Palestinians undermine Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty

Leo Rennert
The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has become a front-and-center issue in Israel's new relations with a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo.

As Washington Post correspondent Joel Greenberg writes in the June 28 edition, the ascendancy of President-Elect Mohammed Morsi has raised new questions about the future of the 1978 Camp David accords and the 1979 peace treaty -- major foreign-policy achievements of the Carter administration ("Egyptian-Israeli ties face new challenges with Islamist's election" page A9)

"Perceptions are rife in both countries that the other side has failed to honor key elements of the deal," Greenberg writes.

Given this situation, it's instructive to examine the nature of the respective complaints, which Greenberg enumerates, and their validity, which Greenberg fails to address.

From an Israeli perspective, the complaints are centered on what became a "cold peace" -- Egypt's failure to move toward comprehensive, friendly relations, as stipulated by the treaty.   Under Mubarak, hopes for two-way tourism, commerce, trade, freedom of movement were dashed.  Egypt's press carried vicious anti-Israel cartoons -- a level of incitement that also violated the treaty.  The only time Mubarak came to Israel was for Yitzhak Rabin's funeral.  And he couldn't wait to return to Egypt, as I personally can attest, having covered that event.

In sum, Israel's complaints center on fully documented Egyptian failures to abide by its commitments under the 1979 treaty.

Moving to the Egyptian side, the complaints have centered mainly on lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front.  Under the Camp David accords, there was to be a process of negotiations leading to autonomy or self-rule for the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza.  But neither the 1978 Accords or the 1979 treaty stipulated the emergence of a Palestinian state.  In fact, under the Accords, Jordan was invited to become a participant in the peace-making progress -- an indication that some of its sovereignty perhaps might be extended to the West Bank and Gaza.  The peace treaty uses even vaguer language -- it is "a basis for peace between Israel and each of its neighbors, which is prepared to negotiate peace" and the treaty is an "important step in the search for a comprehensive peace in the area and for the attainment of settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its aspects."

As Greenberg reports, the beef from the Egyptian side -- before and since the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood -- has been that Israel reneged on its treaty obligations by failing to meet its commitments under the 1978 and 1979 pacts.

But unlike the Israeli complaints about its "cold peace" under Mubarak that are based on factual evidence, the Egyptian complaints lack the same validity -- something that Greenberg fails to point out.

For example, Greenberg fails to inform Post readers that then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the 2000 Camp David summit during the Clinton administration far exceeded Israeli obligations under the peace treaty by offering Yasser Arafat a state on 95 percent of the West Bank, 100 percent of Gaza, and all Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.  Arafat rejected the Barak-Clinton initiative and instead initiated a terror war that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians.

Greenberg also fails to report that in 2008 then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas a statehood deal that even went one better on the Barak proposal.  Under the Olmert plan, Israel would have had to relinquish sovereignty over the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, to an international consortium that would assume control of Jerusalem's holy places.  Abbas turned it down.

Nor does Greenberg mention that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon completely evacuated Gaza (as Israel did the Sinai under the 1979 peace treaty), hoping that it would become a mini-state model that might advance the cause of Palestinian statehood.  Instead, under Hamas rule, Gaza has become a staging ground for a rocket war against Israel.

There are many other examples of how the Palestinians have thwarted Israeli efforts to go well beyond its peace-treaty obligations to help Palestinians achieve statehood.  But these will suffice.

The point is that Greenberg, the Washington Post and other mainstream media keep ignoring Palestinian rejectionism and belligerence when they focus only on Israel's commitments and obligations. 

Thus, we come to Greenberg's vacuous summing up of his piece with a quote from Elie Podeh, a professor of Middle East studies at Jerusalem's Hebrew University: "Israel is perceived as an occupier.  An agreement with the Palestinians would help greatly in the Arab world."

Well, Professor Podeh, Israel has been there, done that.  And each time, the Palestinians managed to screw it up -- for themselves, for Israel, for the Arab world.  It's about time that their misbehavior be noticed.

