Israel’s Sinai Dilemmas

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On Sunday night, terrorists at the Egyptian-Israeli border stormed a checkpoint and massacred 16 Egyptian border guards there. They then drove two vehicles toward Israel with the aim of perpetrating a mass-casualty attack against Israeli civilians—thwarted by the combined efforts of the Israeli ground forces and air force.

Yet, according to official statements of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and of Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, the attack was carried out by—Israel.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor denounced such claims as “nonsense” and added: “Even the person who says this when he looks at himself in the mirror does not believe the nonsense he is uttering.”

There’s evidence that Palmor is right. Immediately after the attack, Hamas sealed off tunnels from Gaza into Sinai—since it’s suspected that small, non-Hamas, Gaza-based terror groups took part in the attack. Hamas, of course, does not really think Israeli operatives somehow got into Gaza, reached Sinai through the tunnels, and massacred Egyptian policemen before trying to ram one or two suicide vehicles full-speed into Israeli border villages.

And as for Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president, on Tuesday he visited the site of the attack and said that “those who committed this criminal act of terror are enemies of the Egyptian nation and they will pay dearly…. There is no room for appeasing this treason, this aggression and criminality”—without making any mention of Israel.

Early Wednesday morning Egyptian attack helicopters reportedly fired missiles at suspected Islamic terrorists who had attacked three more checkpoints in northern Sinai, 30 miles from the Gaza-Israel border. The missile fire, apparently a spontaneous response to the attacks, seems to have killed at least 20.

Boaz Bismuth, an astute Israeli commentator, asks whether Morsi’s new Islamist government will realize that “Israel and Egypt have a mutual interest in maintaining a peaceful border and protecting it from Islamist terrorist organizations that don’t hesitate to kill their Muslim brethren….”

Morsi, says Bismuth,

needs to understand that a quiet border means minimizing hostile incidents. Minimizing incidents means more tourism, as opposed to the current situation of more pyramids than tourists. Tourists help bring back foreign investors, who in turn help rehabilitate the economy. All of this is crucial to Egypt, which has 85 million mouths to feed.

Yet the question, as Bismuth goes on to acknowledge, is more complicated than that. At present—with Israel’s permission—Egypt has about seven army battalions in Sinai, more than allowed by the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty. So far this force has done next to nothing to clamp down on Sinai terror. Egypt, meanwhile, claims it needs still more troops in Sinai to do the job effectively.

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  • Bamaguje

    It's all part of the Arab spring…
    Islamists getting bolder by the day… Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria.
    Israel should retake the Sinai where Moses received the ten commandments.
    Camp David accord was a grievious mistake.

    • Larry

      Agree, take the Sinai back, then punt all the terrorists, terrorist supporters and enablers, trainee terrorists etc in the place, as well as in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

      They are a problem created by the arab world, let the arab world deal with it and sort it out.

      • Pacifist1

        I agree with the terrorists evicted; there will be no violence, and thus not being able to organize politically or socially in global way…making the world more peaceful, civilized, and free.

    • Mensch Keymelon

      The indigenous tribes should retake their lands entirely. Send the others packing.

      • gravenimage

        Once again, "Mensch Keymelon" pretends that Jews are not indigenous to Israel, and calls for the destruction of that vibrant democracy.

        What would Muslims turn "Palestine" into? Just another failed Shari'ah state…

  • Indioviejo

    It truly is a dilemma for Israel, but one it can not afford to ignore until it festers. Israel needs to lance this boil sooner than latter. God speed, Israel.

  • mrbean

    This tells you that the terrorists have no problem killing their fellow Musilms and that spells troubles in the not too distant future with terrorist elements in Gaza, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria once they have their supporters and sponsors in power in these countries.

  • Mensch Keymelon

    All this "axis" verbiage…why not just throw a couple 'zeig heils" in their to really overdo the metaphor?

  • Drakken

    Funny you should say that unter mensch, your hezbollah and hamas friends give the nazi salute all the time.

  • Raymond in DC

    I'm fairly confident that Israel could pacify the Sinai with less than seven battalions. That Egypt seems incapable of doing so suggests a lack of will. Ah, but when they want to act, they seem capable. Note how for years they've insisted they can't close down the weapons smuggling tunnels. Now apparently they can if it's to prevent terrorists sneaking out to kill Egyptians!

    Egypt may well be playing the "weakness" card Arafat used so effectively, to demand the right to remilitarize the Sinai, bit by bit. 750 a few years ago. Then the need for another 750. Then a few more battalions. Then a few helicopter gunships. And a couple fighter aircraft. How long before they insist on a full division to "protect" Egyptian sovereignty?

    And what of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO)? Based on a report from last week, they've built veritable Club Meds at the northern and southern posts, complete with first-rate gyms and swimming pool, cultural facilities, etc. (Yes, I know they need to keep up morale.) They *do* have a mission, of course, but their inactivity this week suggests they're no more engaged than the UN observer forces of the 1960s.