Egyptian presidential aide says he’s finalizing proposal to amend peace treaty with Israel

Adviser to Morsi says military restrictions in 1979 accord limit Cairo’s capacity to defend the Sinai

Ilan Ben Zion is an AFP reporter and a former news editor at The Times of Israel.

Egyptian armored vehicles in Sinai (photo credit: screen capture AlJazeeraEnglish/YouTube)
Egyptian armored vehicles in Sinai (photo credit: screen capture AlJazeeraEnglish/YouTube)

An Egyptian presidential adviser announced on Saturday that he will submit a proposal for amending the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty in the coming days.

Mohammed Esmat Seif al-Dawla said the proposal will include major changes to the peace treaty’s fourth article, which governs the establishment of “limited force zones in Egyptian and Israeli territory” along the shared border with the Sinai Peninsula. According to the Camp David Accords signed the year before, Egypt may station “no more than one division (mechanized or infantry) of Egyptian armed forces” more than 30 miles from the Suez Canal.

Al-Dawla contended that the article limits Egypt’s rights to protect the Sinai Peninsula and must be changed.

The fourth article of the treaty permits review and amendment of this clause “by mutual agreement of the Parties.”

Al-Dawla has made repeated calls to change the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty since Islamist Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi took office in June. Earlier this month he told the Shura Council’s Arab affairs committee that real development in the Sinai can only be achieved with protection from the armed forces.

“The peace treaty doesn’t allow for the protection [of Sinai], because it disarms two thirds [of the peninsula],” the Egypt Independent quoted him saying.

The newspaper in August quoted presidential judicial advisor Mohamed Gaddalah saying that Morsi is interested in amending the peace treaty “with regards to the deployment of forces in Sinai.”

Egypt in August launched a counterterrorism campaign in the Sinai Peninsula in response to a terrorist attack on the Egypt-Israel border in which 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed. Jerusalem assented to Cairo deploying military forces, including aircraft and tanks, in order to quell Islamist militants in the Sinai, but at the end of August Defense Minister Ehud Barak called on Egypt to remove its tanks in accordance with the peace treaty.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman warned a month ago that the provisions of the treaty must be maintained. “We need to be stubborn and insist on every single detail, otherwise it will be a slippery slope concerning the enforcement of the peace treaty,” Liberman said in a closed-door meeting with senior Israeli diplomats.

On Friday, an Israeli soldier was killed in an attack launched by three terrorists across the Egypt-Israel border.

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