Israel-Egypt security cooperation at one of highest levels since peace deal, say officials on both sides
Despite high level of cooperation, Egyptian activity in northern Sinai still unclear, as Gaza-Egypt tunnels remain an issue.
It might sound strange, but the current security coordination between Israel and Egypt is perhaps at the highest level it has been since the peace agreement was forged by the two nations.
During an age in which the Muslim Brotherhood controls both houses of Egyptian Parliament, and Mohammed Morsi, one of the moment’s leading figures in Egypt serves as president, the level of security cooperation between the two nations has undergone a significant upgrade, right under the nose of the Israeli and Egyptian publics.
The Israeli side doesn’t like to discuss it much, obviously. It is a sensitive subject that “could damage the relations between the two nations.” Senior officials on both sides however, admit that it is hard for them to remember a time when ties between the security establishments of the two countries were tighter than they are now.
Their comments sound almost astonishing when we think back to the raging protests in Egypt, the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, and the hostile articles in the Egyptian press in which the Muslim Brotherhood blamed the Israeli Mossad for the terrorist attack that killed 16 Egyptian policemen near Kerem Shalom.
Regardless, we see evidence of the “renewed honeymoon” of Israeli-Egyptian security relations on a daily basis: Passing along of warnings for possible attacks (such as the most recent one near Kerem Shalom), talks between senior officers in the field, and of course the continuous line of discussion between the Egyptian Ministry of Defense and General Intelligence Service and the Israeli Defense Minsitry and the IDF. The appointment of a new intelligence minister in the place of Murad Muwafi should only strengthen the ties between the two sides.
Despite this, the characteristics of Egyptian activities in Sinai are still unclear. Just this morning, testimony from northern Sinai residents was published, in which they claimed that despite Egyptian military reports of killing 20 armed militants, no bodies were found in the field.
At the same time the Egyptians continue to concentrate forces near the Gaza Strip, including engineering vehicles, though no operation on the tunnels has begun. It’s possible that the issue has already become too sensitive for Morsi to touch. The tunnels represent a critical source of income for the Hamas government in Gaza and tens of thousands of individuals on both sides of the Gaza-Egypt border.
Closure of the tunnels could incite the Bedouin of northern Sinai to intifada, which has always been considered a dangerous issue for residents of the peninsula. The tunnels, and smuggling through them into Israel, are the Bedouin community’s primary sources of income, and should that be cut off, they should not be expected to let it go without protest.
A Rafah resident residing in close proximity to a building in which a tunnel is operated told al-Ahram this morning that the tunnels won’t be closed. “It won’t happen,” said the man. For the Bedouin and Palestinians in Rafah, this is no less than an issue of survival.