Netanyahu Reveals How He Got Egypt to Withdraw Tanks from Sinai

YERUSHALAYIM -
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the conference organized by “Makor Rishon” and the Israeli Democracy Institute at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, November 11, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu‏‏ revealed on Monday how he was able to induce then-president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, to withdraw tank units he had sent into Sinai in violation of the peace treaty with Israel in 2012:

“When Morsi came to power, almost the first action he took was to bring tens of tanks into Sinai, in a clear violation of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel,” Netanyahu said. The March 1979 peace treaty limited the number of Egyptian tanks that could be deployed in the Sinai, and Morsi had exceeded that number.

“You haven’t heard this before, but I sent him [Morsi] a message, and I told him: ‘You have exactly seven days to pull them out,’” Netanyahu was quoted as saying by The Times of Israel. “‘If you don’t pull them out, I will act immediately to get the U.S. Congress to stop your [military] aid.’ He pulled them out.”

Netanyahu made the disclosure at a gathering to mark 25 years since the peace agreement with Jordan was signed to illustrate how Israel’s peace agreements with its neighbors are based on power, not sentiment for peace.

Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, served as Egypt’s president from June 2012 until he was deposed by the incumbent Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in a military coup a year later. Morsei died earlier this year.

It was noted that Jordan sent no representatives to Monday’s event, despite an invitation from Israel to hold a joint ceremony, as Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz told reporters.

In recent days, amid tensions with Jordan over the arrest of two of its nationals who crossed the border into Israel illegally, and the temporary recall of the Jordanian ambassador, Netanyahu’s government has been criticized for not making stronger efforts to improve relations with the Kingdom.

When asked why the bilateral relationship has frayed so badly, Netanyahu replied that Israel’s peace treaties are all based on military deterrence and not on friendly people-to-people relations.

Like Cairo, Amman only agreed to sign peace agreements with Israel after it realized that it could not defeat it and had more to gain from avoiding wars with Israel, the prime minister said.

“There wasn’t a real reconciliation,” Netanyahu said of Jordan, and pointed to the impasse with the Palestinians as a main cause.

Having said that, Netanyahu then stressed that the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan remains an important part of Israeli foreign policy.

“We have an outstanding interest in keeping the peace agreement due to the fact that we have our longest border with Jordan and given the short distance from the border to the Mediterranean Sea,” he said.

“The importance of stability in Jordan, like the importance of the stability in Egypt and the stability of the peace agreements or the non-takeover by Islamist elements, is in our clear interest, vis-à-vis the regime in Egypt and the regime in Jordan.”or our peace treaty] first of all.”

Israeli-Jordanian ties are based on “a sober and utilitarian consideration of both sides, for stability and security, the mutual interdependence of each one,” Netanyahu continued.

“We are in adjacent territories and they depend on our strength to prevent the takeover of various elements,” he said, though he would not divulge details as to how Israel is helping the Jordanians prevent the takeover of their territories.