A shared, se­cret ar­range­ment

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS -

THE CAMP David Ac­cords rep­re­sented the first dent in the Arab world’s re­jec­tion of Is­rael and the im­pact was felt far be­yond the Is­rael-Egypt re­la­tion­ship.

There were wide­spread hopes 40 years ago that the other Arab states would quickly fol­low suit and make peace with Is­rael — and al­though this did not hap­pen, se­cu­rity ex­pert Ofir Win­ter, be­lieves the deal opened the door to the par­tial peace­mak­ing suc­cesses and im­por­tant pro­pos­als that have come since.

“Jor­dan was the only coun­try to for­mally fol­low,” ac­cord­ing to Dr Win­ter, a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute for Na­tional Se­cu­rity Stud­ies who wrote his doc­toral the­sis on how Arab regimes re­late to peace with Is­rael. “But we do have the Oslo Ac­cords, which is an in­terim agree­ment with the PLO [Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion], and the Arab Peace Ini­tia­tive that was put for­ward in 2001 saw Arab coun­tries ac­cept the Egyp­tian prin­ci­ple of land for peace.”

It is of­ten for­got­ten that at Camp David, Egypt’s Pres­i­dent Anwar Sa­dat and Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Me­nachem Be­gin dealt with the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian is­sue as well as Is­raeli-Egyp­tian peace. They signed up to hold­ing “ne­go­ti­a­tions on the res­o­lu­tion of the Pales­tinian prob­lem in all its as­pects”, to­gether with Pales­tinian rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

They agreed that in the West Bank and Gaza “the Is­raeli mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment and its civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion will be with­drawn as soon as a self-gov­ern­ing author­ity has been freely elected by the in­hab­i­tants of these ar­eas.”

Yasser Arafat’s Fatah was fu­ri­ous that the Egyp­tian leader had made an agree­ment on the Pales­tinian fu­ture and so re­jected it. The United Na­tions also shunned the Frame­work for Peace in the Mid­dle East, as this part of the Camp David Ac­cords was called.

This, ac­cord­ing to the vet­eran Is­raeli peace ac­tivist Ger­shon Baskin, was a “missed op­por­tu­nity”.

He told the JC: “No one knows what would have emerged if the Pales­tini­ans would have ac­cepted au­ton­omy.” While the self-rule un­der dis­cus­sion was less than state­hood, Mr Baskin be­lieves that it could have even­tu­ally led to a two-sate so­lu­tion that the Pales­tini­ans could have ac­cepted. “The Pales­tini­ans,” he re­flected, “should have looked at it more se­ri­ously.”

But op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by Camp David were missed in other ar­eas too — and one of them could have pre­vented some of Is­rael’s big­gest headaches to­day, ac­cord­ing to Ger­shon Ha­co­hen, a for­mer sol­dier who served the IDF on the Egyp­tian and Syr­ian fronts.

The deal was im­por­tant for “break­ing of the ice” be­tween Is­rael and the Arab world, he said, but it also des­tined the Gaza Strip to be­come a source of per­ma­nent in­sta­bil­ity on Is­rael’s doorstep.

In his view, the Camp David ne­go­ti­a­tion pre­sented a rare op­por­tu­nity that could have stopped Gaza from be­com­ing the nar­row, densely-pop­u­lated coastal en­clave it is known as to­day. Gaza had been con­trolled by Egypt be­fore 1967 and had Be­gin and Sa­dat re­tained this con­nec­tion, things could have been very dif­fer­ent.

The Gaza Strip could have been en­larged to Ar­ish in the Si­nai and Pales­tinian au­ton­omy could have been pur­sued there, Mr Ha­co­hen said, in an area that he be­lieves would have been large enough to be vi­able.

The fact that the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict is still rag­ing — as Egyp­tian lead­ers know well, given that Gaza is their next-door neigh­bour — in am­ple ev­i­dence that the peace that did emerge from Camp David was a cold one.

“No one in Is­rael ex­pects now to have a warm peace,” said Tamar Her­mann, a pub­lic opin­ion an­a­lyst with the Is­rael Democ­racy In­sti­tute, com­ments. She be­lieves the pub­lic takes the peace treaty for granted, but that with the wider Is­raeli-Arab con­flict still rag­ing, the re­la­tion­ship will not deepen.

For Dr Baskin, the Is­rael-Egypt re­la­tion­ship is about as close as it can be un­til Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace, but Ofir Win­ter said that “the po­ten­tial isn’t ex­hausted for ei­ther side.”

But it can be dif­fi­cult to get an ac­tual sense of how deep Is­raeli-Egyp­tian ties run to­day be­cause much of the re­la­tion­ship in what many con­sider the most im­por­tant area — de­fence — runs un­der the radar, cre­at­ing a sit­u­a­tion where pri­or­i­ties are shared, but se­cret.


Is­raeli and Egyp­tian flags be­yond heavy se­cu­rity blocks at the Nitzana border cross­ing

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