WITH NEWLY-ELECTED ISLAMIST PRESIDENT, QUESTIONS ARISE CONCERNING EGYPTIAN-ISRAELI PEACE

BLUF:

Observers of the new Egyptian President, Mohammed Morsi, have expressed fear that his Islamist agenda will break the Egypt-Israel peace treaty maintained by Hosni Mubarak for decades despite claims to the contrary.

OBSERVED:

The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty was signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin as a part of the 1978 Camp David Accords. The treaty was a tremendous step between the two nations as the previous three decades were riddled with several armed conflicts between them. The two nations normalized relations and the Sinai became a demilitarized zone after the treaty was signed.

Since the Egyptian revolution of 2011, there has been speculation on whether or not a new regime would respect the treaty. This speculation intensified when Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, took the presidency. The Muslim Brotherhood has always been against the idea of a Jewish state in the Holy Land so with the Brotherhood at the helm, there is an inherent conflict between pragmatism and ideology when it comes to maintaining the treaty with Israel. Essam el- Erian, a leading member of the party, commented on the Brotherhood’s position shortly after the revolution by saying, “We have our opinion, yes. We were against the treaty since it was signed.”  Morsi himself has expressed reservation about the treaty in a recent interview where he said, “We will respect the agreement — that is essential, but it is necessary to relate to the details. Both sides have to respect the agreement. Where is the comprehensive peace for all the peoples of the region?” He went on to imply that because Israel has not been true to its agreements to the Palestinian people, Egypt may not be obligated to hold to its agreements. Though in his more recent inaugural address, he vowed to maintain international treaties, which is thought to be a reference to the Egypt-Israel treaty.

Israel is already showing uneasiness about the party having control of parliament and the executive branch. So much so that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent Morsi a letter encouraging the newly elected president to keep relations between the two countries peaceful.

Egypt does have an incentive to honor their end of the 34 year agreement, however. Part of the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty includes two billion dollars of US aid to the Egyptian military a year, contingent on Egypt meeting its obligations to the treaty. With Egypt’s current economic weakness, the government will not be quick to abandon that financial aid.

ASSESSMENT:

[-] Uncertainty about the treaty is compelling Israel to increase security measures. Israeli forces along Israel-Egypt boarder on the Sinai have been on high alert since the 2011 revolution as boarder security incidents have been on the rise since that time. Construction of the steel security barrier along the boarder has also sped up.

[-] The US approach to Egypt is also being affected by the treaty’s uncertainty. During Clinton’s visit to Egypt, she reflected the importance of the treaty to the US in saying, “We certainly support the continuation of the peace agreement (between Israel and Egypt) as it has brought great benefits to Egypt. We will continue to do so, enabling the president to focus on the economic conditions in the internal political situation here in the country.” The US has shown that it gives Israel the priority over its neighboring Arab states, and if the treaty goes sour, the US will have to stop playing the supportive role for the Islamists in Egypt. Doubt cast upon the treaty is doubt cast upon positive US-Egypt relations.

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