The Sinai and us (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Dan Margalit 04/06/12)
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A new, bad tradition appears to have developed slowly: Holidays in
Israel have somehow become tied to violent events or terror attacks
along the border with Egypt or from the Sinai Peninsula. Explosions,
shooting, murders, rocket fire. Early Thursday morning, another link
was added to the chain of attacks when a Grad rocket exploded in
Eilat. It was pure luck that no one was injured a day before the
This was the first attack of its kind since Israel signed a peace
treaty with Egypt in 1979, pointing to the unimpeded growth of
terrorist bases in Sinai – stemming from the connection between local
Bedouin and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and a complete disregard
for the government in Cairo. Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of the IDF
Intelligence Corps, on Thursday said that about 10 terror bases had
been discovered in Sinai and that it is likely more would be built.
Meanwhile, Egypt appears to have an automatic denial ready after
every attack against Israel originating from the Sinai. At the first
sign of news, Cairo rushes to announce that the attack did not
emanate from its territory. The Egyptian government does not even
pretend to pause to examine the issue – and it has behaved this way
since the reign of former President Hosni Mubarak.
This does not mean Egypt is interested in such attacks. The military
council that has governed the country since Mubarak´s departure is
looking ahead to the results of next month´s presidential election.
It is safe to assume that the government has made some effort, albeit
a minimal one, to prevent such terror attacks. But it is by no means
fighting terrorists with an iron fist.
Mubarak used to propagate the foolish claim that Israel always blamed
Egypt after such attacks, as if terror were launched from Sinai to
sabotage Egypt´s tourism industry. This does not merit a substantive
response, but does require some attention on the PR front to prevent
the world from buying in to the lie. Hamas has also been quick to
issue denials, as Israel has said it holds the government in Gaza
responsible for attacks emanating from Sinai.
Israel does not want a direct confrontation with Cairo over a matter
that does not have an easy solution. So how should the problem be
handled? Since the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1979, 1,400 soldiers
from 14 nations, including 800 U.S. peacekeepers, have patrolled the
Sinai Peninsula. This force alone cannot contain the problem, but if
both sides exhibit goodwill then perhaps the peacekeeping mission and
its purpose could be expanded. Not to fight, but to monitor the
desert and all of its hard-to-reach areas.
The encouraging news is that vacations in southern Israel were not
canceled even after Thursday´s rocket attack. Eilat will welcome
70,000 Israelis for the Passover Seder and trips to the Negev are
also going ahead as scheduled. Israel is at its most beautiful during
Passover, from Mount Hermon to the Gulf of Eilat. The blossoming
anemones, wood sorrels and other flowers and plants are a sight for
sore eyes. So, see you in a week.
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