Sunday, February 6, 2011

Egypt: The end of Land for Peace?

Could the lesson from the latest events in Egypt be clearer? Land for peace is a joke in the Middle East. In 1978, Israel agreed to give the vast, strategically located and resource-rich land of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for the specter of 'peaceful' relations with Israel. Now, with the danger of Islamist regime change in Egypt, Israel has lost its strategic edge and is soon to be left with no peace.

Contrary the media's reports, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are not absent from the protests. What kind of pro-democracy protestors raid a jail holding top Hamas militants? Countless videos have revealed Western reporters awkwardly interviewing protestors who tell them: "We hate the US! We hate Israel! That's why we want Mubarak out!" Will the West and wake up and realize that it is essentially installing a government that will act out against its interests? Contrary to critics, this does not mean that Israel or people still thinking straight in the US support dictatorship. It does mean that the Bush doctrine of spreading Arab democracy is naive, and that democracy can very well lead to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon if pursued as an end in itself.

The Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's best-organized and largest opposition party and will inevitably play a key if not central role in the new government. The Brotherhood's stance on the peace treaty with Israel is no secret: Last Thursday, Rashad al-Bayoumi, the leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, called on any government that replaces Mubarak's regime to withdraw from its treaty obligations:
"After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel."
The Brotherhood has also called for years to stop Egypt's supply of gas to Israel, and seized the unrest last week to renew its incitement. Several days later, the pipe supplying gas to Israel exploded near El-Arish in the Sinai. The governor of El-Arish initially called it an act of terrorism. Several hours later the gas company announced it was as a leak. A leak, days after an opposition groups calls to cut off gas amidst massive political upheaval? Quite a coincidence!

Most who know the region well were not fooled by the illusion of the last 30 years of 'peace' between Israel and Egypt. While there may have been an opening for an end to all-out war with Israel so long as Egypt was ruled by a US-backed dictator, any unleashing of the people's rage today is likely to bring Islamist influence into Egypt, which does not bide well for Israel, nor the reigon, nor the world. Even Saudi Arabia is pissed off at Obama: "This isn't how you handle issues in region," said the Arab official. "Egypt needs to be treated with respect."

All Israel can hope for at this point is that Egypt will be wooed by Turkey rather than by Iran, keeping its fundamentalism in check. Regardless, Israel, and the IDF in particular, will need to readjust to the reality of an enemy on its southern border, only this time, without the Sinai buffer zone.

If anything can be gained from this painful look back, it is that there is no longer, and never has been, any evidence for the myth that giving away more land will bring Israel peace. There is huge pressure on anyone involved in this conflict to take into consideration the international community response at every step. However, a new era is approaching, an era when that Jewish people will have to learn that טוב לבטוח בה' מבטוח בנדיבים it is better to rely on Hashem than to rely on princes. Hashem wants the Jewish people in the land of Israel, and we must rectify the sin of the spies, and not fear. כל גוים סבבוני ובשם ה' אמילם all the nations have surrounded me, and in the name of Hashem I will cut them off.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zt"l, may his merit be a blessing for all Am Yisrael, saw through the illusion of negotiations, and never feared to voice the truth about Israel. The website A True Peace has now made the prophetic statements and positions of the Rebbe on the Arab-Israeli conflict available online.

In 1979, the Rebbe stated: "The peace accords with Egypt are dangerous for the Jewish People."

In 1979, the Rebbe also warned: "Next after giving away the Sinai, will come concessions to the PLO."

This post was inspired by the Chabad weekly Sichas HaShavua, Parashas Terumah. In retrospect I was also inspired by Shiloh Musing's post on taking a sabbatical from peace talks.

Kfar Chabad, Israel

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