Egyptian democracy will undermine ‘peace’ with Israel

Are Israelis surprised that as democracy trumps tyranny in Egypt, one of first casualties is Israel peace accord.

Sadat and Begin (photo credit: REUTERS)
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 decision.
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.
The 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.
THE 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 Palestinians.
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 non-violence.
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 Brotherhood.
As Egypt transforms from a dictatorship to democracy, the people of Egypt are finally speaking out. Both candidates recognize that.
During a recent four-hour long debate, Fotouh pointed a finger at Moussa and accused him of being a remnant of the Mubarak regime.
Moussa 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 anymore.
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.
Or, Israel can wait until that animosity translates into more conflict.
The writer is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host.