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The Sinai and us (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Dan Margalit 04/06/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=1692 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 Passover holiday.

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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