When Hitler marched the German army into the Rhineland, the Treaty of Versailles was instantly relegated to the dustbin of history. Unbeknownst to Great Britain and France was the fact that Hitler was ready to abandon the territory he had just re-militarized in a heartbeat if they took military measures of their own. The result of failing to force Hitler’s army out of the territory was — well, we all know how that ended.
Now the Egyptians have declared that they will be unilaterally cutting off supply of natural gas to Israel. In doing so they are tearing up the 1979 peace treaty that marked an end to decades of hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Anwar Sadat paid the ultimate price for making peace with Israel, and peace has served both great nations well; now we watch as the safeguards that have kept the treaty in place for decades are torn down one by one.
The cessation of the flow of gas from Egypt to Israel may be the issue at the moment, but it isn’t the first time the agreement has been broken.
The Iranian naval vessel that sailed through the Suez Canal in February marked the first taboo to be broken in the wake of Hosni Mubarak‘s ouster, and a new order has been pushing against Israel ever since.
The number of Egyptian forces that have been allowed to enter the Sinai now exceeds the number permitted in the treaty. Admittedly, at the moment this is by mutual consent between Israel and Egypt. However, 14 instances of sabotage against the gas pipeline, coupled with terror attacks launched at Israel from the now-lawless Sinai, ensure that Israel won’t raise any objections. Compounded with the increasingly aggressive stance being taken by the interim Egyptian administration, and the continued lack of security in the Sinai, the increased military presence should be cause for grave concern.
The gas pipe that has just been turned off is a symbol of the relationship between Israel and Egypt: Sometimes blown up or disconnected, the relations could always be deemed OK as long as the Egyptian government made the effort to bring them back on-line. Now that this symbol is under threat, Israel needs to step up to the plate and fight to maintain the steadily slipping status quo.
Fighting to keep the gas flowing means fighting for relations to remain positive in the long term. By ignoring this attack on the peace agreement, Israel is swapping short-term stability for an eventual conflict in the desert.
Now is the time to draw the line. This is already a diplomatic crisis, regardless of how Israel’s diplomats spin it, and attempting to downplay the issue will have disastrous consequences for us all. If the government shrugs it off this time there will be another crisis, and then another, until, just like Germany’s neighbors in the 1930s, Israel will find herself in a situation over which she no longer has any control.
The government needs to stand up to the Egyptians and tell them that enough is enough. Nip this in the bud and come down hard over an issue that is still manageable to avoid even greater trouble in the future.