Should we stop funding Egypt until they close the tunnels?

Ed Lasky

Jonathan Schanzer's, an occasional contributor to American Thinker, has a well-worth reading  op-ed in today’s Investors Business Daily that advocates reconsidering the billions in aid America gives Egypt if that nation does not close the tunnels into Gaza that have been pipelines for weapons and terrorists.

In the aftermath of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, America and Israel reached an agreement that America would work towards ensuring that the tunnels would be closed and efforts made to end the smuggling that has led to incessant rocket attacks against Israel. Despite this guarantee, tunnel builders and smugglers are back at work. His clarion call to penalize Egypt for its role in the conflict has met with deaf ears before:

 

Egypt says it will accept equipment or aid from any nation to help combat smuggling. But, with or without help, Egypt must begin to actively identify and destroy these tunnels. If it won't, Washington should consider revoking Egypt's $1.7 billion in foreign aid.

However, as Israeli protests grew louder, the U.S. House and Senate agreed to a 2008 foreign aid bill that would withhold about $100 million of Egypt's foreign aid unless Washington could certify that Egypt was doing its part to stop the smuggling.

Egypt, however, still failed to deliver. In late January 2008, the Hosni Mubarak regime stood by as Hamas destroyed parts of the wall separating Gaza from the Sinai.

Tens of thousands of Gazans streamed into Egypt, stocking up on food, supplies and weapons. According to Israeli security services chief Yuval Diskin, large quantities of long-range rockets, anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and materiel for rocket production were brought into Gaza.

Predictably, the Israeli government was furious. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel stated in a BBC interview that it was "the responsibility of Egypt to ensure that the border operates properly, according to the signed agreements."

Weapons Highway

However, it took Egypt 12 days to close the border. Once sealed, underground smuggling returned to previous levels.

One year later, despite regular diplomatic overtures from Jerusalem and Washington, the smuggling continues. The continued operation of these tunnels has wide-reaching consequences.

 

Closing these tunnels would not only prevent terrorism (and the inevitable Israeli counter-reactions) but also serve to weaken the grip Hamas has over Gaza.

Schanzer concludes with the common sense advice that is almost always absent when dealing with the Middle East:

 

Until now, Israeli efforts to get Egypt to take stronger action against the tunneling had potentially dangerous consequences. Specifically, Israel feared jeopardizing its cold peace with Egypt, which had ensured a tense regional calm since 1978.

However, it is now clear that Egypt has failed to live up to its obligations. The need for additional U.S. personnel to bolster Cairo's flaccid anti-smuggling efforts is proof of this.

As calls for change and accountability reverberate throughout Washington at a time when budgets are under increased scrutiny, the U.S. Congress should take a hard look at Egypt's $1.7 billion in foreign aid.

More than $1.3 billion of that is military aid. Those funds must be used to better patrol the Gaza border. If they are not, U.S. foreign aid should be reconsidered

Jonathan Schanzer's, an occasional contributor to American Thinker, has a well-worth reading  op-ed in today’s Investors Business Daily that advocates reconsidering the billions in aid America gives Egypt if that nation does not close the tunnels into Gaza that have been pipelines for weapons and terrorists.

In the aftermath of the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, America and Israel reached an agreement that America would work towards ensuring that the tunnels would be closed and efforts made to end the smuggling that has led to incessant rocket attacks against Israel. Despite this guarantee, tunnel builders and smugglers are back at work. His clarion call to penalize Egypt for its role in the conflict has met with deaf ears before:

 

Egypt says it will accept equipment or aid from any nation to help combat smuggling. But, with or without help, Egypt must begin to actively identify and destroy these tunnels. If it won't, Washington should consider revoking Egypt's $1.7 billion in foreign aid.

However, as Israeli protests grew louder, the U.S. House and Senate agreed to a 2008 foreign aid bill that would withhold about $100 million of Egypt's foreign aid unless Washington could certify that Egypt was doing its part to stop the smuggling.

Egypt, however, still failed to deliver. In late January 2008, the Hosni Mubarak regime stood by as Hamas destroyed parts of the wall separating Gaza from the Sinai.

Tens of thousands of Gazans streamed into Egypt, stocking up on food, supplies and weapons. According to Israeli security services chief Yuval Diskin, large quantities of long-range rockets, anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and materiel for rocket production were brought into Gaza.

Predictably, the Israeli government was furious. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel stated in a BBC interview that it was "the responsibility of Egypt to ensure that the border operates properly, according to the signed agreements."

Weapons Highway

However, it took Egypt 12 days to close the border. Once sealed, underground smuggling returned to previous levels.

One year later, despite regular diplomatic overtures from Jerusalem and Washington, the smuggling continues. The continued operation of these tunnels has wide-reaching consequences.

 

Closing these tunnels would not only prevent terrorism (and the inevitable Israeli counter-reactions) but also serve to weaken the grip Hamas has over Gaza.

Schanzer concludes with the common sense advice that is almost always absent when dealing with the Middle East:

 

Until now, Israeli efforts to get Egypt to take stronger action against the tunneling had potentially dangerous consequences. Specifically, Israel feared jeopardizing its cold peace with Egypt, which had ensured a tense regional calm since 1978.

However, it is now clear that Egypt has failed to live up to its obligations. The need for additional U.S. personnel to bolster Cairo's flaccid anti-smuggling efforts is proof of this.

As calls for change and accountability reverberate throughout Washington at a time when budgets are under increased scrutiny, the U.S. Congress should take a hard look at Egypt's $1.7 billion in foreign aid.

More than $1.3 billion of that is military aid. Those funds must be used to better patrol the Gaza border. If they are not, U.S. foreign aid should be reconsidered