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Home Peace Does Not Come from Pieces of Paper

Peace Does Not Come from Pieces of Paper

For 33 years the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel were used as proof that negotiated accords could and would bring peace in the Middle East. But the peace accords could not outlast Sadat and his VP Mubarak. With Sadat assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Mubarak driven out by a Brotherhood-Leftist alliance, the peace accords have proven themselves to be every bit as useless as the critics said they were.

Ayman Nour, one of the leading liberal opposition politicians, has declared that the Camp David accords are over, and might be preserved only if Israel agrees to end the demilitarization of the Sinai. There is no reason for Egypt to keep troops in the Sinai, except in preparation for another war. Nour's call actually echoed a similar call by Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar. Which shouldn't come as a surprise.. Hamas is the Muslim Brotherhood's affiliate in Israel, and Ayman Nour has been coordinating his activities with the Muslim Brotherhood. He met with Mohammed Badie, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, at the end of last year to discuss forming a shadow parliament.

The argument that the overthrow of Mubarak would not lead to an Islamist state was based on the liberal secular figureheads like Nour and ElBaradei. But ElBaradei and Nour are allied with the Brotherhood. While the liberals have contending candidates and parties, the Muslim Brotherhood has a single chain of command. The Brotherhood couldn't beat Mubarak, but it's child's play for them to play divide and conquer, turning into kingmakers and eventually into kings. Chaos is in their interest. The Communists and Nazis didn't take power because they were the most popular choices, they were just the most organized movements in a chaotic political landscape. While Soros's sweethearts wrangle and agitate, the Brotherhood will form their coalitions and wait in the wings. Hezbollah outwaited the Cedar Revolution. The Brotherhood will outwait the Jan 25th uprising and sweep in when the ordinary Egyptian begins to long for someone to restore order. That someone will either be the military or the Brotherhood. There are no other choices.

For Israel these events should serve as a wake up call. Far too many have romanticized the Camp David accords as an agreement between two peoples, when it was actually an accord with a regime. Sadat did an excellent job of putting on a show, but it was always a hollow spectacle. Sadat did not want peace with Israel. He had wanted peace, the Yom Kippur War would have never taken place. It was only after he had taken his best shot at destroying Israel and failed, that the Accords became possible. The Camp David accords were not motivated by peace, but by trying to make the best of a bad situation. Egypt had fought four wars with Israel. Even with a surprise attack, high end equipment, superior numbers and arguably superior tactics-- it still lost.

The Accords ratified the existing cold peace while turning over huge tracts of land to Egypt. It shifted Egypt from the orbit of the USSR to that of the United States. American military aid replaced Soviet military aid. The Egyptian people were assured that they had won a great victory in the Yom Kippur War, and some of them even believed it. Egypt settled into another few decades of rule by a military junta that was no longer aggressively oriented. The ordinary Egyptian went on hating Israel, America and much of the rest of the world, encouraged by a state media that pandered to his prejudices and xenophobia. It was another triumph of Realpolitik, but it was not peace. Only an absence of war.

It is doubtful that Israel would have paid the price it did if it had understood that it was unnecessarily buying a temporary cessation of hostilities from a regime that had already decided that further wars were useless. The Camp David accords did not usher in normalization or friendly relations. Certainly not the beginning of a newly integrated Middle East. But that illusion helped drive Israel and America into a frenzy self-destructive appeasement. By the late 90's, Israel had signed another treaty with Jordan, that again gave away land in exchange for what was essentially a ratification of the existing relationship. An agreement signed not with the people of Jordan, who like Israel about as much as the Egyptians do, but with the Hashemite Kingdom, which is almost as unpopular with its own subjects.

The problem with all of these treaties is they treated peace as a permanent relationship produced by negotiated accords. But in the Middle East, peace is what you agree to when you don't think you can win a war. It's an ongoing process constantly subject to evaluation and reevaluation. The treaty itself is completely worthless except as a statement of affairs at a given point in time. The moment the situation changes, the treaty can become worthless in the blink of an eye. As far as Israel was concerned it was bringing an end to generations of war, as far as its partners were considered, they were signing a public truce because it was currently in their interest. Not in their country's interest-- in their own.

