[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Egyptian Israeli Thaw
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] In the Middle East, the world media attention has been intently focused on Iraq and the Palestinians. Will the Iraqis move from chaos to a democratic nation? Will the Palestinians finally get their act together and start behaving rationally after Yassir Arafat’s death?

Very little light has been shone on another potentially tremendous Middle Eastern development. There is a thaw in Egyptian Israeli relations. Looking at history, the Middle East conflict of the last fifty years has always been first and most important between Egypt and Israel. It was Egyptian President Abdul Gamal Nasser’s incitement of the Arab street and support for border attacks that led to wars in 1956 and 1967. The other front line Arab nations—Jordan and Syria, went along for the ride to their detriment.

In 1973, it was the brilliantly executed Egyptian Suez border crossing that rocked Israel back on its heels. The Egyptians took the lead and whipped up the Syrians. Recently disclosed planning documents show that the initiative came from Cairo.

Likewise, it was Egypt in a groundbreaking role during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. This time for peace with Anwar Sadat making his historic trip to Jerusalem. The day that Sadat ordered the Israeli Knesset changed Middle East realities for all time, though it ultimately cost Sadat his life.

What emerged from Sadat’s trip was a declared end of hostilities between these two long-time warring nations. No shots have been fired between them since that time—at least not deliberately. But there has been no real peace. At one time, ambassadors were exchanged. Then withdrawn. Trade pacts were signed. Then cancelled.

Now, at long last, there is some course for hope . As with everything in the Middle East, one must always temper optimism with caution.

Still, there have been too many recent signs to ignore. On December 5, Egypt freed an Israeli Arab convicted of spying in exchange for the Israeli’s release of six Egyptian students. At about the same time, Egypt’s foreign minister and intelligence chief met with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon in Jerusalem in the first high level meeting in months.

Then there was a surprise public statement by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarek following Arafat’s death that Sharon represented the Palestinan’s best chance for peace. “He asks for only one thing: the end to the explosions, so they can work together on a solid base.” This was accompanied by Mubarak’s offer, accepted by Israel, to station troops along Egypt’s border with Gaza to stop Hamas’s arm smuggling as Israel begins its Gaza withdrawal and to assist Palestinian security officers.

Last week, Egypt, Israel and the Untied States entered into a very significant trade agreement. It allows for the duty free import into the United States of certain Egyptian goods as long as they contain some Israeli input. Israel followed that with the announcement that it will release 170 Palestinians to please Egypt.

There are a number of factors which have led Egypt to take these conciliatory steps, prompting Israeli moves in kind. First, there was the October bombing by terrorists at several Egyptian hotels in the Sinai. Israel immediately cooperated with Egypt on rescue operations and the search for the perpetrators. To be sure, many of the dead and wounded were Israelis. But many others were Egyptians.

The impact of these terrorist attacks on the Egyptian economy, which is so heavily dependent upon tourism, has been devastating. The bombings brought home to Mubarak and Egypt the point that terrorists are their enemies as well as Israel’s. There is an old Arab expression, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I use it for the title of my next novel which will be released on February first dealing with the Middle East. It fits here.

Second, Egypt has become convinced not only that Sharon is serious about his Gaza withdrawal, but willing to make peace with a likeminded Palestinian leader. That peace will not only help Egypt’s sputtering economy, but quell dissent against Mubarak’s government by removing the issue rabble rousers use to inflame the masses.

Finally, there is the reelection of President Bush. Regardless of what Mubarak and other Arab leaders may think about Bush, he will be in the White House four more years. Mubarak is above all a pragmatist. That’s what has enabled him to remain alive and continue in office so long. The steps he has recently taken toward Israel will help him find support in Washington during this critical period for the Middle East.