Expecting more from Egypt (JERUSALEM POST EDITORIAL) 02/03/05)
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Egypt´s offer to host an Israeli-Palestinian summit next week can be
seen in the context of a general warming of relations with our
southern neighbor and of an Egyptian bid to regain a leadership role
in the peace process.
Any progress towards good-neighborliness is clearly desirable. We
prefer an Egypt which at least promises to prevent gunrunning through
tunnels from its territory to the Gaza Strip. It would obviously be
better if it actually stopped the arms-smuggling, but at least Egypt
is on record as seeking to ensure law and order in Gaza rather than
cheering terror there.
Since Egypt appears, of late, to be espousing policies geared to
promoting peace between Israel and the PA under Mahmoud Abbas, from
our vantage point it is going the right way.
All this doesn´t mean that it needn´t take far more convincing
Indeed, much of the Israeli public – even in moderate and dovish
circles – wonders why Egypt hasn´t made greater efforts to persuade
us that it has altered its stance and to demonstrate the goodwill
thus far missing from its official rhetoric.
The coming Sharm e-Sheikh summit, then, can be construed as a
positive development. However, we have seen previous summits in the
very same venue which failed to live up to the hype. It is worth
recalling that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak consistently refrains
from visiting Israel or from hosting an Israeli premier anywhere in
Egypt except for Sinai. We would feel far more upbeat had he not been
so stinting in manifestations of elementary congeniality and simply
done more to build up our collective confidence in his intentions.
The simplest and quickest step he can take is to return his
ambassador to Tel Aviv. Word is that this is in the offing, but why
put it off? Why not correct a gross violation of Egypt´s peace-treaty
undertakings with Israel right now? And why wait three months, as
reportedly promised, to send 750 Egyptian border police to stop
smuggling into Gaza?
If Egypt conceives of itself as a mediator out to facilitate the
formulation of new agreements, then the least we can expect is that
it adhere to its own clearly stipulated commitments in the carefully
drafted treaty it signed, for which Israel relinquished huge
stretches of territory – to say nothing of self-sufficiency in oil
Nevertheless, Egypt´s knee-jerk response to the terror onslaught upon
Israel in 2000 was to withdraw its ambassador and not replace him,
thereby effectively downgrading the status of its diplomatic
The symbolic implication of this cannot be overstated. It casts dark
shadows on the very readiness of a former enemy to turn over a new
leaf, let old animosities wither and nurture the tender sapling of
Instead, Egypt is showing its people that nothing is normal in its
relations with Israel and that Israel remains a pariah in the region,
undeserving of legitimacy.
One need only glance at Egypt´s state-controlled press to realize how
demonized Israel remains. The same Sharon with whom Mubarak plans to
powwow next week is depicted in Egyptian caricatures attired in Nazi
uniform and devouring live Palestinian tots with grotesque delight.
This isn´t political satire but noxious Sturmer-like anti-Semitism.
Egypt is, in fact, one of the world´s chief disseminators of anti-
It´s the source of hit TV fare unabashedly based on spurious anti-
Semitic "classics" like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The
original, moreover, remains constantly on its best-seller lists,
along with Hitler´s Mein Kampf. Both are frequently reprinted to
The mass-circulation government daily Al-Akhbar routinely refers to
Israel as "the Nazi aggressor," and Mubarak´s National-Democratic
Party´s newspaper habitually denies the Holocaust and disputes the
existence of gas chambers.
All Mubarak needs to do is issue a single directive. He hasn´t done
Don´t get us wrong, we appreciate the warming in relations. But if
Egypt wants Israelis to consider it a credible mediator, let alone a
leader toward peace, summits, hints and promises are not enough. (©
1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/03/05)
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