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Are Egypt's Islamic Parties Planning to Nullify the Peace Treaty with Israel?

Jonathan D. Halevi

 

 

 

  • The prevailing optimism in media reports concerning the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist party's readiness to adhere to the peace treaty with Israel is based on general statements made by senior officials in both parties. These statements maintain that Egypt must honor the international treaties that it signed.

     

    • Yet a more rigorous examination of the two parties' stances identifies a markedly different tendency. Both seek a way to cast off the Camp David agreement in a manner that will incur minimal diplomatic and economic damage to Egypt, and restore Egypt to its leading role in the circle of states confronting Israel.
    • The Muslim Brotherhood has set a number of criteria for examining international agreements, including the Camp David agreement: the considerations of Islamic canon law (Sharia), the position of the Egyptian people, and the degree of Israel's compliance with the agreement from Egypt's perspective.
    • The strategic objective of the Egyptian Islamic movements is to transform Egypt into a prime regional force that will lead the diplomatic and military battle against Israel. This means re-examining the Camp David agreement and submitting it to the decision of the new parliament that will be controlled by the Islamic parties or to a referendum - thereby alleviating the responsibility of any future Egyptian government for cancelling the peace treaty.
    • These developments can be averted if the U.S. and its allies take a firm position against any initiative to undermine the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt, and all echelons of the Egyptian establishment are made to understand the implications of any such action.

     

     

    The revolution in Egypt, followed by elections to the parliament, has elevated the Islamic parties to a position of power as they enjoy an absolute parliamentary majority after the two initial stages of the parliamentary elections. The Muslim Brotherhood movement's Freedom and Justice party won 49 percent of the total seats that it contested (73 out of 150) in the first stage of the elections and the Salafist al-Nur party won about 20 percent of the seats (30 seats). In the second stage of the elections the Muslim Brotherhood won about 40 percent of the votes and al-Nur about 35 percent. The final stage of the elections will take place in January 2012. However, we can already form the distinct impression that the Egyptian parliament will be controlled by the absolute majority retained by these two extreme Islamic parties.

    In recent journalistic reports we repeatedly hear the claim that the Freedom and Justice party and the al-Nur party will continue to honor the Camp David peace agreement with Israel after the new regime has been consolidated under their leadership. These reports are essentially based on general statements made by senior officials in both parties to the effect that Egypt must honor the international agreements that it signed. However, a rigorous examination of the two parties' stances indicates a totally different tendency: namely, the two parties seek to cast off the Camp David accords in a manner that will cause Egypt the minimal possible diplomatic and economic damage.

    The issue of Egyptian adherence to the Camp David agreement was brought up during discussions that Senator John Kerry conducted together with the American Ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, with leaders of the Freedom and Justice party on December 10, 2011. Dr. Mohammed Morsi, the party chairman, referred to the issue in general terms. A report on the meeting by the official website of the Muslim Brotherhood stated:

    Morsi noted that Egypt is a large country with a deep-rooted history that fulfills an important role in the Arab, Islamic and international arenas and therefore it honors the agreements and contracts which it has signed. He demanded that the American administration listen directly to the people rather than listen to what is said about them, while emphasizing that the United States could play a role in facilitating economic stability and prosperity for all peoples should it choose to do so.1

    New Egyptian Conditions

    The Muslim Brotherhood set a number of criteria for examining international agreements, including the Camp David agreement. First, there is Islamic canon law (Sharia); second, one must take into account the Egyptian people's position which Morsi mentioned in his talk with Senator Kerry; and third, one must weigh the degree of compliance by the other party to any agreement that was signed with Egypt.

    The platform of the Freedom and Justice party determines that it will honor international human rights agreements, provided that they do not contradict the Islamic Sharia. Regarding the peace agreement with Israel, the platform states that agreements between countries must be acceptable to the people and conform to the principles of justice and the interests of the parties. Respect for these agreements is conditional upon an obligation by the parties to fulfill them in full, as is the norm in international relations. "Therefore, the party considers it obligatory to reappraise many of the agreements that were signed in various fields by the old regime."2

    Calls to Re-examine the Treaty with Israel

    Senior leaders of the Freedom and Justice party have on numerous occasions in recent months favored amending or abrogating the Camp David accords and severing diplomatic and economic relations with Israel. On August 25, 2011, party chairman Dr. Mohammed Morsi demanded a re-examination of the Camp David agreement, and contended that Israel's "attack" on an Egyptian army border position (that was in response to terrorist fire at the IDF from this position) exemplified Israel's systematic violation of the agreement.3

    Dr. Ahmed Abu Baraka, the Freedom and Justice party's legal advisor and a senior leader of the party, said on August 28 that it was necessary to re-examine all the clauses of the Camp David agreement to see whether its abrogation was mandated. He emphasized the importance of deploying Egyptian army forces in the Sinai, equipped with heavy and advanced weaponry, in order to deter Israel.4

    Dr. Mohammed Gamal Hismat, a senior leader of the Freedom and Justice party and a former parliament member, proposed on August 24 to establish a legal committee that would examine the Camp David agreement in light of Israel's "continued violation" of the agreement.5

    Dr. Essam El-Arian, the deputy leader of the Freedom and Justice party, on August 23 minimized the importance of American threats to terminate assistance to Egypt if it were to disown the Camp David agreement, and contended that Israel was violating the agreement "in a blatant fashion."6

    Dr. Hamdy Ismail, the party secretary in the Ismailiya district, explained on October 31 that the issue of the Camp David agreement directly affected the Egyptian citizenry, and therefore raised a proposal within the party to submit the decision on the issue to a referendum.7

    Dr. Ahmed Rami, a senior Freedom and Justice party leader in the Qalyubiya district, called on August 27 for a re-examination of the Camp David agreement, noting that the revolution in Egypt marked the outset of a journey to liberate  

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