Diskin: Egypt seeking to alter peace treaty
by deploying more troops in Sinai
The head of Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Yuval Diskin, said this week that Egyptian security forces are failing to stop the steadily increasing smuggling of weaponry from the Sinai to Palestinian Arab terror groups inside the Gaza Strip. Speaking in a briefing with military reporters, Diskin disclosed that there has been a massive rise in the Palestinian Arab smuggling of arms into Gaza — up from 6 tons of high-grade explosives in 2005 to 30 tons in 2006. Moreover, according to Diskin, the terrorist group Hamas is currently in the midst of digging 10 tunnels from Gaza under the security fence into Israel . The tunnels are intended by Hamas for use against Israel Defense Forces (IDF) outposts along the Gaza security fence as part of a kidnapping attack similar to the one in which Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in June 2006.
Under the terms of an agreement to secure the Egypt-Gaza border in 2005, Egypt persuaded Israel to permit it to deploy 750 soldiers beyond the number of Egyptian personnel permitted in Sinai under the terms of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Diskin refused to explain the reason behind Egypts refusal to properly combat the weapons smuggling, but indicated that Cairo was using the claim that it needed still more soldiers along the border as an excuse to make changes to the treaty. He also said that Egypt confines its efforts to border patrol but does not act against the smuggling infrastructure inside the Egyptian border town of Rafah. If Egypt starts to thwart the transfer of weapons then that will slow down the terror buildup in Gaza and stave off a[n Israeli] military operation there. They [the Egyptians] have a key in their hands and they know it (Jerusalem Post, February 5, 2007).
Diskin has previously said that the Egyptian authorities are aware of the ongoing smuggling, and even know the smugglers identities, yet avoid taking any action against them, even when Israel had made specific requests for the detention of key individuals ( Haaretz, September 28, 2006).
Other criticisms of Egypts failure to fulfill its security obligations by senior Israeli security establishment figures:
- Former Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee Chairman, Yuval Steinitz: Leaving Gaza was one of Israels worst mistakes in history … It has been proven that we cannot trust the Palestinians or the Egyptians, who are conducting a campaign of intentionally ignoring the arms smuggling into Gaza. Egypt has decided to enable the arming of the Palestinian people and all the terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, against the State of Israel
Egypt is not acting like Jordan, which liquidates the smuggling networks and prevents quantities of arms from reaching the border (Israel National News, January 31, 2007).
- Then-outgoing IDF OC, Southern Command, Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel: They [Egypt] are not preventing the smuggling on the border or within Egypt proper. A lot of ammunition and weapons are coming from Sinai. They are being stored in the Sinai and transferred to the Palestinian side … If [Egypt] decided to end the smuggling of so many terror weapons — I am talking of thousands of everything — then in my opinion there wouldnt be any smuggling. The way it looks now is very bad
The problem is not one of a border, but a region. These weapons are coming from some place. They are traveling across the Sinai. They are coming from Egyptian citizens, and these Egyptians are selling them to the Palestinians. We expect them to impose their laws on these Egyptian citizens (Jerusalem Post, October 21, 2005).
ZOA Chairman of the Board of Directors Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, Yuval Diskins disclosures on Egypts continuing failure to fulfill its obligations to fight and thwart terrorism by preventing the infiltration of terrorists and weapons smuggling into Gaza bear out ZOAs long-standing concern and criticism of Egypts malicious conduct. The ZOA condemns Egypts blatant and continuing failure to live up to the agreements it made with Israel as part of the Gaza withdrawal to seal the border following Israels withdrawal in 2005.
There is simply no excuse for Egypt refusing to use the forces available and approved for security purposes to intercept terrorists and smugglers bringing in men and weaponry into Gaza or refusing to cooperate closely with their Israeli counterparts. It is mystifying that, in agreeing to Egypts security role on the Gaza border, former Prime Minister Sharon believed that Egypt would comply with the agreement. Given continued Egyptian hostility to Israel despite the peace treaty signed in 1979, including promotion of anti-Semitism in its media and discouragement of cultural and economic ties with Israel , Egypt cannot be entrusted with matters of security.
After a year and half of blatant Egyptian failure to live up to its obligations, the Bush Administration should immediately pressure the Mubarak government to secure the border with Gaza and cooperate fully with Israel in preventing terrorism. As we have previously pointed out, the infiltration of terrorists and weaponry into Gaza from Egypt includes elements of Al Qaeda. The Bush Administration should demand speedy results from the Mubarak government. Egypt simply does not merit American support and billion of dollars in annual U.S. aid if it refuses to behave like an ally and work towards the ending of terrorism in its region and against U.S. allies.