Sinai's liberation comes with caveats that still grate

Abdel-Rahman Hussein
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Today marks the anniversary of the return of Sinai to Egyptian sovereignty after Israel had occupied it in the aftermath of the 1967 war.

However for some the joy of its return is tempered somewhat by the circumstances under which it was reclaimed.

“Sinai is a vital part of Egypt and its return pleased Egyptian hearts, Diaa Rashwan from Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told Daily News Egypt. “The conditions with which it returned however were somewhat suspect, because you do not have full sovereignty over it and recent events in Rafah showed this [when the border was breached], the police force at the border was not enough to protect it.

Israel had occupied Sinai after the Six Day War of 1967. Only after the October war in 1973 and then the Camp David Accords in 1979 was an agreement put in place to return Sinai to Egypt.

However, Taba was not returned with the rest of Sinai and Egypt regained it after an International Court of Arbitration ruled in its favor, thus Sinai in its entirety was reclaimed in 1988 when Israel withdrew from Taba.

Former Ambassador to Israel Mohamed Bassiouny told Daily News Egypt, “Sinai was occupied and we regained every inch. There was a problem with Taba but we returned it by law. The oil fields in Sinai were restored and the Suez Canal was restored. After regaining Sinai we could focus on development.

“It was the end of the era of the Naksa [1967 defeat] and the beginning of a new era, he added.

Bassiouny also cited the manner in which Sinai was returned as an example for the future.

“It will be an example for the return of other Arab lands and we removed all the Israeli settlements [in Sinai] and this shows that this way is the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said.

But it is the stipulations over the territory in the Camp David Accords which still rankles with some Egyptians. There is a wide movement in certain circles which is opposed to the Camp David Accords and wants it reneged, and not just from the Muslim Brotherhood.

In late 2006 secular opposition movement Kefaya gathered a 100,000-strong petition calling for the Camp David Accords to be annulled.

Then General Coordinator of the movement George Ishakq told Daily News Egypt at the time that the Kefaya wants the treaty annulled due to the inequity in its conditions. “We saw this treaty as untenable during the last Lebanon war, because it contains an article that states that you cannot protest Israeli actions, he said.

Ishaq added that Egypt only has armed forces in 25 percent of Sinai, when it should be able to possess military sovereignty over the entirety of its land.

He also called for the return of a port that is currently under Israeli control.

However, Ishaq did not call for a complete abandonment of the peace treaty, but rather a renegotiation of the existing Camp David Accords.

“We want a fair peace, not war. So we would like the peace treaty to be renegotiated on fairer terms. We do not want war with Israel, he said.

Sinai has been the conduit through which many of the wars Egypt has entered been fought, thus its strategic importance cannot be underestimated.

“Most wars in the past came through Sinai, so our national security is tied very much to this area, Rashwan said.

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