What Egypt's President Has Forgotten

Morsi's declaration that Egypt has no intention of honoring the treaty as long as there is a stalemate in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, may be seen as a violation of the agreement itself.

In his interview with the New York Times on the eve of his first visit as Egypt's president to the United States, Mohammed Morsi conditioned the continued implementation of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty on the fulfillment of commitments by the United States and Israel regarding Palestinian self-rule. He stated: "As long as there is no peace and justice for the Palestinians, the treaty will remain unimplemented." In effect, this is an admission by Egypt's highest authority that it is not duly honoring its peace treaty with Israel.

Even more so, this is a declaration that Egypt has no intention of honoring the treaty as long as there is a stalemate in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. One may well ask if such a declaration, voiced by the president of Egypt himself, is not in and of itself a significant infringement on the state of peace that has been in existence for over 33 years, and in return for which Israel fully withdrew from the Sinai.

One may also wonder whether President Morsi is not deliberately mixing the terms of the Camp David Accords signed in September 1978 by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin and U.S. President Jimmy Carter, with the terms of the bilateral Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed by Sadat and Begin alone.

These were two separate agreements. The 1978 Camp David Accords were intended to establish a framework for reaching peace between Israel and all its neighbors, including negotiations on a self-rule administration in the territories - something that was in fact realized by the Oslo Accords. The 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty was the first result of the implementation of the Camp David Accords, and this treaty was devoted solely to terminating the state of belligerency that had existed between the two countries, and to the establishment of peace and neighborly relations between them.

What is even more important, and which evidently was not brought to the attention of President Morsi by his advisers prior to his declarations, was the specific provision contained in Article VI, paragraph 2 of the peace treaty, according to which:

"The Parties undertake to fulfill in good faith their obligations under this Treaty, without regard to action or inaction of any other party and independently of any instrument external to this Treaty."

This commitment stands alone, and subjecting fulfillment of Egypt's peace treaty obligations to the settlement of the Palestinian issue would appear to be a violation of the spirit and integrity of the treaty, as well as a misrepresentation of the terms of the two agreements.

Morsi's declaration, and the linkage he tries to forge between fulfilling Egypt's peace treaty obligations and settlement of the Palestinian issue, coming more than 30 years after the establishment of peace between the two countries, raises concern and even skepticism as to the integrity of other agreements and treaties that have been signed, as well as those that have yet to be signed, between Israel and its other neighbors. Can Israel rely on commitments made in such agreements?

It would be advisable if states and international organizations accompanying the Middle East negotiating process, some of which parties are signatories as witnesses to the various agreements, take this problem into consideration and consider pointing out to President Morsi that his declarations are prejudicial to the already delicate state of the relationship of peace between Egypt and Israel. U.S. President Barack Obama appeared to make a start in this direction by declaring in Monday's debate: "They [Egypt] have to abide by their treaty with Israel. That is a red line for us, because not only is Israel's security at stake, but our security is at stake if that unravels."

The author has served as a senior international lawyer in the Military Advocate General's Office, legal adviser to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israel's ambassador to Canada. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords and other agreements with Israel's neighbors. Today he directs the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.