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has become a front-and-center issue in Israel's new relations with a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo.

As Washington Post correspondent Joel Greenberg writes in the June 28 edition, the ascendancy of President-Elect Mohammed Morsi has raised new questions about the future of the 1978 Camp David accords and the 1979 peace treaty -- major foreign-policy achievements of the Carter administration ("Egyptian-Israeli ties face new challenges with Islamist's election" page A9)

"Perceptions are rife in both countries that the other side has failed to honor key elements of the deal," Greenberg writes.

Given this situation, it's instructive to examine the nature of the respective complaints, which Greenberg enumerates, and their validity, which Greenberg fails to address.

From an Israeli perspective, the complaints are centered on what became a "cold peace" -- Egypt's failure to move toward comprehensive, friendly relations, as stipulated by the treaty.   Under Mubarak, hopes for two-way tourism, commerce, trade, freedom of movement were dashed.  Egypt's press carried vicious anti-Israel cartoons -- a level of incitement that also violated the treaty.  The only time Mubarak came to Israel was for Yitzhak Rabin's funeral.  And he couldn't wait to return to Egypt, as I personally can attest, having covered that event.

In sum, Israel's complaints center on fully documented Egyptian failures to abide by its commitments under the 1979 treaty.

Moving to the Egyptian side, the complaints have centered mainly on lack of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front.  Under the Camp David accords, there was to be a process of negotiations leading to autonomy or self-rule for the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza.  But neither the 1978 Accords or the 1979 treaty stipulated the emergence of a Palestinian state.  In fact, under the Accords, Jordan was invited to become a participant in the peace-making progress -- an indication that some of its sovereignty perhaps might be extended to the West Bank and Gaza.  The peace treaty uses even vaguer language -- it is "a basis for peace between Israel and each of its neighbors, which is prepared to negotiate peace" and the treaty is an "important step in the search for a comprehensive peace in the area and for the attainment of settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict in all its aspects."

As Greenberg reports, the beef from the Egyptian side -- before and since the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood -- has been that Israel reneged on its treaty obligations by failing to meet its commitments under the 1978 and 1979 pacts.

But unlike the Israeli complaints about its "cold peace" under Mubarak that are based on factual evidence, the Egyptian complaints lack the same validity -- something that Greenberg fails to point out.

For example, Greenberg fails to inform Post readers that then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak at the 2000 Camp David summit during the Clinton administration far exceeded Israeli obligations under the peace treaty by offering Yasser Arafat a state on 95 percent of the West Bank, 100 percent of Gaza, and all Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.  Arafat rejected the Barak-Clinton initiative and instead initiated a terror war that claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians.

Greenberg also fails to report that in 2008 then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas a statehood deal that even went one better on the Barak proposal.  Under the Olmert plan, Israel would have had to relinquish sovereignty over the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, to an international consortium that would assume control of Jerusalem's holy places.  Abbas turned it down.

Nor does Greenberg mention that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon completely evacuated Gaza (as Israel did the Sinai under the 1979 peace treaty), hoping that it would become a mini-state model that might advance the cause of Palestinian statehood.  Instead, under Hamas rule, Gaza has become a staging ground for a rocket war against Israel.

There are many other examples of how the Palestinians have thwarted Israeli efforts to go well beyond its peace-treaty obligations to help Palestinians achieve statehood.  But these will suffice.

The point is that Greenberg, the Washington Post and other mainstream media keep ignoring Palestinian rejectionism and belligerence when they focus only on Israel's commitments and obligations. 

Thus, we come to Greenberg's vacuous summing up of his piece with a quote from Elie Podeh, a professor of Middle East studies at Jerusalem's Hebrew University: "Israel is perceived as an occupier.  An agreement with the Palestinians would help greatly in the Arab world."

Well, Professor Podeh, Israel has been there, done that.  And each time, the Palestinians managed to screw it up -- for themselves, for Israel, for the Arab world.  It's about time that their misbehavior be noticed.