Washington, July 27 - The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has thrown into question the Egypt- Israel peace treaty, but the group’s leaders understand it’s in their best interest to uphold the agreement, leading Middle East experts said this week at a panel discussion sponsored by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The 1979 treaty marked the first recognition of Israel by an Arab country and ushered in an era of diplomatic relations and stability that has benefited both countries. Now, with the recent and dramatic changes among Arab countries in the Middle East, experts said at least one thing has stayed the same: an understanding that quiet on the Egyptian- Israeli border is important for the stability of both countries.
Israel feels threatened by events unfolding with Iran, Syria and the Palestinians, said David Makovsky, director of The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process. Domestically, he said, the possibility of upcoming Israeli elections has taken center stage.
The Israeli leadership is prioritizing these issues and hoping that the new Egyptian government keeps the peace with Israel, Makovsky said. Additionally, Israelis are very nervous about newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
For now, Makovsky said, Egypt has many challenges to address, and the Israelis, “are pinning their hopes that the Egyptian economy has been so devastated, and that their dependency on the U.S. is so great, that there will not be any dramatic movements on the treaty.”
Eric Trager, another scholar at The Washington Institute, said Egypt is going to be politically unstable for some time. “For the most part,” he said, “I think Egyptian actors will be focused internally.”
While both sides are preoccupied with their own affairs, the threat of violence on the Egyptian-Israeli border is still very real, Makovsky said, only time will determine whether peace is maintained.
“It’s the unforeseen circumstance that could trigger things,” said Makovsky.