A shared war against terror
The murderous terror that has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis in the past four years does not cease to target them even when they are beyond Israel's borders.
The murderous terror that has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis in the past four years does not cease to target them even when they are beyond Israel's borders. At least 33 people died and more than 120 were injured in attacks that occured almost simultaneously at the Taba Hilton and the beach resort at Ras al-Satan. The vast majority of the casualties were Israelis - Jews and Arabs - who comprised the thousands of vacationers who spend their holidays in the hotels and beaches throughout Sinai. Israeli and Egyptian teams worked in unison in an effort to rescue survivors, including the Egyptian hotel staff.
Repeated warnings from the anti-terror directorate recommended that travel to Sinai be avoided, but that did not prevent the masses, mostly young, from traveling. These people sought some calm from their day-to-day pressures and crossed the border at Taba during the holiday season. The Israelis are finding it difficult to bolt shut the first land gate that opened before them as a result of the peace agreement with Egypt. The ability to cross the border into Egypt by car, and for the past decade also with Jordan, was the manifestation of a years-long desire for normalcy. Israeli tourists in Sinai, Cairo, Petra and Amman were the most obvious sign, at times the only one, that Israel was being incorporated into the Middle East. The open land and air passages in the south and the east made many hopeful that countries in the region would become accustomed to the existence of the Israeli neighbor.
Conciliation with Israel has always been anathema to the eyes of Islamic extremists in Egypt and beyond. They spilled the blood of president Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel, who was murdered in October 1981 in an attack carried out by a radical Islamic group. Islamic extremists turned the murderer of nine Israeli tourists at the beach resort of Ras Burka in October 1985 into a national hero. Still, even if the bilateral relations between Egypt and Israel have not reached their full potential and have experienced their share of crises, the border has remained calm, the embassies open, and the diplomatic dialogue never stopped.
Israel and Egypt have a shared interest - to defeat the fundamentalist groups that seek to spread death and destruction. The leaders of Al-Qaida, who sent the murderers to Sinai, did not distinguish between the Israeli hotel guests and the Egyptian staff, or between their effort to kill as many Israelis as possible and the severe damage they caused to the tourism sector of Egypt.
In order to carry out an effective fight against terrorism, which struck both sides this time, there must be a strengthening of intelligence and operational cooperation between the security services, and an improvement in shared emergency procedures must also take place. The disengagement from the Gaza Strip offers both countries a broad opportunity for security and diplomatic cooperation.
There is a clear interest for Egypt and Israel to prevent turning the border into fertile ground for Al-Qaida and Hezbollah terrorists. The disaster in Sinai highlights the need to rally those supporting peace in plans to prevent terrorism and in handing responsibility in the Gaza Strip to the right hands.