Will the peace treaty hold?

Doaa El-Bey , Wednesday 15 May 2024

Any move by Cairo to suspend or nullify the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty remains unlikely.

Will the peace treaty hold


Despite repeated warnings from Egypt and other countries Israel proceeded with the invasion of Rafah, forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flee the border city.

Could the Israeli move lead to a suspension of the Egyptian-Israeli peace accords? It is a question that has been raised repeatedly in recent months.

According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, last week Egyptian officials informed CIA Director William Burns that Washington needed to put real pressure on Israel to push it to halt operations in Rafah and return to negotiations or Cairo might cancel the Camp David treaty. In February, AP quoted Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat saying that Egypt might suspend its peace treaty with Israel in response to an Israeli invasion of Rafah.

It is a possibility, as political science professor Ahmed Youssef told Al-Ahram Weekly, that has been mentioned only in non-Egyptian media and sourced to anonymous Egyptian officials. He pointed out that while Egypt has made no official mention of the possibility it has said it will use mechanisms included in the treaty to deal with any violations, a stand most recently reflected in Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri’s statements during the joint press conference with his Slovenian counterpart on Sunday when Shoukri described the treaty as “the basic foundation for achieving security and peace” and “that the agreement has its own mechanisms that will be activated to deal with any violations.”

During the press conference Shoukri told the media that violations “are processed within the framework of the Military Liaison Committee, and we continue to deal with the issue from this perspective.”

On Sunday, on the back of the growing scale of Israeli operations in Rafah, Cairo announced that it would intervene in support of South Africa’s case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in a move that Palestinian expert Tarek Fahmi described as “a symbolic but deterring reaction”.

Fahmi argued that it is important to differentiate between the peace treaty and the security protocol. While Egypt may choose to freeze, void, or suspend selected articles in the treaty, that is not expected at present. A more effective measure, he said, would be to halt security coordination with Israel as per the protocol.

The Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, signed by president Anwar Al-Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in 1979 outlines “security arrangements… including limited-armament zones in Egyptian and Israeli territories with the presence of UN forces and observers”.

Given the centrality of the peace agreement to Egypt and the region, Fahmi believes any Egyptian reaction will be gradual rather than abrupt.

Youssef concurs, pointing to the fact the treaty forms the basis for the Fez initiative in 1982, the Oslo agreements in 1993, the Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty in 1994 and the Arab initiative in 2002, meaning any form of annulment will have major repercussions for the region. Diplomatic steps that can be taken before such a possibility is considered include recalling the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv, reducing the Israeli diplomatic mission in Cairo and filing a complaint to the United Nations Security Council and, “if these tools fail, Egypt can resort to strongly-worded statements, border movement and military manoeuvres in Sinai.”

Egypt, along with Qatar and the US, is continuing with efforts to bridge the gap between Hamas and Israel. A day before Israel began to attack Rafah Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal put forward by Egypt and Qatar. Israeli then said the proposal did not meet its conditions. Israeli tanks stormed into Rafah shortly after and took control of the Palestinian side of the border crossing, preventing the passage of any humanitarian supplies.

In the seven months of the war, Rafah’s population swelled from 280,000 people to an estimated 1.4 million as Palestinians sought refuge in the city from fighting elsewhere in Gaza.

Despite warnings, including from the US and EU, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to go ahead with the invasion, claiming Rafah was Hamas’ last remaining stronghold, and that without sending in ground troops Tel Aviv could complete its war aims.

During the war on Gaza, the Israeli army has killed 35,000 Palestinians and injured 79,000, most of them women and children.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 May, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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