Barak at press conference 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Harmony / Defense Ministry)
Israel is looking into establishing a strategic dialogue with Egypt in which it would conduct a comprehensive review of the ties between the countries and make necessary changes to the military appendix of the peace treaty, senior government officials said on Wednesday.
The idea for establishing the strategic dialogue with Cairo has been raised by a number of officials within the defense establishment, and is under review by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
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Israel already holds official strategic dialogues with countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, which are held annually to discuss issues of mutual interest.
The motivation for establishing a more intimate line of communication with the military regime in Cairo is the fear that peace with Israel will feature as one of the main issues ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections in Egypt, expected to be held later this year.
Earlier this week, The Jerusalem Post
reported that Israel was refraining from taking military action to thwart a terrorist cell that the IDF believes is in Sinai and on its way to attack Israel, so as to not undermine the regime in Egypt.
“We would like to find a way to remove the peace treaty with Israel as an issue in the upcoming elections, during which each candidate will try to pull in a more extreme direction,” one defense official said on Wednesday.
One of the ways to do this is believed to be the initiation of a comprehensive review of the peace treaty’s military appendix, which regulates the troop levels the Egyptians are allowed to maintain in the Sinai Peninsula.
Israel recently gave Egypt permission to send 1,500 soldiers – backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers – into Sinai as part of an effort to regain control of the terror-infested peninsula.
“Until now, every issue that comes up is dealt with on a tactical level,” the official explained. “They ask for troops and we approve or don’t. The idea would be to conduct a comprehensive review and ensure that it is no longer an issue.”
The possibility that such a strategic dialogue would succeed has been met with some skepticism – particularly due to the large disconnect between the government in Jerusalem and the transitional leadership, which is run by former defense minister Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi and the Egyptian street.
“If ties are strong with Tantawi, that doesn’t mean that the public feels the same way,” a government official said.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the IDF maintained its high level of alert along the border with Egypt amid fears that an Islamic Jihad cell will try to carry out an attack in the coming days. There is concern that the terrorists will try and infiltrate a borderline community to kidnap an Israeli soldier or civilian.
OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen Tal Russo toured the border and met with troops that have been deployed there due to the terror alert to ensure that they were prepared to thwart an attack from Sinai.
Israel has been working closely with Egypt in an effort to prevent the attack, which officials said was slated to be carried out by a cell consisting of just over 10 terrorists.
During the tour of the border, Russo spoke with soldiers and residents, and said he was looking into ways to minimize the impact that the current alert was having on the lives of Israelis who live near the border.
Community leaders have complained about the IDF decision to keep Roads 10 and 12 closed for almost two weeks since the previous attack along the border on August 18, during which eight Israelis were killed.
The decision to publicize the alert was made as part of an effort to dissuade the terrorists from continuing with their plans.