May 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

Egypt Strains Historic Peace Treaty With Israel

May 17, 2024 | Flash Brief

Egypt Strains Historic Peace Treaty With Israel

Latest Developments

Egyptian officials threatened on May 14 to downgrade their country’s relationship with Israel over their opposition to Israeli military actions in the southern Gazan city of Rafah. The threats come more than four decades after Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979. Adding to the new nadir in Israeli-Egyptian relations, Egyptian officials signaled they were considering recalling Egypt’s ambassador to Israel. Earlier in the week, Egypt announced plans to join South Africa’s “genocide” case against Israel in the International Court of Justice.

On May 15, Haaretz quoted an Israeli official who said there was a deliberate shift in Egypt’s attitude towards Israel since the Rafah operation began on May 7. “At the beginning of the war, the Egyptians showed understanding toward our position. And they realized why it was important for us to dismantle Hamas’s military and ruling capabilities after October 7,” the official said. The official added that following Israel’s advance into Rafah, Egypt started working “deliberately to get in our way, and to try to force an end to the war on us, something that’s never happened, not even during previous operations of ours in Gaza.”

Expert Analysis

“This is a perilous moment in Egypt-Israel relations. On the one hand, this is the cornerstone of Arab-Israeli peace dating back to the late 1970s. On the other hand, Egypt appears to be complicit in supporting Hamas, both in terms of smuggling and delegitimization. A shift is needed. How to achieve that without a rupture is the challenge at hand.”Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“Washington must come to grips with Egypt’s complicity in allowing weapons and money to flow to Hamas in the last two decades. Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border, taking advantage of the situation to influence the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Even worse, some officials got rich from Hamas’s control of the border, especially the Rafah crossing.” Haisam Hassanein, FDD Adjunct Fellow

Israel Believes Hamas Smuggles Through Egypt’s Border

On May 15, Israeli officials expressed concern that Egypt would end its participation as a mediator in ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Egypt’s exit as mediator could hurt prospects of reviving stalled ceasefire negotiations between Hamas and Israel, as Israelis hope to avoid having the talks relocate from Egypt to Qatar, a key Hamas sponsor. This week, Israel continued its operations in Rafah, where it says Hamas’s last four intact battalions remain. Israel also believes that Hamas has tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border through which the terrorist group smuggles weapons, materiel, and even its members.

Egypt Stops Humanitarian Aid Traveling Through Rafah Crossing

After Israeli troops took control of the Rafah crossing on May 7, Egypt began refusing to let humanitarian aid convoys through the crossing into southern Gaza. “The world places the responsibility for the humanitarian situation on Israel, but the key to preventing a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is now in the hands of our Egyptian friends,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz wrote on X. “Hamas will not control the Rafah crossing – this is a security necessity on which we will not compromise.”

Egypt Creates Buffer Zone With Gaza for Displaced Palestinians,” FDD Flash Brief

Egypt Threatens to Suspend Peace Treaty With Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

Egypt Accepts Only Small Number of Temporarily Displaced Gazans,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Tunnels to Egypt Played Key Role in Arming Hamas,” FDD Flash Brief

Issues:

Arab Politics Egypt Israel Israel at War