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Egypt, Israel and Gaza - flashpoint for future confrontation

By David Singer - posted Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Egyptian Revolution has raised questions as to the possible termination of the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty by Egypt. Any such concern - in the short term - seems to have been allayed by the Fourth Egyptian Military Statement  issued on 12 February declaring:

...the country’s ministers will stay in power for the time being and international agreements and commitments will be honoured.


Egyptian Ambassador to the United States Sameh Shoukry has described the three-decade-old peace treaty as mutually beneficial.

We have derived a peace dividend from the treaty. We've been able to establish security and stability in the region. And I believe it is a main element in terms of our foreign policy...

This is not the view of all Egyptians and calls have already been made for renegotiation of the Treaty. Dr Ayman Nur, leader of the Tomorrow Party told Egyptian Radio:

"The Camp David accord is over, Egypt must at least renegotiate the terms of the accord..."

This viewpoint must be regarded as political grandstanding with little chance of coming to fruition.

Two important factors virtually ensure that the Treaty will continue to operate in the long term:

  1. Egypt's execution of the Treaty regained every square kilometer of land lost by Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War including airfields and oil fields in the Sinai. Any breach of the Treaty would put these important strategic and economic assets at risk of being lost by Egypt forever.
  2. An annex to the Israel - Egypt Peace Treaty contained the following pledge from then US President Jimmy Carter to Israel’s then Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a letter dated March 26, 1979 :

I wish to confirm to you that subject to United States Constitutional processes:

In the event of an actual or threatened violation of the Treaty of Peace between Israel and Egypt, the United States will, on request of one or both of the Parties, consult with the Parties with respect thereto and will take such other action as it may deem appropriate and helpful to achieve compliance with the Treaty.

However the prospects of conflict between Israel and Egypt in the immediate future could arise outside the Treaty involving the Philadelphi corridor  - a narrow stretch of sand, ten kilometers long and about a hundred meters wide, separating Egypt from the Gaza Strip - in which is situated the Rafah Crossing - the only exit and entry point between Egypt and Gaza.

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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