Peace talks AP 2.9.2010
Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas at talks in Washington D.C., September 2, 2010. Photo by AP
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In an opinion poll in Egypt by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center, more than half the respondents supported annulling the peace treaty with Israel, compared with 36 percent who wanted to keep it in place, as reported by Natasha Mozgovaya in yesterday's Haaretz. Support for the treaty is higher among well-off Egyptians and those with higher education, while opposition is widespread among the poor.

The findings appear to heighten concerns in Israel that the peace accords lack a stable foundation and could collapse due to regime change in neighboring countries. A dispute has again arisen over whether stable democracy is an essential condition for peace. Developments in Egypt since the popular uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak's long rule lead to conflicting conclusions. The peace treaty has survived even without Mubarak. The border remains open and many Israelis visited Sinai over Passover.There are no particular military concerns on the southern border, and the security ties continue.

On Israel's northern border, however, the situation is different, and worrying. Syria has an open conflict with Israel, which occupies Syrian territory in the Golan Heights, but in the absence of peace, there is no direct dialogue between Damascus and Jerusalem. Any future Syrian ruler could launch a war to "recover land and honor" and enjoy domestic and foreign legitimacy. It is much harder to annul an existing peace agreement and pay the international price involved than to refuse to enter into a new one. That's the lesson from the missed opportunity of peace with Syria.

The weakness of the peace with Egypt and Jordan stems from the fact that the peace has only belonged to a few politicians, army officers, diplomats and a group of business people on both sides, while the gulf between peoples has continued. The main reason for this disconnect remains the public's criticism in the Arab countries of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians in the territories. Arab public opinion is concerned about the Palestinians in the same way Diaspora Jews are concerned about Israel's welfare, peace and prosperity. Israel has a clear interest in broadening international public support for the peace agreements and ensuring their stability and development. To further that goal, it should also reach a peace accord with the Palestinians based on a partitioning of the land into two states.