Friday, March 27, 2009

30 Years of Peace

March 26, 2009 marked 30 years of peace between Egypt and Israel. Israeli media descriptions of commemorations that took place don't describe anything overly exciting having happened but they do make some noteworthy commemorative activities. For one, a ceremony took place in Jerusalem featuring the current Israeli foreign Minister Livni who said:
Leadership should first of all aspire to peace not just as a slogan, but as a genuine personal and national aspiration. Only afterwards should a leader look deeply into himself and realize the price that will be required to live in peace and understand that the price is lower - much lower - than the benefits of peace.
The President of Israel, Peres, also picked up the phone to call his Egyptian counterpart to wish him well on this historic day. Even the US President Obama chimed in with his comments that the enduring Israeli peace with Egypt should offer hope that peace is always possible, even in the face of the greatest adversity.

In Egypt, however, it seems that commemoration of the occasion was quite lukewarm. The Israeli embassy in Cairo did not report receiving invitations to any events which some experts attribute to Egyptian anger over one or the other or both the Israeli elections which resulted in a right wing government or Israeli actions in Gaza.

Indeed, one Egyptian newspaper carried an editorial highly critical of Israel, though it's worth noting, the same paper carried a separate piece which said:
'And while not all the prosperity Egyptians have dreamed about has been achieved, "they are certainly better off than they would have been had the situation of war continued unchanged."'
Perhaps the reason for the half-baked 'celebrations' and 'commemorations' is because many Egyptians still see Israel as a threat to their country. Or, perhaps it is because the peace was expected to bring great prosperity to both countries, but did not. There have been economic arrangements which have created improved economic conditions, especially in Egypt, but the real value of the treaty lies elsewhere. The value of not having to maintain large combat ready armies on the border, the value of not having to bury young soldiers, and the value of generations of Egyptians and Israelis who have not ever been attacked by the other country is significant. Also enormously important is the role Egypt can now play as a mediator in negotiations between Israel and groups like Hamas or, in the future, perhaps even other Arab states.

There is still much work to be done before this cold peace warms into more normalized relations between the two states. In the interim, however, a cold peace is far preferable to a hot war.

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