Weekly Commentary: Deal with Egypt a fig leaf for retreat
Aaron Lerner Date: 1 September 2005
This week the Knesset was treated to a typical Oslo era document when it
considered the "Agreed Arrangements Regarding The Deployment of a Designated
Force of Border Guards Along The Border in the Rafah Area"
All the t's are crossed and all the i's are dotted but the underlying logic
for the need for the arrangement in the first place was missing altogether.
A quick review:
Egypt is obligated to prevent the smuggling of weapons across Sinai into
Gaza that could be used against Israel per the Peace Treaty Between Israel
And Egypt signed on March 26, 1979:
"...Article III 2. Each Party undertakes to ensure that acts or threats of
belligerency, hostility, or violence do not originate from and are not
committed from within its territory.
What was preventing Egypt from stopping the smuggling?
The explanation typically palmed off by Israeli officials was that the
treaty between Israel and Egypt prevented the Egyptians from deploying
This was usually a sufficient answer - since Israeli reporters and
politicians alike rarely actually make the effort to read documents.
Here's what the Treaty says:
Annex I, Article II, Subparagraph 1.c.2. "Egyptian civil police will be
stationed in Zone C" (the area adjacent to the border)
Subparagraph 1.c.3.states that they will be "armed with light weapons".
Assault rifles qualify as "light weapons".
What does the Government of Israel think this means?
Amira Oron, an Israel Foreign Ministry spokesperson, confirmed to IMRA on 19
May 2004 that the Treaty Between Israel and Egypt sets no limit on the
number of Egyptian police armed with assault rifles that Egypt can deploy in
the border area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and that no limits were
introduced after the Treaty was signed.
So what was preventing Egypt from stopping the smuggling?
Apologists argued that the poor training and lower quality of Egyptian civil
police was the source of the problem, hence the idea of replacing them with
a military force barred from the demilitarized area near the border.
But just as Annex I, Article II, Subparagraph 1.c.2 of the Treaty did not
put a numerical limit on the "Egyptian civil police" deployed in the area,
it placed no restriction on who could serve in the "Egyptian civil police"
nor the terms of service in the "Egyptian civil police."
Egypt needs better people in the "Egyptian civil police" deployed to fight
the smugglers? Fine. Let them recruit them from the ranks of their most
elite army units - but they should operate as "Egyptian civil police" - not
a force linked by command and control to forces barred by the Treaty from
This agreement isn't really to stop smuggling - Egypt was already obligated
to do it and had the means to honor its obligations. This agreement is
instead a fig leaf for Israeli retreat.
And a fast retreat at that.
Back on July 5, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told a special joint session of
the Knesset Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee and the Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee that Israel would review how effectively the Egyptians
and Palestinians halt the smuggling of weapons from Egypt to the Gaza Strip
through the end of this year before deciding on withdrawing from the
Philadelphi Corridor - the narrow strip between Egypt and Gaza.
Now Mofaz doesn't want to even wait around to see what happens.
Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(Mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730
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