Sixteen months after Anwar Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. 32 years later, have they come full circle and returned to enmity?
I was standing on an overpass watching as the President of Egypt’s motorcade drove by on his way to Jerusalem. I will never forget as far as the eye could see the Israeli and Egyptian flags alternating on every light post lining the highway. I was fortunate to be a part of history.
President Anwar Sadat gave a speech in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). He was not only the first Arab leader to visit Israel, but one of the only ever to speak in Jerusalem which many nations to this day still do not recognize as Israel’s capital.
I recall Sadat and former Prime Minster Golda Meir trading gifts laughing together and exchanging stories.
The bond between these two former enemies was astounding. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War Sadat was the President of Egypt when he led his forces against Israel. At that time Golda Meir was the Prime Minister, a tougher-than-nails leader of Israel protecting her small nation from invasion. Now, the two proud grandparents sat together laughing and comparing notes as to how, no matter what culture or religion you come from, kids will be kids.
As time and the peace process went forward I grew older and learned more. Initially I was excited about the prospect of peace, as were most Israelis and I supported the group ‘Shalom Achshav’ (Peace Now). But when returning the entire Sinai to Egypt became part of the treaty I started having reservations.
We had dear friends that lived in the town of Yamit, a beautiful, modern town that was an oasis south of the Gaza Strip in the middle of the desert. Our friends would be forced to abandon their home by the same government that urged them to move there.
Then there was the question of that much land, 23,000 square miles of land. Israel is only 20,700 square miles; it would be turning over more than half of its land.
What of those that died in the Yom Kippur War; were those deaths for nothing or for a chance at peace? Israel suffered 2,688 combat deaths, the largest toll of any of Israel's conflicts with Arab nations or Palestinians.
My attitude changed, I know longer felt this was smart, let alone viable. What if the peace treaty didn’t last, what if Anwar Sadat were assassinated? Fatwa’s against Sadat and his family were rampant.
My worst fears came about on October 6, 1981 when Sadat was assassinated while reviewing his troops during an annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal.
Sadat was murdered because he decided to have peace rather than war. The leader of the group that carried out the assignation was Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli; he was following a fatwa that had been ordered by Omar Abdel-Rahman.
In case the name Omar Abdel-Rahman sounds familiar, he is also known as the “Blind Sheikh”, currently serving life in Federal prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Sadat was succeeded by his vice president Hosni Mubarak who ruled Egypt for 30 years and kept the peace with Israel, but alas, we all know how that ended. Experts the world over including yours truly, warned what would happen if Mubarak were forced to step down.
I wrote back in February about Obama’s flip-flopping on the uprising in Egypt and about the Muslim brotherhood,
The Muslim Brotherhood has been waiting for an opportunity like this for over 60 years and it is not something they are going to let slip by. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1924 and the founding of the Muslim Brotherhood only 4 years later in 1928 there has never been an opportunity such as this for a return of a Caliphate and you can bet your life the Brotherhood is working harder than any other group or government to see that this happens.
Now, just 2 months after the ouster of Mubarak we start to see my worst fears realized. As reported just this past week in Ha’aretz,
A senior Foreign Ministry official said a few senior Egyptian officials have uttered harsh statements in the past two weeks and even called Israel "the enemy." Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan, for example, referring to the possibility of Israeli investments in Egypt, said Egypt did not need investments from "the enemy."
While speaking to European Union ambassadors last week in Jerusalem Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated,
"I am very concerned over some of the voices we've been hearing from Egypt recently," Netanyahu told the envoys. "I'm especially concerned over the current Egyptian foreign minister’s statements."
Concerned? I guess that’s the diplomatically nice way of saying it. You can bet behind closed doors that statement is a lot different. After all, Israel is the enemy yet again.
What did the Foreign Minister say; we certainly didn’t hear any of this in the media here. The Egyptian news outlet Ahram explains in its article from March 23,
Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi on Wednesday evening issued a press statement to "reject and condemn attacks on any civilian life" in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.
El-Arabi's statement came hours after an explosion hit a Jerusalem bus, killing one woman and leaving around 20 others wounded in West Jerusalem.
The statement issued by the office of the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson warned at the same time "of the grave consequences of escalation of Israeli-Palestinian violence".
“Grave consequences”; what exactly does that mean? Sounds like the same threats that came from Egypt back in the 70’s prior to the Yom Kippur War. Same old, same old… Israeli civilians get attacked and murdered and then gets threatened not to retaliate.
Well, that didn’t take long, Mubarak stepped down on February 11 and the threats of “grave consequences” started on March 23. Maybe that’s some kind of new record, it only took 40 days.
What about the peace treaty? Many people are unaware of not only what is in the treaty, but of the Memorandum that came afterwards between the U.S. and Israel.
The Peace Treaty was signed between Israel and Egypt on the White House lawn on March 26, 1979. That same day there was another agreement made as well, the Memorandum of Agreement between the Governments of the United States of America and the State of Israel.
This little known agreement is interesting in many ways. The U.S. also understood that this peace treaty was as good as the paper it was written on and gave Israel assurances to support, help defend and uphold the treaty if it were to be violated.
It states in part,
Should it be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the United States that there has been a violation or threat of violation of the Treaty of Peace, enhance friendly and peaceful relations between the parties and promote peace in the region, and will take such remedial measures as it deems appropriate, which may include diplomatic, economic and military measures as described below.
The United States will provide support it deems appropriate for proper actions taken by Israel in response to such demonstrated violations of the Treaty of Peace. In particular, if a violation of the Treaty of Peace is deemed to threaten the security of Israel, including, inter alia, a blockade of Israel's use of international waterways, a violation of the provisions of the Treaty of Peace concerning limitation of forces or an armed attack against Israel, the United States will be prepared to consider, on an urgent basis, such measures as the strengthening of the United States presence in the area, the providing of emergency supplies to Israel, and the exercise of maritime rights in order to put an end to the violation.
Subject to Congressional authorization and appropriation, the United States will endeavor to take into account and will endeavor to be responsive to military and economic assistance requirements of Israel.
What is even more interesting than the “military measures” or “United States presence in the area” or even “the providing of emergency supplies to Israel” would be section number 5 of the memorandum,
The United States will oppose and, if necessary, vote against any action or resolution in the United Nations which in its judgments adversely affects the Treaty of Peace.
Perhaps Obama and his administration should have read that section prior to demanding that Mubarak step down. It was on February 4 when Obama stated,
"My belief is that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now."
My belief, Mr. President, is that you should know who might take over a government before you make demands and then it might be meaningful and peaceful. You should look in to that now. It’s still not too late, think about this as September draws near and the Palestinian Authority asks the U.N. for Statehood.
I believe that the U.S. voting for Palestinian statehood will be breaking number 5 of the agreement that the U.S. made with Israel in 1979. Let’s try not to break it yet again; demanding that Mubarak step down was enough.
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