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Egypt's peace treaty with Israel: what course to follow?

02-14-2011 15:29 BJT

JERUSALEM, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- With life slowly returning to normal and cleanup underway in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt is facing a number of important questions as the country prepares for its first new leader in over 30 years.

People attend a rally to celebrate the resignation of Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak on Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 12,
2011. (Xinhua/Xu Jinquan)

For 18 days, the Egyptian people protested against their ever- decreasing standard of living and worsening economic situation. Many called for the entire Mubarak regime to step down together with him and for a civilian democratic leadership to take power.

For the moment, a council of high-ranking officers under army chief Mohamed Hussein Tantawi is governing the country and has promised to hand over power to democratically elected leaders.

One of the first declarations by Tantawi was to reassure the international community that Egypt would continue to honor any international agreements signed by Mubarak, particularly the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Analysts that spoke to Xinhua on Sunday said, in the short term, there was little risk that the peace treaty would be abolished, but despite the Egyptian army being in control, Israel would have to rethink its strategic doctrine.


Dr. Dan Schueftan, deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, told Xinhua that the risk of the peace treaty being abolished anytime soon is small, but that the long term strategic implications will be significant.

"The most important part of the peace treaty is the de- militarization of Sinai and the avoidance of war," Schueftan said. Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 war and it was returned to Egypt as part of the peace treaty.

Schueftan added that he does not foresee any changes anytime soon, as it will take time for the new government to settle in and formulate its agenda.

"The question of balance will be between the army and the civilians, and in particular how strong the Muslim Brotherhood will be -- this is something that is not yet determined," Schueftan said.

One problematic question that will be answered over time, according to Schueftan, is how much the new government will be a reflection of the negative sentiments that the Egyptian people have towards Israel and how concerned it will be over the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East.

"Even if it does not come to a point where the peace treaty is abolished and a war starts," Schueftan said, "from an Israeli point of view, you have to be prepared for a situation that this can happen."

He is of the opinion that even if this scenario does not materialize in the near future, it will take years for Israel to prepare for it, and if that is the case, then Israel will have to start its preparation soon.

If such preparation is undertaken, it will mean both a strain on Israel's defense budget and also altering the country's strategic thinking on military options and political agreements in the region, according to Schueftan. "Because, if until now Israel could assume that the Egyptian front would be quiet, now Israel can no longer assume it," he said.

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