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33 years of agreement is nothing to sneeze at

Reader comment on item: Rethinking the Egypt-Israel "Peace" Treaty

Submitted by Monty Sagi (Israel), Nov 21, 2006 at 12:22

Dear Mr. Pipes,

I usually enjoy reading your articles and am always impressed with your incisive and eloquent analyses of the Arab-Israel conflict, even when I (occasionally) find myself in disagreement with this or that detail. However, I found this particular article to be a bit biased and factually misleading, and feel constrained to point out the following points of contention:

The reasons for the massive and irrational Egyptian, Jordanian, and Palestinian hostility towards Israel are many and varied, and often reflect a very warped perception of reality; but you seem to connect the current levels of hatred directly to the FACT of Israel having signed peace treaties with them. This appears to me to represent a quantum leap in logic and (unintentionally, I'm sure) even to border on intellectual dishonesty.

Permit me to suggest that this was NOT the situation at the time the agreements were signed. Sure, the majority of Arabs did not instantly transform themselves into Zionists - and sure, the more extremist elements among their populations responded as if they had been betrayed by their governments, and even resorted to violence (against both Israel and their own leadership) in an attempt to reverse the agreements; but the Arabs had no monopoly on these reactions. Extremist Israeli Jews responded similarly, and - ironically - found common cause with their Arab counterparts. Sadat was killed by Egyptians, Rabin by an Israeli, with the wholehearted support of fellow fanatics on their respective sides. Israeli extremists still talk of bringing the "criminals of Oslo" to justice.

The fact is, both sides had excessive and unrealistic expectations from the peace agreements to begin with, and hugely exaggerated levels of disappointment when these expectation were not quickly met. The Arabs expected a rapid end to the occupation of all (or most) of the disputed territories and immediate economic benefits for their populations, while Israelis expected an end to terror, acceptance into the Middle East, and the approval of the "enlightened world" (along with associated economic benefits).

This reality never came to pass, and this is not the place to analyze why or who was to blame. Unquestionably, both sides made mistakes and missed opportunities. The fact that the Arab response was so extreme says something about the nature of the people involved, but not about the agreements themselves. The fact that the Israeli Jewish population has become increasingly "right wing" and ambivalent - to say the least - about further compromise, is a direct result of raging terror, decreased national security, and a growing sense of isolation in the world. This too is the result of unmet expectations and an unpleasant reality that Israelis thought they would be done with following the agreements. The Arabs are increasingly bitter about what they see as Israeli intransigence and (in their minds) "atrocities" against their brethren, while Israelis are reacting to suicide bombers and rockets fired at their populations.

Clearly, there is a problem and, clearly, there needs to be a change in the dynamics in this region. But do you really believe that the current situation came about BECAUSE of the agreements that were signed, rather than the failures to live up to the agreements - on both sides - and the reactions to what each side perceives as the crimes and violations of the other?

Are you really saying that the agreements should have never been signed, and that the situation today would have been better had they never been signed?

Are you really saying that Israel should not sign any further agreements, if the chance should present itself?

If this is what you're really implying, then it would appear that you consign us to either: "hunkering down" and entrenching ourselves in the increasingly unbearable and untenable status quo (which you appear to attribute to our attempts to achieve a peaceful settlement with our neighbors); or, to increasing our offensive operations in order to strengthen our hold on the territories we still have (and perhaps taking some of them back and flooding them once again with extremist settlers). Since my interest in all this is to guarantee a strong, viable Israel well into the future, I fail to see how the above two alternatives will ensure that result more than the "failures" of entering into rational peace agreements with any Arab nation or entity willing to do so. Such an agreement should not negate our maintaining a strong and effective military to constantly defend against any attacks on our security and well-being.

One other factual objection: You write that "defenders of the peace process answer that...Cairo has in fact not made war on Israel since 1979". I believe that no offensive military action has been taken by Egypt against Israel since signing the ceasefire agreements in1973 (there are Israelis who say that was a mistake as well), following the Yom Kippur War - and paving the way for Sadat's visit 4 years later. 33 years without a war is nothing to sneeze at. It may be that the agreement will be broken one day and we will find ourselves at war with Egypt. But to conclude that 33 years of agreement has been a "failure" seems a stretch.

If I have misunderstood your conclusions, accept my apologies. If you have some practical alternative suggestions for how we should proceed in the near future, I look forward to continuing to follow your columns with interest.

Sincerely,

M. Sagi
Raanana, Israel
Submitting....

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Daniel Pipes replies:

"do you really believe that the current situation came about BECAUSE of the agreements that were signed, rather than the failures to live up to the agreements - on both sides - and the reactions to what each side perceives as the crimes and violations of the other?"

Yes, I do believe that. I fail to see where Israel failed to live up to its side of the agreement.

"Are you really saying that the agreements should have never been signed, and that the situation today would have been better had they never been signed?"

I am really saying that, yes.

The difference between our perspectives is this: You focus on the past and the relative quiet, which I acknowledge. But I focus on the future and the very real possibility of things going very wrong, and all the worse because of anger over the treaty and the U.S.-supplied arsenal.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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