much more likely to take place in the case of a major breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would provide some cover.

 

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.