Caroline Glick

One of the first casualties of the Egyptian revolution may very well be Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. The Egyptian public's overwhelming animus towards Jews renders it politically impossible for any Egyptian leader to come out in support of the treaty.

Over the weekend, the junta now ruling Egypt refused to explicitly commit themselves to maintaining the treaty. Instead, under intense American pressure they sufficed with stating that they would maintain all of Egypt's international obligations.

According to news reports, the generals themselves are split in their positions on Israel. One group supports maintaining the treaty. The other supports its abrogation.

Ayman Nour, the head of the oppositionist Ghad Party and the man heralded as the liberal democratic alternative to Mubarak by Washington neo-conservatives has called for the peace treaty to be abrogated. In an interview with an Egyptian radio station he said, "The Camp David Accords are finished. Egypt has to at least conduct negotiations over conditions of the agreement."

For its part, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outspoken in its call to end the treaty since it was signed 32 years ago.

Whatever ends up happening, it is clear that Israel is entering a new era in its relations with Egypt. And before we can begin contending with its challenges, we must first consider the legacy of the peace treaty that then prime minister Menachem Begin signed with then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on March 26, 1979.

What was the nature of Israel's agreement with Egypt? What was its impact on Israel's strategic vision? What were the strategic assumptions that formed the basis of its component parts? How did all of these issues impact Israel's perception of the long-term prospects for its relations with Egypt?

When Begin and Sadat signed the peace treaty, their act was the culmination of 15 months of negotiations catalyzed by Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and his speech before the Knesset on November 20, 1977.

Sadat's visit to Israel's capital was an extraordinary gesture. Here was the man who just four years earlier had waged an unprovoked, brutal war of aggression against Israel that placed the country in mortal danger and killed some 2,600 of its finest sons.

Here was the leader of the country that had fought five unprovoked wars of aggression against Israel in 29 years.

And yet suddenly, here was this man, Israel's greatest foe, standing before the Knesset and declaring that he was not seeking a ceasefire, but peace.


Caroline Glick

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.

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