The Sinai Question could derail Egypt and Israel relations. By Pierre Leblanc and Lee Jay Walker


The new government of Egypt fully understands that the gIsraeli Questionh remains potent in this nation because of sympathy towards the Palestinian cause. At the same time the new government of Egypt faces many internal and external issues and for political leaders in Israel these are delicate times. However, with instability growing in parts of the Sinai then both nations may clash over self-interests which canft be bridged without major compromise.
Avigdor Lieberman, Foreign Minister of Israel, is adamant that Israel will not abandon the peace treaty with Egypt which was signed in 1979. He stated that political leaders in Egypt gshouldnft try to delude themselves or delude others.h
This may be music to the ears of conservatives within Israel but in Egypt the issue isnft so simple. After all, growing Islamist militancy in the region, criminality and other developments are worrying political leaders in Cairo. Also, the fact that Egypt must seek permission from Israel in order to crush negative forces in the Sinai is extremely humiliating for the new government of Mohammed Mursi (Morsi).
President Mohammed Mursi comes from the world of the Muslim Brotherhood and given the ideological bent of this organization which is fused with religion. Then clearly the current status quo doesnft appeal@to the new political leader of Egypt. Not only this, other more militant groups will use any weakness within the leadership of Mursi in order to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood in the future.
In the last few days an Israeli soldier was killed during a clash with Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which also left three Islamists dead. It may appear that Islamists in the Sinai are solely focused on Israel and the Palestinian Question. However, given the delicate situation throughout the Middle East and North Africa, then Mursi wants to keep his eyes on all possible scenarios. Yet currently he canft do this because of the signed agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1979.
Recently Mursi rebuked the American administration for being in collusion with dictators in the Middle East. However, the same Mursi is also open to taking funds from America, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Yet in fairness to Mursi he will argue that Egypt remains weak and the economy needs fresh capital to regenerate many sectors. Therefore, much remains gcloudyh at the moment because the gnew Egypth is still in its infancy and the old guard remains powerful within major institutions and politically.
According to Mursi the 1979 treaty didnft fully materialize because of the ongoing situation of the Palestinians. One would hasten to add why the rights of Coptic Christians have been negated because within Egyptian society this religious community faces many negative obstacles. Mursi commented that gAs long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled.h
One aspect of the Camp David Accords which were signed in 1979 was that while Israel would hand the Sinai back to Egypt, it was also incumbent on Egypt to limit its military forces in this delicate region. Yet with the current reality of what is happening in the Sinai and with a new Muslim Brotherhood led government; then clearly times have changed.
Last month 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed by Islamists in the Sinai. Therefore, for Mursi it must be humiliating to obtain permission from Israel in order to send more troops into this region and the same applies to heavy weapons. At the moment both sides are being pragmatic but if al-Qaeda and other Islamists did enter the Sinai in larger numbers, then a clash may emerge between Egypt and Israel over the 1979 agreement. Clearly, the United States desires the status quo but the political convulsions of recent times in the Middle East and North Africa still remain up in the air.
Associated Press (AP) commented that gActually renegotiating the accord would require diplomatic gymnastics for the Brotherhood to keep its vow never to meet with Israeli officials. And any deal could be spun as the Brotherhood signing a peace agreement with its nemesis, no matter how much technical deniability the group tries to maintain.h
gIsrael is willing to bend troop limits. But it is tepid to formal amendments for fear of enshrining too much firepower on its border, especially when Egyptfs post-Mubarak future remains unclear.h
It is too early to judge Mursi internally because many entangled webs remain and the same can be said about Egypt relying on foreign aid to overcome internal economic issues. Either the greal Muslim Brotherhoodh will arise in the future or pragmatism and the reins of government will moderate past statements. Irrespective of this, the Sinai is one area whereby a clash with Israel could occur based on growing instability and the reluctance of the Mursi government to seek permission of pursuing terrorists.

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