Middle East: Lawlessness in Sinai
An incident in the Sinai peninsula at the border between Israel and Egypt reveals the uneasy peace between the two countries.
Egyptian blood will not be “spilled in vain,” said the Egyptian Al-Jumhuriyah in an editorial. Last week, Israeli forces, claiming they were pursuing terrorists, “fired their treacherous bullets” and killed five Egyptian police officers in the Sinai Peninsula, just over the Israeli border. Israeli officials quickly offered “words of regret” for what they called an accident, but these words cannot stem “the rage that has swept the hearts of millions of Egyptians.” An attack on any Egyptian feels like an attack “on the glorious revolution” that freed us from the corrupt regime of Hosni Mubarak, Israel’s longtime ally.
Here we go, said The Jerusalem Post. News of the policemen’s deaths “has let loose years of pent-up hatred and anger at Israel.” Despite decades of peace between Egypt and Israel, the Egyptian people are still “rabidly intolerant of the Jewish state.” All they need is a little encouragement and they’ll be baying for revenge. And the Egyptian state media have been stoking their wrath. Egyptian newspapers portrayed the regrettable incident as Israeli aggression. They failed to report that the Palestinian militants the Israeli forces were pursuing had “disguised themselves in Egyptian police uniforms and snuck under an Egyptian watchtower to infiltrate Israel and murder Israelis.” Eight Israelis were killed by the terrorists before they fled back to Egypt. Those deaths are directly attributable to lax Egyptian security.
Egyptians should be alarmed at that security lapse, said Imad Sayyid Ahmad in the Egyptian Al-Masry Al-Youm. Sinai is becoming a hotbed of Islamic extremism. The clash along the border was launched by militants supported by Hamas, but they were “encouraged by the extremist drumbeat in Cairo, the same beat the Muslim Brotherhood is dancing to.” The Sinai militants make no secret of their goal: “to chase the Egyptian police and army from Sinai and declare an Islamic emirate under the control of al Qaida and the ‘army of Islam.’” This radicalization of Sinai threatens not just Israel but Egypt as well.
That’s why the new Egyptian government has some serious soul searching to do, said Zvi Bar’el in the Tel Aviv Ha’aretz. The country “has to decide who makes its foreign policy.” In the past, U.S. pressure exercised a restraining influence, but now “the public’s voice is more likely to figure in diplomacy decisions.” And that voice is both more Islamist and more stridently anti-Israel. The new Egyptian leadership will have to decide “whether the national interest is better served by peace with Israel or by peace between it and the country’s masses.”