Benny Morris: The Death of Egyptian-Israeli Peace

Roundup: Historians' Take

Benny Morris is a professor of history in the Middle East Studies Department of Ben-GurionUniversity of the Negev. His most recent book is One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict (Yale University Press, 2009).

The head of Israel's opposition, Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni, had it right when she said last Friday that Israel's southern border with Egypt was "no longer a border of peace.” She was referring at once to the complex attack across the Sinai border the day before by Palestinian terrorists, which left eight Israelis dead (six of them civilians, including two middle-aged sisters) and two dozen wounded, and to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty of 1979. The purport of Livni's statement was underlined by Egypt's announcement Saturday withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv and demanding an Israeli apology for the death of three of its soldiers as a result of Israel's responses to the terrorist attack. (The Egyptians, under U.S. pressure, subsequently withdrew their threat to recall the ambassador, but are insisting on an Israeli apology and on compensation for the families of the Egyptian dead—though they have said nothing about compensation for the families of Israel's dead, due to their own negligence.) The Egyptians were also miffed at Israeli criticism of Egypt's negligence in allowing the terrorist raid, launched from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, to take place.

The raid, mounted by 10–15 Palestinian fighters from the Gaza Strip's Resistance Committees, led to a flurry of Israeli counterstrikes against terrorists in Gaza and Sinai, and then to terrorist rocket attacks against Israel's southern cities, including Ashdod and Ashkelon.

Placing the weekend's events along the Sinai-Israel border in a wider regional context, it can be seen that the popular uprising half a year ago in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria which ousted the 30-year-old regime of President Hosni Mubarak is steadily, perhaps inexorably, leading to the unraveling of the peaceful, if very formal, relations that have reigned between the two countries since Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the treaty on the White House lawn. Such an unraveling bodes ill for the future of Israeli-Arab and Israeli-Muslim relations more generally...

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