Egypt and Jordan did not base their relations with Israel on any higher ideas about regional peace, the way Israel did, but on the strategic objectives of their rulers. An Arab Muslim country's hostility toward Israel rises proportionally with its regional ambitions. When Egypt aspired to dominate the Arab Muslim world, it led wars against Israel. When it gave up those aspirations, it chose peace. When Iran and Turkey wanted to be modern Western countries, they maintained friendly relations with Israel. When they decided to dominate the region, they ramped up their hostility toward Israel. But it wasn't about Israel, treaties or brotherly love. It's about ambition and power.

Sadat & Mubarak during Yom Kippur War
And that brings us to the worst mistake of them all-- the Palestinian Authority. Without the Camp David accords as a precedent, it is doubtful that Israel would have ever walked the broken road to Madrid, Oslo and the Rose Garden. But the Camp David accords had normalized trading land for peace. And since there had been no more wars, proponents argued that it had worked. And that it could work again. Never mind that the situations were completely different. The Accords had created the illusion that peace was within reach. And Israelis reached out for it too far.

Egypt and Jordan's rulers had needed stability, but Arafat needed chaos. He wasn't capable of managing the Palestinian Authority. Nor did he have any interest in doing so except as a base for his own wealth and his ongoing war against Israel. Arafat did not cease being a terrorist when he shook Rabin's hand in the Rose Garden. He was just a terrorist on the make. He had learned only three things in all his murderous years, that civilized countries would try to buy him off to stop the violence, Muslim countries would pay him to continue the violence, and finally that if his violence were cloaked in a fictional nationalism, it would win him the sympathy of the world.

And so he kept both going, even as he played at being the President of the Palestinian Authority. The violence escalated. Chaos spread with each suicide bombing. The world condemned Israel, and Israeli politicians kept offering more land for peace, even though the very process that caused them to make the offer should have made it obvious why there would never be any peace. Relatively stable regimes in Egypt and Jordan might reevaluate their needs in light of their agreements with Israel every few years, but Arafat would decide from moment to moment. And the result was rarely favorable. Arafat did not benefit from peace-- and so there was no peace.

But the peace negotiations went on. After all it had worked in Egypt, hadn't it. Which meant it was bound to work here. And then there would be peace for everyone. No longer would Israeli boys and girls have to fight and die, when a few pieces of paper could buy peace for generations.

But it wasn't a piece of paper that kept Egyptian tanks from rolling into Israel-- it was the harsh lessons of 1967 and 1973. A lesson learned not by the ordinary Egyptian still furious that Israel hadn't been ground under, but by the junta who ran the country at the time. Otherwise a wall of agreements, a thousand thick, would not have kept a single tank at bay. If Egypt's governments shifts from the hands of the military, many of whose top commanders were in the Yom Kippur War, into the hands of civilians who have no practical idea of what war means-- the lessons will be lost. And will have to be taught all over again.

To the Muslim Brotherhood, defeating Israel is a requirement apart from military realities. To Ayman Nour or ElBaradei, hostilities with Israel would be a useful way to bring Egyptians together, build up their own image and keep the Brotherhood on board. And if a few thousand Egyptian soldiers have to die to make it happen, so much the better. A defeat would serve them almost as well as a victory, knocking down the image of the army, and serving as a cause for the dismissal of top commanders.

Remilitarize the Sinai, open up the border with Gaza, supply Hamas with weapons-- and if that still doesn't touch off a war, then stage an incident. Don't keep it going for too long. Just long enough to spill some Israeli blood, rile up the street and pressure America into boosting aid in exchange for an end to hostilities. Then get America to pressure Israel into agreeing to a renegotiation of the vaunted Camp David accords. It's ugly and bloody, but it's a whole lot easier than fixing the economy. It's not a long term solution, but long term solutions are for stable governments. And Muslim democracies are not stable, they are ephemeral. Mayflies with glittering wings, who swoop around for a little while, before getting snapped up by a sunning lizard.

