Tag Archives: Egypt

One way to resolve the land issue in the Palestinian quest for a state…

On February 18, 2005 I published an op-ed in the Connecticut Jewish Ledger entitled, “Who’s land for peace?  It’s time for Jordan and Egypt to contribute.”  This op-ed, reprinted in full below, urged Egypt and Jordan to contribute some land to the Palestinians as a way for them to gain territory, while Israel can retain geographic security.  

While I doubt that the current Egyptian government ever read my op-ed, I’m glad to see Egypt is now thinking in a similar vein.  A report by Israel Hayom notes that Egypt offered Mahmoud Abbas 620 square miles of territory adjacent to Gaza.  Of course, Abbas rejected this (they “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”), but perhaps it is a start to some more creative thinking toward some type of settlement.  There is still the Hamas concern however – they continue to want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.


Who’s land for peace? It’s time for Jordan and Egypt to contribute

Halley S. Faust

January 20, 2003

Prior to 1977 it was the avowed desire of the Arab nations to eliminate Israel from the map. Israelis wanted peace. They wanted it originally based on the 1947 UN Mandate which would have created a Palestinian state and a much smaller Israel than existed from 1948 to 1967. The Arabs refused.

Israel wanted peace in 1967 before they decidedly defeated the attacking Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian armies. The Arabs refused. They wanted peace in 1973 when in the costly Yom Kippur war they could have completely destroyed the attacking Egyptian army. The Arabs refused.

When Sadat went to Jerusalem the Israelis made peace. To this day they have upheld their end of the agreement, even though it meant evacuating (and physically fighting) with some of their own citizens who were settlers in the Sinai desert.

When King Hussein of Jordan wanted peace in 1994, the Israelis signed a treaty; both sides have abided by that treaty. Since 1994 the Israelis have been willing to form peace treaties with Syria and Lebanon. Lebanon has been unwilling to come to the table. Syria has not done so in good faith.

It is clear the Israelis want peace. It is clear they are willing to go to great lengths to achieve it, including fighting their own citizens. They have sought peace since long before the establishment of their state.

So for the Arab countries as a whole to complain that their own lack of democracy is because of the Israel-Palestine conflict that’s a joke.

If the Palestinian Authority were a willing partner, it would have upheld its part of the Oslo Accords and the Interim Agreement of 1995, which clearly called for one Palestinian Police force, the arresting and prosecuting of all “individuals who are suspected of perpetrating acts of violence and terror”, and the systematic acting against “all expressions of violence and terror.”

Instead, the PA incited the current intifadah and gave refuge to terrorists and murderers. At last count there were nine Palestinian police forces.

It is clear that Arafat and his ilk have blown their chance, the result of which has been the murder of innocent women and children on both sides of the border. It is also clear that borders resembling the pre-1967 armistice borders are unworkable, leaving Israel only 9 miles wide at its most vulnerable point. At this point, the Palestinians and Israelis need physical separation.

As stated in the 1978 Israel-Egypt Camp David peace agreement, “Peace requires respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” In order to get to this feeling of security there needs to be sufficient land to establish a buffer between those who refuse to accept peace and those who do.

So, here’s my suggestion: Jordan and Egypt have plenty of land – together they have 39 times the land mass of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. For Israel to feel secure it needs a buffer zone. For Gaza and the West Bank to feel secure and flourish they need more land – they will soon run out of comfortable living space given their large population growth rates.

“Land for peace” should come not just from the Israelis, but from all the parties in the region. So, Egypt and Jordan, give up a little. You have 422,000 square miles of land, compared with Israel’s 8,500 and the West Bank and Gaza’s 2,312. How about giving the West Bank and Gaza just 0.5% from the relatively unpopulated Sinai Desert and the Jordan Valley? Then the Israel-Palestinian boundaries can be adjusted for Israel to feel secure, and Palestine to have land in which to grow.

When Jews settled in what is now Israel they had to drain the swamps, plant trees, put in irrigation, and work the land, all under the constant threat of Arab violence and without the rest of the world’s help. Palestinians might have to work hard to make their new lands inhabitable, but certainly no harder than their unlivable current circumstances, and they could convert the $300 million per year the UN gives them (two-thirds from the US) into permanent resettlement. And they’d be able to do it fighting amongst themselves, like the Israelis do, rather than fighting Israel.


A picture of Middle East difficulty

Why haven’t the Israelis and Palestinians made peace yet? A window into the difficulty can be seen in two articles in the Wall Street Journal today (August 20, 2013).

The first article details why the Saudis and UAE are siding with the Egyptian military: they see their nations’ interests as being free of the type of Islamism being espoused by the Islamic brotherhood. [Ignore the irony here for a moment – think Wahhabism.] As the WSJ states, “the Saudis and UAE want to deal a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood and undercut the influence of the regional rivals that back them: Turkey and Qatar.” Saudis and UAE have pledged $12 billion in aid to Egypt, more than counterbalancing any cutoff the US might make of our $1.5 billion.

In a parallel article “EU is to Debate Aid to Cairo” EU members are wringing their hands about what to do. They are increasingly reducing arms exports to Egypt and debating other aid that they would reduce. To give some sense of the relative lack of leverage this means, “Germany had approved weapons sales valued at [$17.6 million] in the first half of 2013…” Again, a drop in bucket.

But more importantly, the approach to dealing with the issue is what is striking. The Saudis and UAE’ers, who live in the region and understand the cultures and mentalities of the players better than Westerners do, are saying a strong hand is necessary inside of Egypt before democracy can be respected. The Westerners, who have our consistent ambivalent “let’s make nice and compromise for the good of everyone” approach and have not been particularly successful in our approaches to foreign cultures (think Africa, Asia, the Middle East) over the centuries, believe the specter of democracy is more important, even if a type of theocracy results.

Israel, the only nation that straddles the Middle Eastern and Western cultures, wants a stable Sinai peninsula and western border with Egypt. It senses that a stable government is vital, and that isn’t likely to happen until General Sisi can install law and order: “‘Only after stability is restored, only after law and order is enforced, only then can you start to talk about launching a process that leads to more democratic processes,’ sad the senior Israeli official.” Though at the same time Israel is wary of an Islamic backlash throughout the region.

So the Obama administration dickers (that has been its approach in most foreign policy for 5 years now) without a clear strategy. And, as a senior Arab official says in the first WSJ article, “‘I don’t think that Washington is really in the conversation’ on Egypt in a significant way.” Seems to be true on Syria as well.

Why is Kerry pushing the Israeli-Palestinian line right now? Perhaps it has to do with the same naïveté driving our wrong-headed approach to Egypt and Syria?

Addendum on August 21: See the article by Walter Russell Mead that is more articulate about this problem in the American Interest just brought to my attention, “Bambi Meets Godzilla in the Middle East.”

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