Sinai: From Buffer to Badlands

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva and author of the book Choosing Life in Israel. 


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And to the Egyptian example Harel adds another, confirming earlier reports that

the civil war in Libya opened new opportunities for weapons after the Libyan army lost control of vast weapons stores in the east of the country. Local arms dealers made contact with Gaza smugglers, and new weapons began to flow by a much shorter and easier route than the ones originating in Iran.

The Israeli government, too, has chimed in, with the home front minister warning that “metropolitan Tel Aviv…will be bombed by missiles in the next Gaza war” and adding: “There is no country in the world that is threatened like the State of Israel. The only country that approximates it is South Korea.”

Israel, too, has been building up its capacities and is, of course, far from helpless before these threats. But the rapid demise of what’s left of the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty is a story that shouldn’t sink under the radar, uncongenial as it may be to many.

That treaty, signed in 1979, entailed a total Israeli evacuation of armed forces and civilians from Sinai, which was supposed to become a vast buffer zone and guarantor of peace between the two countries. Sinai has, in fact, been a weapons-smuggling route to Gaza since the 1990s, when, as part of another “peace” venture dubbed Oslo, Israel partially transferred security control of the Strip to Yasser Arafat’s forces.

The situation only worsened—dramatically—when Israel totally withdrew from Gaza as well in 2005. Note that, if Israel had remained in Sinai, then relaxing control of the million-plus hostile Arabs in Gaza—something most Israelis wanted in principle—might have been doable without incurring unbearable security costs. But leaving Gaza after Sinai, on which it borders, was totally out of Israel’s hands—as “disengagement” opponents warned at the time—was a recipe for strategic disaster.

At least, toward the end of its existence, the Mubarak regime in Egypt tried to do more to stop the smuggling. Now, with that regime gone, the Islamists ascendant, and Sinai in anarchy, the situation is as described above.

Going back, though, to the 1979 treaty, it was widely touted as showing that Israel could make real, stable peace with its neighbors. Yet, with or without Israel’s blunders, it now emerges clearly that the treaty’s unraveling was a matter of time and a function of intra-Arab dynamics. It will be the same with any other contrived “peace” Israel makes, or is pushed into making, with any other of its neighbors.

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  • Raymond in DC

    "Last February when the “Arab spring” was still young, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was in Cairo harshly berating Israel for not reacting enthusiastically. "

    Israel knows their neighborhood far better than Friedman, and they were right not to "react enthusiastically". Heck, anyone not blinded by their own ideological presumptions would have seen trouble coming. But Friedman will never admit he was wrong.

    • Attila the Hun

      Thomas Friedman has no credibility whatsoever. Everything he writes is nothing more than gibberish. He get acclamations from the left because he's one self hating Jew who doesn't mind if Israel ceased to exist.

  • StephenD

    Can you imagine what a second term for Obama would bring for Israel? Unrestrained by the prospect of another election, there would be no stopping him. As it is, he is relentlessly anti-Israel.

  • Indioviejo

    Israelis should never expect anything good coming from Muslims. The best they can expect is a temporary truce as a result of weakness, or exhaustion, coming om their enemies. So get ready to beat them some more,and obtain another longer lasting truce. The lenght of it will depend on how bad Israel beats them.

  • zsqpwxxeh

    Can't wait until all that U.S. hardware in the Egyptian army and air force is turned against Israel, can you?

    But Obama will be out of power when the Ikhwan takes over in Cairo. Probably blame it on Bush/Palin/Fox/Corporate interests.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    The flood of evil beomes a torrent of weapons and killers at the door, Israel talks
    about the looming threat, the World sides with the evil doer and it's main ally
    turns to the dark side and implodes due to corruption, moral and fiscal while
    ethically challenged politicians fail to see their own defects. There is no doubt
    that Israel needs another Moses, the leader must be fearless, clear and determined
    to rid Israel of the danger and pending tragedy by definite acts of preservation
    and punishment of those who so viciously perpare a death storm of Biblical
    proportions. We must be ready for hard times in America and the World but
    do not listen to the harpies of political deception and false promises………..William