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The parameters of the relationship between Israel and Egypt

January 5, 2016 at 2:41 pm

Israel has shown unrivalled enthusiasm for the survival of the government currently ruling in Egypt, until further notice, at least. It may not be an exaggeration on my part to say that Israel is almost the only country in the world to give the Egyptian government a blank cheque, without any reservations, in light of the great security and military services it provides to the Zionist state. Upon the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, Israel’s decision-makers could not have expected such service in even their most optimistic dreams; in fact, probably not since the signing of the Camp David Accords in the seventies.

The Israelis believe that preserving the current government in Egypt, despite its many problems and escalating crises, is a critical pillar of Israel’s national security. This is especially true with regards to protecting occupied Palestine’s southern border with the Sinai Peninsula, which Israeli security circles believe to be its soft side. For Israel, there is no way to preserve its security without the presence of a compliant Egyptian government and security agencies.

Recent weeks have witnessed a series of local, regional and international developments that have boosted the alliance between Egypt and Israel. The latter has not been shy about its quest to reproduce with the Egyptians the unmatched security coordination it has with the Palestinian Authority. The Egyptians are fine with the Israeli approach, as the decision-makers in Cairo believe that it is through Israel that they get political cover within Western capitals; as a result, Israel has rights which others do not possess regarding the security situation. This is perhaps one of the most important consequences of the Russian plane crash in Sinai late last year.

It can be said that Egypt’s position today with regards to the Palestinian uprising is not much different to that of the ousted Mubarak regime in terms of preferring negotiations rather than resistance. This position has been strengthened by putting real pressure on the Palestinians.

Influential Palestinian circles have talked about the clear demands made by Cairo to President Mahmoud Abbas to stop the intifada and put an end to the Palestinian attacks against Israelis. The continuation of the intifada would give Egypt’s main adversary, Hamas, a free gift, and would show that the Palestinians are capable of making political ground against the Israelis without being sponsored by an Arab government. In addition, the Egyptian demands have been made because the intifada could disrupt the strategic relations between Tel Aviv and Cairo, since it would be difficult for Egypt to continue an open relationship with the Israelis while they continue to shed the blood of the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

We could talk about any number of scenarios for the relationship between Egypt and Israel, but the most important is the deepening of the alliance, which provides political and security oxygen for Israel; it is most unwilling to give this up. The intensified security and military cooperation between Israel and Egypt provides strong evidence of this; it is seen as a cornerstone of the alliance. Such cooperation includes the Israeli occupation army’s violation of Egyptian territory, especially in Sinai, and the exchange of intelligence regarding security developments in the region.

The Egyptian army’s flooding of the border zone along the south of the Gaza Strip is not only having a disastrous effect on the soil and thus Palestinian agriculture, but it is also part of the measures agreed by Israel with Egypt to put pressure on the resistance groups. By destroying the tunnels once described as Gaza’s “lifeline” the Egyptians are enforcing the Israeli-led blockade and choking supply routes.

In conclusion, I would like to point out how much diplomatic effort is made by the US and EU to provide the Egyptian government with a “safety net” in an attempt to reduce international criticism of its appalling human rights record. This alone has an effect on boosting Israeli-Egyptian cooperation.

Translated from Felesteen, 4 January, 2016.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.