The real lesson of the Camp David accords is not that peace is possible, but that a truce is possible, so long as the old hands are in power and there is no incentive to break it. The Israeli Labor establishment has been mourning Mubarak's fall hardest, because the fall of Egypt dramatically reshapes their entire narrative. Egypt was their model. Their proof positive that peace is only a handshake away. Even after their Palestinian Authority experiment imploded into a tumorous threat to the survival of the country-- they still clung to Sadat. Now Sadat's VP has been forced out of power with America's approval. If one of the leftist allies of the Brotherhood takes power and trashes the peace, then the countdown will begin.

It's time for Israelis to begin reevaluating the Camp David accords, the granddaddy of regional land for peacing, that made it unsafe for tens of thousands of Israelis to live and farm on soil that the government might someday decide to give up in exchange for a piece of paper. The formula that began with Sadat has proven to be as unsteady as his own regime. Pieces of paper will not bring peace. Treaties do not end hostilities, they put them on hold. A treaty is signed with a regime, not with its population, which will go on spreading hate and pushing for war. A handshake is nothing but two sweaty hands briefly touching while the photographers snap away. All the emotional speeches full of hope that our grandchildren will live in peace are not worth a single bullet in the gun of a soldier standing watch on the border.

While the Obama administration and pundits like Thomas Friedman renew their clamor and cry for Israel to conduct more negotiations, to give up the Golan Height to Syria in exchange for more paper, and Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority terrorists-- the events in Egypt reminds us that even even in the best case scenario, a treaty does not outlive its regime. It is not an open door to peace, but only a piece of paper certifying a temporary lull in the fighting. It is not peace, only an impermanent absence of war.

It isn't the settlements that are the problem, it isn't even Gaza. It's the dysfunctional Muslim world itself that is the source of its own problems. Only it can be the source of its solutions. Until the Muslim world makes peace with itself-- it is in no position to negotiate peace with anyone else.


  1. Islam's theological premises, it's infrastructure, utterly prevents internal reform.

    Despite current appearances, Islam is faced with extinction because those theological premises are fundamentally incompatible with the modern world.

    Arab oil, emigration, high birth rates and western appeasement grant a superficial facade by cloaking the truth of Islam's cultural entropy. Islam is a parasite living off the west, it produces nothing of value.

    Were the west to end its vacillation and incoherent response to Islam's physical, financial and cultural jihad, Islam would be forced into living within its borders and would, in less than a century, self-destruct.

    Just continued cultural exposure to the west and the inevitable transition away from oil, 20-50 yrs away, would ensure that eventual outcome.

    The west of course will do none of these things, liberal dogma making that a non-starter.

    So there is only one way that the Muslim world is going to embrace peace.

    Some variation on Wretchard's Three Conjectures is unavoidable given the psychological and geo-political dynamics.

  2. And the awful administration in Washington aids and abets all the worst.
    It is an awful situation.

  3. Damn it, Sultan, I wish you were in charge here.
    I've been talking against this worthless piece of paper for years, from the moment I've learned what it was really about, and all I get is ridicule.

    It is like the total lunacy of past deals simply fails to register in the brains of Israelis. Even now, there is still talk about handing over the Golan to the inept Assad!

    This country acts like a man who is so afraid of cancer, that he starts cutting out his organs, and when he gets sick, his only solution is to remove more of them!

  4. I spent years answering every challenge about the Camp David accords by pointing out how fragile the arrangement is

    and now whammo

  5. Anonymous15/2/11


    The Lubawitsch Rebbe himself pleaded with Begin,not to give up Sinai,to no avail...
    At least,there is a sizeable buffer zone between Israel and egypt armies since troops are not allowed in that peninsula
    Should it be needed,Israel would reclaim it ...
    I do not covet that moment but since we must face a multi headed serpent ,we must be ready to preempt it .
    Greetings from eurabia

  6. And now... whammo! I gotta use that line somewhere - it's a killer!

    Sharing this article.

