Israel Must Maintain Neighborly Relations With Egypt

Egypt is not a terrorist cell, but rather a neighbor and a fellow partner in facing the threat.

The circumstances of the terrorist attack that set off the escalation in relations between Israel and Egypt and destroyed the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas must be thoroughly examined. Was there adequate warning of the attack? Did the Israel Defense Forces prepare for such an eventuality? How were the Egyptian soldiers killed? And these are only a few of the questions that require clarification and examination.

The Israelis and Egyptian fatalities were not the only victims of this terror attack. The fragile relations between Israel and Egypt are now being put to a difficult test. Israel contends that the new Egyptian military regime is not sufficiently committed to maintaining security and is not in control of Sinai as President Hosni Mubarak's government was. For its part, Egypt accuses Israel of killing its soldiers and of disparaging the new regime's capabilities.

Those are the accusations that require immediate attention, inasmuch as they engender dangerous criticism from each side, the immediate effect of which was the Egyptian decision to recall its ambassador in Israel to Cairo. While Egypt then retracted that decision, this state of affairs could result in damage to the peace accords between the two countries in the future.

It should be remembered that even under Mubarak, control of Sinai was not absolute. The tragic terrorist attacks in the past on the Sinai coast, the smuggling tunnels that have operated between Gaza and Sinai, the attacks on Egyptian state institutions by disgruntled Bedouin and the development of a presence of radical Islamic organizations in the country did not begin under the new Egyptian regime, which inherited a tough reality in Sinai and is demonstrating determination to change it.

The new regime is committed to maintain security in Sinai not as a favor to Israel, but because it recognizes the threat posed by those same organizations and their Bedouin collaborators. The new Egyptian leaders have also declared their allegiance and commitment to peace accords and commercial agreements with Israel. This is the government that is declaring its determination to fight terrorist organizations in Sinai, a government with which Israel must continue to cooperate and which it must view as an ally in advancing the same goals.

No good will come from accusations against Egypt when Israel has not done everything it could to prevent last week's terrorist attack. Egypt is not a terrorist cell, but rather a neighbor and a fellow partner in facing the threat. Israel must not again be thrown into games over matters of prestige, which will play into the hands of those who oppose the peace accord Egypt forged with us.