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The Egyptian army is not a SEAT, President Sisi

The then President elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi delivers a speech after signing the handing over of power document in Cairo, on June 8, 2014 [Egyptian Presidency / ApaImages]
Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi delivers a speech in Cairo, on 8 June, 2014 [Egyptian Presidency/ApaImages]

Every year when October comes around, the knives come out in every direction to stab the 6 October 1973 War and turn Egypt’s victory into a defeat. Sometimes, the knives come from the Nasserists, out of their hate for late President Anwar Sadat, as victory came under his command. At other times, the knives come from the Zionist Arab lobby that has penetrated the country and whose compass has shifted. This no longer sees Israel as the nation’s historical enemy against whom we fought three wars, but rather a close friend into whose peace embrace they have run.

The October War was a milestone in the history of Egypt, and a turning point in which we overcame defeat and were victorious. Our brave soldiers crossed the barrier of the Suez Canal, destroyed the Bar Lev Line and liberated hundreds of kilometres of land in Sinai as part of the first phase. It was a base from which to launch the following phases, which would not end until after all of the peninsula was liberated. That was the intention.

The Egyptian army took the famed Bar Lev line in six hours, even though it was said that it could only be destroyed with an atom bomb. The soldiers achieved a miracle taught in military colleges and institutes around the world, and were able to defeat the undefeated army. This caused the then Israeli Prime Minister Gold Meir to panic and call US President Richard Nixon for help; she told him that Israel was being lost. If it weren’t for the subsequent US intervention in the form of delivering aircraft, tanks and other military hardware straight into Sinai, Egypt would have recovered all of the peninsula and would not have needed the peace negotiations to do so.

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The course of the war changed, as well as the enemy. We were fighting against the US, not Israel, which prompted President Sadat to say that we would have achieved complete victory if it weren’t for America’s intervention: “I cannot fight the US, as I fear for my children.”

The Israelis then began claiming that the Egyptian Armed Forces were unable to liberate all of Sinai, and that they only liberated a few kilometres. They also claimed that this is why Egypt was forced to engage in negotiations and reach a peace treaty, simply to regain Sinai. The Israelis gloated brazenly and arrogantly, saying that the Arabs learned the lesson very well that Israelis are good in combat and that the only way to get anything from them is through negotiations.

It is surprising that an Arab president would basically say the same thing. This year, though, during the October War commemorations, Al-Sisi adopted that narrative and spoke about the enormous power difference between Israel and Egypt at the time. He compared it to the difference between a SEAT and a Mercedes, saying that the decision to wage war in light of the balance of power was a suicide mission. This metaphorical comparison was intended to praise the miracle performed by the Egyptian army.

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His words could have been acceptable if, at the end of this talk, he reiterated that our military weakness compared to Israel in 1973 is not the case today, and that we are now equal in terms of military balance, or that we have even surpassed Israel’s strength, and that no one would dare repeat the 1967 attack made by Israel on our armed forces, etc. However, he didn’t say anything of the sort. He didn’t even refer to Israel as the enemy, but referred to it as an opponent or the other side. Unfortunately, he repeated this several times, which is a great sin against Egypt, its people, its history of struggle and military heroism, national security and supreme interests. It also breaks the people, weakens their self-confidence, hits their morale and inflates Israel’s power.

Israel will remain the historic enemy of the Arab people, no matter how close their rulers become with it, and the Arabs will continue to refuse to normalise relations with the Israeli enemy.

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

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