  7. In addition to the fantasy of peace that's kept the Camp David Accords in place all these years, Israel must face the fact that it has been suckered again and again into acting, not in its own interests, but in the interests of the U.S. and other Western nations in need of Gulf oil. To keep ME oil flowing for the rest of us, Israel has been pressured to turn every hard-won victory into defeat. Following each war, out of sheer desperation, Israel has repeatedly made the same bad deal with the devil--the U.S. and the Arab Lobby. It goes like this: We’re all going to pretend the war just waged against Israel by its neighbors didn’t really happen. Israel is going to refrain from using her victory to improve her safety and security, and we’re going to apply convoluted, dishonest and even ridiculous logic to justify the aggression of Israel’s neighbors against her. If we save the Arabs and Muslims from their worst nightmare--having to live with the consequences of their aggression--they will keep the oil, and our oil profits, flowing. Instead of Israel vanquishing her enemies and rendering them incapable of initiating more wars against her, the U.S. will sell Israel the weapons she needs to fend off these aggressors, while they conduct a war of attrition, year after year, against her.

    The glue that held these deals together for the West until now was nothing more than perception——dark magic, really. Like the Camp David Accords, U.S. agreements with Israel were not about peace, or what was right; they’ve always been about oil for the rest of the West.

  8. "Arafat did not cease being a terrorist when he shook Rabin's hand in the Rose Garden."

    I'm surpised Arafat didn't give Rabin the mafia kiss of death on the cheek.

    I doubt the Muslim world--and the secular people in Arab lands forced to act Muslim out of pressure and force--will ever improve itself.

    I just don't see the Arab/Muslim world overcoming its violent past and suddenly forming functioning societies.

    Re the title of the article--right on the mark. It's like the wholesale recommendation that victims of domestic violence take out orders of protection. They don't protect anyone. They just make it easier to arrest the guy once he's already done something.

  9. Anonymous15/2/11

    Quote: It's the dysfunctional Muslim world itself that is the source of its own problems.

    Its not even the Muslim world. It is a sad fact of life, that it is the Koran and its edicts that prevents Muslim societies to develop in a sane manner. The Koran prevents a proper education of men and women. The Koran prevents them from making peace with Jews, and Christians, and Hindus, and Buddhists, and Atheists, and Animists, and even Aliens, when they come a calling.

    The Koran is most certainly a millstone round the neck of those who believe in it.

  10. To the best of my knoledge, the Nasserite Junta controlled the media, but never stopped the anti-Semitic propaganda, as required by the Camp David Accords. Israelis in Egypt were treated like spies and companies were investigated to ruin. It was a pro-forma peace, a secular Hudna, even under Sadat and Mubarak.

  11. Daniel,

    Nothing is permanent or certain in this world. Mankind is, and probably always will be, in a state of chaos. It is a Malthusian existence. Israel and Egypt entered into an admittedly temporary agreement that added millions of man-years for their citizens. 'Bout the best we can hope for.


  12. nothing is permanent in the universal sense, but a treaty in which vast amounts of land is exchanged for a temporary truce is a terrible deal

  13. Anonymous21/5/11

    Mmmm. You lost me at the first paragraph. You say that Sadat was "assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood". That is simply not true, unless the term "Muslim Brotherhood" is a term you use to label all Islamic groups in Egypt. There are many Islamic groups in Egypt. Some of them are violent, some are not. To talk about them as if they are all one group does not do justice to the issue. Granted, the Muslim Brotherhood is bad. That doesn't mean they killed Sadat.

    Sadat was assassinated by members of "Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya" or "The Islamic Group", which is not part of the Muslim Brotherhood. To claim otherwise affects the credibility of the article!

  14. Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya was an offshoot of the Brotherhood. Same as Hamas.


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