Sadat and Begin.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Are Israelis surprised that as democracy trumps tyranny in Egypt, one of the
first casualties of the pro-democracy movement will be the very undemocratic
peace accord Egypt signed with Israel? The Egypt-Israel peace accord was
supposed to be the cornerstone of a region-wide peace that was to include direct
talks between Israel and the Palestinians. That was the intention of Egyptian
dictator Anwar Sadat.
It never happened. Sadat was more concerned with
how his dramatic PR gesture would impact the West than with whether the Israelis
would be reliable partners or whether the Egyptian people backed his unilateral
The peace accord was flawed from the get-go. The main reason
was that the “peace agreement” was made between Israel and an Arab dictator, not
with the backing of a free Egyptian people. Israelis had a voice in the peace
process, but the Egyptian people never had a voice in Sadat’s action.
failure of Israel’s peace with Egypt has been obvious since day one and is
underscored by the fact that the Middle East does not have peace today. Peace
today is as tenuous as it was the day Sadat made his failed gesture.
EGYPTIAN people may have been swayed to accept the peace accord had it achieved
the goal they were promised it would seek, a final accord between Israel and the
That was a part of the vision Sadat outlined in his speech
to the Knesset.
Sadat didn’t just want peace between Israel and Egypt. He
wanted a peace between Israel and all of the Arab countries including the
creation of a Palestinian state. He offered peace in exchange for the return of
all of the lands occupied by Israel during their pre-emptive strike that began
the Six Day War in 1967.
We can all argue about who’s more at fault,
Israel of the Palestinians, but the reality is peace between the two didn’t even
come close and there is an uncertainty about the future with more and more Arabs
believing that Israel will only make peace if confronted with violence, not
Sadat was murdered by Islamic extremists. But had there
been a democratic election that year, Sadat would have been thrown out of office
by his voiceless Egyptian people.
There is a real democratic election
scheduled in a few weeks in Egypt.
The failed Israeli-Egyptian peace
accord is a cornerstone of the debate between the two leading presidential
candidates, Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League, and Abdel Moneim
Abol Fotouh, the moderate Islamist and former member of the Muslim
As Egypt transforms from a dictatorship to democracy, the
people of Egypt are finally speaking out. Both candidates recognize
During a recent four-hour long debate, Fotouh pointed a finger at
Moussa and accused him of being a remnant of the Mubarak regime.
denounced Fotouh, calling him an extremist. But both agreed the peace with
Israel was flawed, Moussa being less critical, reflecting his Western leanings,
and Abol Fotouh being much harsher and reflecting the growing sentiment among
the Egyptian public.
During the debate, Moussa and Fotouh both pledged to
“review” the peace treaty with Israel. Fotouh described Israel as an “enemy”
while Moussa chastised Fotouh for the comment and chose a weaker adjective,
calling Israel an “adversary.”
Both candidates expressed concerns about
the “peace” with Israel, although Abol Fotouh seemed more critical. That’s not
surprising. In his career as the leader of the failed Arab League, Moussa always
had his ear toward Western political rhetoric.
Abol Fotouh was not
off-base when he cited Moussa’s ties to the now jailed dictator, Sadat’s
successor Hosni Mubarak.
For all their differences, when it comes to the
peace treaty, both Moussa and Abol Fotouh recognize that the Egyptian public
will now decide Egypt’s future, not a dictator.
And without a dictator to
enforce a worthless piece of paper, even one that asserts a claim to peace, the
failed Egyptian-Israeli peace accord is doomed.
The election for Egypt’s
president is still a few days away. Israel can await the decision and hope for
the best, or recognize that the desert winds are not blowing in their direction
However, they could impact the election by publicly recognizing
the accord’s failure to achieve peace and unilaterally move to achieve Sadat’s
original goal. Genuinely embrace the creation of a sovereign Palestine state.
Make it happen.
That would be the miracle that could preserve peace and
actually move it in the direction that the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord was
meant to move. A genuine peace with the Palestinians would neutralize the
animosity that is growing against Israel among the Egyptian people.
Israel can wait until that animosity translates into more conflict.The
writer is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show