Tuesday, August 17, 2021

daledamos2

 

Sunday, August 15 is the date the Abraham Accords were signed and became official -- making this past Sunday the first anniversary of the Accords.

 
Of course, for all that they have accomplished over that one-year period, the Abraham Accords are not the first peace treaty that Israel has ever signed with an Arab country. That distinction belongs to the peace agreement that Israel signed with Egypt in March 1979.
 
Even so, everyone agrees that while the Abraham Accords represents a major breakthrough in the normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab signers to the agreement, the peace treaty with Egypt, by contrast, is a cold peace.
 
Yet, we have forgotten just how similar that first peace treaty was supposed to be to the Abraham Accords.
 
The Parties agree that the normal relationship established between them will include full recognition, diplomatic, economic and cultural relations, termination of economic boycotts and discriminatory barriers to the free movement of people and goods, and will guarantee the mutual enjoyment by citizens of the due process of law. [emphasis added]

Rael Isaac, in a 1993 article in Commentary Magazine notes the extent to which real normalization and cooperation was planned between the two countries:

Under the terms of the agricultural agreement, for example, Israel and Egypt promised to “undertake joint research projects in fields of major interest, including the exchange of scientists, joint seminars and symposia, and exchange of research information.”  

...A similarly detailed agenda was adumbrated by the cultural agreement, which in Israel’s perspective assumed special importance as a means of transforming attitudes among an Egyptian public accustomed to the demonization of the Jewish state. Here the two countries pledged “contacts and exchange of visits of experts in the cultural, artistic, technical, scientific, and medical fields”; “exchange of cultural, educational, and scientific publications”; “exchange of archeological and technical reproductions”; “exchange of art objects and the encouragement of holding scientific, technological, and plastic-arts exhibitions”; and “exchange of radio and television programs, recordings, and tapes, as well as cultural and scientific films.”

Israel and Egypt further promised to “facilitate visits of scientists, scholars, and research workers of the other country”; to develop special-equivalence “diplomas, certificates, and academic degrees”; and to “encourage and promote youth and sport activities between youth and sports institutions in each country.”
That description could just as easily describe the Abraham Accords.
 
But 3 years after the Egyptian peace agreement was finalized, relations between the 2 countries simply froze.
 
Why 3 years?
 
Because April 1982 was when Israel completed its 3-year phased withdrawal from the Sinai.
True, Anwar Sadat, who had led Egypt into Camp David, had by then been assassinated, and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June of that year did not help matters. But the fundamental reason for the freeze was later offered by King Hassan of Morocco. He reported in 1984 that Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, had told him the treaty was empty of substance since “Cairo had obtained from it what it could.” [emphasis added]

Just how bad did things get?

Two Egyptian newspapers, Al-Akhbar (December 30, 1988) and Al-Masa’a (December 11, 1991), portrayed the blowing up of the Pan Am plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, as an Israeli plot. 
Israel was accused of introducing hoof-and-mouth disease into Egypt (Al-Ahram, June 8, 1987); 
And accused of exporting radiation-contaminated food to Egypt (Al-Ahram, April 21, 1987); 
And accused of introducing “most of the plagues that afflict agriculture and animal health” (Al-Jumhuriyah, September 13, 1988); 
And accused of causing earthquakes in Egypt (Al-Wafd, December 27, 1992); 
And accused of bombing the World Trade Center in New York while contriving to throw blame on the Arabs (Al-Jumhuriyah, April 5, 1993); 
And accused of introducing AIDS into Egypt (Rose Al-Yusuf, July 2, 1990); 
And accused of polluting the entire globe (Rose Al-Yusuf, June 15, 1992).

Isaac quotes Jimmy Carter in an interview with Charlie Rose when he claimed "the treaty has been meticulously observed on both sides.” Yes, the cessation of overt military hostilities was -- and is -- being maintained, but Egypt's honoring of the agreement as a whole falls far short of "meticulous."

Evil portrayals of Jews and Israel in the Egyptian media cannot exist side-by-side peaceful relations between Egypt and Israel. 

Something bad is bound to happen.

As an example of how bad things got, in 1995 there was an incident in Egypt reminiscent of the Island of Peace Massacre in 1997 where a Jordanian soldier shot and killed 7 Israeli High School girls at an observation post on the Jordan River island of Naharayim. In the Egyptian incident, an Egyptian policeman shot and killed 7 Israeli tourists. There were accusations that lives could have been saved if the Egyptian authorities had allowed victims to be evacuated to the hospital sooner -- and that Egyptian police fired at Israeli tourists who tried to come to the aid of one victim who bled to death.

Part of the problem is the idea of normalization itself.

Isaac describes Egypt's attitude to normalization in a way Palestinian Arabs today would likely agree:

For Egypt normalization was yet another form of Israeli aggression. Thus an article in Al-Jumhuriyah (June 4, 1985) complained: “Israel thinks that Camp David entitles it to a cultural and economic invasion of Egypt. That is why it insists on normalization and on special relations with Egypt. . . .” [emphasis added]

By comparison, Abbas last year attacked the normalization of the Abraham Accords as a “violation” of a “just and lasting solution under international law”.

Another parallel might be drawn in the way the US enforces the Israel-Egypt peace agreement in comparison with the Abraham Accords.

According to Isaac:

The United States also, despite the leverage it possessed over Egypt by virtue of military and economic aid, made no effort to hold Egypt to its normalization commitments—even though that aid was premised upon Egypt’s signature on the treaty whose provisions it now ignored. 

That economic aid includes the $3 billion Abraham Fund that is supposed to promote economic cooperation and that military aid is intended for use against the very real threat of Iran. In fact, the Biden administration cannot even bring itself to use the phrase "Abraham Accords." The major reason for Biden dragging his feet on this is the fact that the Abraham Accords are a product of the Trump administration. As to why the US has not done more to get Egypt to honor its peace agreement with Israel is not clear.

But on its most basic level, the peace agreement with Egypt does succeed, no matter how "cold," on the same level as the Abraham Accords -- as a defense against common enemies -- in Egypt's case, dealing with jihadists operating out of the Sinai and with Hamas.

After all, there are bound to be areas of enlightened self-interest between countries. Especially in a tough neighborhood like the Middle East.

But the Abraham Accords succeed where the peace treaties with Egypt -- and Jordan -- fail because the Accords have been built from the bottom up. They are based on what has proven to be a genuine desire among the people of the countries themselves for peace and actually cooperation. A desire for normalization that even goes beyond the need to defend against the threat of Iran which made the Abraham Accords necessary to begin with.



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