Egyptian police pull-back seen as opportunity to reintroduce military
By F. Michael Maloof
WASHINGTON — An “Israeli” official in Washington refuses to comment on the prospect that its military forces may try to reoccupy the Sinai Peninsula in response to an Egyptian pull-back of its police, the continued sabotage of a natural gas pipeline that supplies the Jewish state with more than 40 percent of its energy, and the growing perception that the Zionist state could face attacks from there.
In laying groundwork for such an event, high level “Israeli” officials are pointing to what they say is increasing infiltration by al-Qaida and Hamas who could launch attacks from the Sinai into “Israel.”
When asked to comment on the prospect that “Israel” may attempt to regain the Sinai militarily, “Israeli” Embassy spokesman Jonathan Peled refused to respond to the inquiry, thereby raising concern that such a possibility exists.
“Israel’s” counter-terrorism bureau recently issued an instruction that told of “updated information that terrorist organizations are continuing their efforts to abduct Israeli tourists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula for bargaining purposes” and that “terror agents that are residing in Sinai are coordinating plans for such attacks with local Bedouin collaborators.”
Since the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in January, “Israeli” officials have expressed increasing concern with the security in the Sinai, a stretch of land that is three times the size of “Israel’s”pre-1967 border area, or some 23,000 square miles.
Sources say that “Israeli” concern centers over Hamas bringing in rockets from the Gaza Strip and shooting them into “Israel” along the 140- mile border between the Zionist state and the Sinai Peninsula.
Israeli official: the Sinai is already known as a lawless land
Egyptian authorities also claim they no longer can maintain security in the region. Egyptian police are abandoning their remote stations and checkpoints which are coming under increased attacks from Bedouin tribesmen in the region. Bedouin tribesmen ransacked numerous abandoned government facilities and have threatened to attack South Sinai oil installations and tourist resorts.
“The Sinai is already known as a lawless land,” according to a senior “Israeli” defense official. “There is real concern that if the Egyptians don’t get the Sinai back under their control, it could develop into a major threat to Israel.”
Egypt now is under control of a military council which has agreed to uphold existing treaties and agreements with “Israel,” an issue which is causing increasing opposition among the population. If the September elections bring in a government hostile to those agreements, “Israeli”oficials believe it would put the country in an even more precarious position.
The “Israelis” have undertaken an aggressive effort to bring “Israeli” oil companies into Lebanese waters
As one “Israeli” defense official said: “If a hostile regime takes over in Egypt, the (Israeli Defense Forces) will need to restructure itself and would be pushed to the limit in its ability to deploy adequate resources on the various fronts.”
“Israel” initially agreed to Cairo sending some 800 Egyptian soldiers into southern Sinai at the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, the first time since the countries signed the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. However, “Israel” turned down a request to deploy more Egyptian forces out of concern for “a complete breakdown of the peace treaty with Cairo.”
In addition, Egypt in late May reopened permanently the Rafah border crossing on the Egyptian-Palestinian border in the northern portion of the Sinai. It brought about initial “Israeli” concern that Egypt would not be able to halt attacks from the Sinai.
In a May 30 meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, “Israeli” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed concern that Egypt would have “difficulty” in exercising its sovereignty over the Sinai. He pointed out that “international Islamist terrorist groups dominate” the Sinai and warned that Hamas is consolidating its position there.
For the “Israelis,” all of this has heightened the threat of increased attacks from al-Qaida, which “Israel” claims some 400 members have infiltrated into the Sinai, and other militant groups. The “Israelis” also have expressed concern over the flow of illegal migrant workers from Egypt that can infiltrate into ”Israel” along its extended border with the Sinai, leading some analysts to suggest that “Israel” inevitably will need to militarily reoccupy the area due to increased security threats.
The “Israelis” have undertaken an aggressive effort to bring “Israeli” oil companies into Lebanese waters for the purpose of natural gas exploration
In addition, a pipeline running through the northern Sinai that supplies natural gas to Israel and Jordan had been blown up four times since Mubarak’s ouster. While Egypt has repaired the pipeline, it has refused to resume the flow of gas to “Israel.” The pipeline supplies 40 percent of “Israel’s” natural gas needs.
Consequently, “Israel” is looking for alternative natural gas sources. The Zionist state currently is in a growing confrontation with neighboring Lebanon and Palestine over disputed oil and gas drilling rights in the Mediterranean. This issue alone could lead to war with Lebanon.
The “Israelis” have undertaken an aggressive effort to bring “Israeli” oil companies into Lebanese waters for the purpose of natural gas exploration. It just presented to the United Nations a maritime boundary plan which seriously conflicts with a Lebanese boundary plan provided last August to the U.N. The Lebanese plan has the support of the United States.
In recent days, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned the “Israelis” that Hizballah will defend Lebanon’s oil fields against any “Israeli” incursion on oil deposits which extend into Lebanese waters.
Given Israel’s ongoing disputes with neighboring Lebanon and Palestine and the shutdown of natural gas through the pipeline in the Sinai, natural gas from previously developed “Israeli” fields and other potential sites in the Sinai becomes an increasingly important target for “Israel.”
The Zionist state captured the Sinai Peninsula during the June 1967 Six Day War. In addition to the Sinai, “Israel” also acquired the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
With the signing of the 1979 peace treaty, however, “Israel” began a three-year withdrawal from the Sinai and departed by 1982, leaving behind the city of Yamit that “Israel” established in 1968.
Israel will not break the treaty unless it is very hard pressed economically and politically
“Israel” also had discovered and developed the Alma Oil Field, which is valued at more than $100 billion. If “Israel” had held onto it, it would have assured the country’s energy independence, sources say.
Taking back the Sinai is an issue which did not escape “Israeli” strategists in 1982 and, given “Israel’s” security concerns, it may be reviving an old policy strategy.
In a February 1982 document titled, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” Oded Yinon who was a foreign policy strategist with the “Israeli” Foreign Ministry at the time raised this prospect of “Israel” reoccupying the Sinai.
Sources say that his 1982 report had formed some basis for the conduct of “Israeli” foreign policy in the Middle East and appeared to be a rough blueprint for administration policy of President George W. Bush.
The Yinon document proposed an Israeli strategic policy to “balkanize,” or politically fragment, the Middle East and North Africa region to prevent its Arab influences from uniting and offering a potential threat to “Israel” and Western security interests.
“Israel will not unilaterally break the treaty, neither today, nor in 1982, unless it is very hard pressed economically and politically and Egypt provides Israel with the excuse to take the Sinai back into our hands for the fourth time in our short history,” the Yinon report said.
“The economic situation in Egypt, the nature of the regime and its pan-Arab policy, will bring about a situation after April 1982 in which Israel will be forced to act directly or indirectly in order to regain control over Sinai as a strategic, economic and energy reserve for the long run,” Yinon wrote.
“Egypt does not constitute a military strategic problem due to its internal conflicts,” his report added, “and it could be driven back to the post-1967 war situation in no more than one day…Egypt in its present domestic political picture is already a corpse…Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front.”
The description of Egypt in 1982 doesn’t appear to be much different from the country’s condition in 2011. With the Sinai becoming what “Israel” perceives as a terror haven, and the prospect of allowing Egyptian forces into the area being even more dangerous, “Israel’s” next move may be an ominous one.
F. Michael Maloof is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. firstname.lastname@example.org