Israel says no to more Egyptian troops in Sinai

Senior army official: We don’t want it to seem as if the peace treaty is meaningless, particularly when there could be a regime change in Cairo.

Egyptian border policeman 311 (photo credit: AP)
Egyptian border policeman 311
(photo credit: AP)
Fearing a complete breakdown of the peace treaty with Cairo, the government last week refused a second Egyptian request to allow it to deploy more military forces in Sinai, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
As first reported last week by the Post, Israel allowed the Egyptian military to deploy units in Sinai for the first time since the signing of the peace treaty in 1979, in response to growing anarchy in the country. Two battalions – amounting to about 800 soldiers – were deployed in the Sharm e-Sheikh region and around Rafah, which is split between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip.
Gas firm blames Sinai pipeline blast on leak, not sabotage
Hamas prisoner returns from Cairo to Gaza
Under the peace treaty, Israel returned Sinai to Egypt. In return, Egypt agreed to leave the peninsula demilitarized.
Senior IDF sources said Sunday the Egyptians had asked Israel to authorize the deployment of additional forces but that the request was rejected by the Defense Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office.
“We do not want it to seem as if the peace treaty is meaningless, particularly at a time when there could be a regime change in Egypt, which could renounce the treaty altogether,” a senior military source said on Sunday.
Israel is concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood will take over the Egyptian government and make good on its threat to rip up the peace treaty.
According to the source, Israel could not allow a complete breach of the treaty at a time when it is urging the international community to ensure that the treaty is maintained, even in the event of regime change in Egypt.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in Egypt
Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in Egypt
The Egyptian military asked to deploy the forces in Sinai, defense officials said, due to the growing Beduin threat.
On Saturday, terrorists bombed a gas terminal in Sinai, leading to a suspension in gas supplies to Israel from Egypt. There were also reports about armed men who had set a Coptic church in Rafah ablaze.
On Sunday, the Arab media reported that Egyptian forces had gone on high alert along the Suez Canal out of fear that Hizbullah and Hamas terrorist cells planned to take advantage of the chaos in the country to attack the strategic waterway.
“The regime is extremely concerned about the situation in Sinai with the Beduin,” another IDF source said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the cabinet on Sunday that the Egyptian military was playing a positive role in stabilizing the situation in the country.
He said the government decided to permit the deployment of the military forces in Sinai on a temporary basis and that the forces would withdraw once stability was restored on the peninsula.
“Egypt is an important neighbor and peace with it is a strategic asset,” Barak said. “We have reason to believe that Egypt feels the same way.”
Barak will head to Washington later this week for talks with the Obama administration over the developing situation in Egypt.
AP contributed to this report.