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Six comments following yet another attack on the Israeli-Egyptian border

by Shmuel Rosner

August 6, 2012 | 5:25 am

IDF Chief Benny Gantz tours the site of the attack from Egypt into Israel, August 6, 2012. (Photo: IDF Spokesman)

‎1. ‎

The Israelis knew in advance of a looming attack. Hence, the travel warnings, ‎hence the military preparedness, resulting in zero casualties on the Israeli side of the ‎border; zero damage done, zero achievement for the attackers. ‎

But the Egyptians also had warning of the looming attack. They did nothing. Publicly, ‎they rejected Israel’s travel advisory as an uncalled for attempt to serve the interests of ‎Israel’s tourism industry, and as for military preparedness – the slaughter of Egyptian ‎soldiers speaks louder than anything I’m able to write. ‎

Israel is hoping that this latest incident will serve as a wake up call to the Egyptian ‎government. There’s good reason to suspect, though, that this will turn out to be false ‎hope. Sinai is far away, and Egyptians don’t much care what happens there (as long as ‎it isn’t Israeli intervention). ‎

‎2. ‎

I will make life easy for myself by quoting myself – twice – in the coming paragraphs. ‎Here’s what I wrote about Sinai back in June. It hasn’t changed much:‎

Israel has very little control over this degenerating situation, even though what ‎happens in Egypt will have great impact on Israel’s security. An Egypt governed ‎by the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to remain Israel’s ally. At the same time, ‎the Israeli government is wary of making tense relations even tenser by retaliating ‎against attacks from Egyptian territory. It’s left having to protect it citizens with ‎its hands tied.‎

‎3.‎

And another quote, from February 2011, on why Israel is wary of Egyptian ‎democracy and change:‎

Mubarak was good for Israel. Not great, mind you. The peace with Egypt was a ‎cold one, and ties between people were rare and strained in many ways. But ‎Israel—with its pragmatic way of prioritizing interests—got a good deal from the ‎Egyptians. The southern border, which was Israel’s main concern in its first 30 ‎years, was quiet and didn’t require much attention. Egyptians agreed to sell gas to ‎Israel and to tighten security in Gaza. They opposed the advancement of Iran and ‎its allies, and they prevented terrorists from infiltrating from the Sinai Peninsula. ‎So, chaos or worse—for example, regime change that strengthens the Muslim ‎Brotherhood or other radical forces—will be a headache for Israel. ‎

And for what? So that Egyptians can have their “democracy”?‎

‎4.‎

This talk of Arab democracy turning into chaos brings Syria to mind. It could be ‎weeks or even a few months when the trouble we now see on the unruly Egyptian ‎border becomes even more pronounced along the unruly Syrian border. In Egypt – ‎while the government is both weak and unfriendly – there is still a government on ‎which to lean, in the hope that some day it will do something about Sinai (if not for ‎Israel, then to guard Egyptian pride – it was Egyptians who were massacred yesterday ‎for no apparent provocation, and without any regard to Egyptian sensitivities and ‎possible reaction). But in Syria things could be worse – with no government and more ‎chaos and Iranian meddling and no US ties that could be used for pressuring the ‎regime (if there’s still a regime). Israel will have to bolster security near both borders, ‎adding to its growing cost of defense expenditures and the growing economic burden ‎Israelis will have to bear in the coming years.‎

‎5.‎

A lot of talk will be dedicated in the coming days to the need to alter past Israeli-Egyptian ‎agreements regarding the number of troops the Egyptians can have in the Sinai ‎Peninsula. If Israel wants Egypt to take care of the growing problem, it will have to let ‎it have more boots on the ground. Three things need to be said about this issue:‎

  • Israel has already allowed Egypt to deploy more troops in Sinai, but the ‎Egyptians were reluctant to make use of this new Israeli tolerance. They have ‎Israel’s blessing, but not the troops.‎

  • No number of soldiers will be sufficient unless Egypt is ready to walk the walk ‎and truly take on Sinai extremists. As we saw yesterday, these extremists, ‎jihadists, terrorists – call them whatever you want – are very serious when it ‎comes to killing.‎

  • With Morsi and Islamic Brotherhood legislators in power, Israel may be right ‎to be extra careful about breach of the peace agreement. Letting Mubarak have ‎more forces in Sinai is different to letting Morsi have more forces in Sinai.‎

    ‎6. ‎

    Barak Obama began his term as president with his optimistic Cairo speech, and is ‎ending the term with President Morsi and global Jihad in the Sinai. Do you see an ‎opening here for his Republican rival?‎

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