Sunday, August 26, 2012

Arlene Kushner: Latest on Egypt In Sinai -- And Israel's Options

From Arlene Kushner
August 24, 2012

Where Are We Going?

As is often the case before Shabbat, this post will be brief -- primarily a follow-up on the Sinai situation that I have been watching to the best of my ability.
From Egyptian security agents has come the information that Cairo is asking Israel to hold off on demands regarding deployment of troops and introduction of tanks into the Sinai:

"We are aware of Israeli claims and concerns, but we want to postpone the discussion due to the sensitive situation in which the Egyptian regime is currently in as it operates against Islamist terror organizations in Sinai." 
This is from Israel Hayom, citing Ma'an News Agency.

Read: 'Egypt asks Israel to delay talks on tank withdrawal from Sinai'

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And so I find myself, once again, asking the questions, but having no definitive answers to provide:

Is taking on the Islamists genuinely the reason a delay is sought?

Or does the "sensitive situation" have to do with internal politics and the reluctance of a new regime to look weak by backing down to Israel? I can easily imagine this.  When looking at the Ma'an (PA) news site I picked up a talkback to an article about Israeli demands that said, "Look, already Egypt is caving to Israel."

Or is this simply a stalling mechanism?

And then: How is Israel responding and what do we do about it?

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Israel's decision, in part, would depend upon the assessment of Egyptian intent and sincerity in the matter.

Egypt is certainly exhibiting no overt belligerency.  From the Arabic language daily in London, Al Hayat comes the information today that the new Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak with words of reassurance:

Cairo, al-Sisi is reported to have said, is committed to the peace treaty, even though troops are being brought in right now to fight terrorists.  Al Hayat says that the two ministers "came to terms" over Sinai, although I have no clue as to what this really means.

Additionally, there are reports that Egypt is taking out additional smuggling tunnels with explosives.

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Israel's options are limited.  It is essential that we register concern about anything Egypt does that is not coordinated with us or hasn't been agreed upon.  And it is highly constructive that we are talking to the Egyptians.

But it may well be that "coming to terms" between the two ministers simply means that Barak said, "All right, I get it, we'll cut you slack for now."  I don't know this -- it is simply reasonable speculation.

As we contemplate the countdown to an attack on Iran, we are not about to challenge Egypt militarily, nor do we wish to escalate tensions with Cairo.

What is more, in the face of the announcement of Obama's invitation to Morsi to come to the White House, we would be foolish to expect much, if anything, in the way of American intervention on this issue.  Here is a test of American readiness to honor a commitment to Israel.

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I wrote yesterday about the fact that Amos Gilad said there were no anti-aircraft missiles in Sinai -- a statement that startled me because of solid information that had come through less than a week ago to the contrary.  I pondered the question of whether the original information was erroneous, or whether they might have been taken out under Israeli protest.

Aaron Lerner, writing on IMRA, poses a couple of other possibilities, which highlight the complexity of the situation:  Maybe, he said, those missiles are still there but Gilad prefers not to escalate tensions right now. Or perhaps a third party is working on getting them removed, but has requested that there be no public spotlight on the issue.

Maybe... perhaps...

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I dearly hope to turn to other subjects after Shabbat.

I'll end here on a good note: According to the Bloomberg Ratings, Israel is the 6th healthiest country in the world, falling behind only Singapore, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, and Japan. The US is 33rd .

Another sign that we're doing something (or a host of somethings) right.

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© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
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