Op-eds

Why Israel Will Miss Morsi: Foreign Affairs Op-Ed by Zack Gold (F09)

Foreign Affairs

As Egypt's Military Cracks Down, Sinai Descends Into Chaos

Even as Egypt’s generals continue their violent crackdown on supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, Israel has been lobbying the international community to give the military its full backing. Israeli policymakers are understandably nervous about the Muslim Brotherhood, and they take as a given that Islamist group wants to see the Jewish state’s destruction. But security and intelligence cooperation between Israel and Egypt actually thrived during Morsi’s presidency. And particularly in the wake of Monday's massacre of 25 Egyptian policemen in Rafah, a city on the border of the Gaza Strip in North Sinai, Israel might find that it was better off with Morsi in power.

For Israel, the worst possible result of the political upheaval in Cairo is chaos along its southern border. The Sinai Peninsula stayed relatively calm for decades after Israel returned it to Egypt in 1982, following the countries’ 1979 peace treaty. Terrorism, smuggling, and cross-border provocations did not begin with the collapse of the Mubarak regime, but Sinai began to descend into total lawlessness as the police state apparatus melted away around the time of the February 2011 revolution. And the security situation there has dramatically worsened since the military’s removal of Morsi on July 3, after which there has been a marked uptick in deadly attacks against Egyptian soldiers and police in Sinai.

The violence in Sinai could soon spill over into Israel. Israel remains an obvious target for jihadis, who see it as an occupier of Muslim land. This is especially true for Gaza-based terrorist groups that operate in Sinai, such as the Mujahedeen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem. Moreover, some jihadi groups in Sinai, such as Ansar Jerusalem, view cross-border attacks as holding a second beneficial purpose: showing the Egyptian military’s weakness and inability to protect its borders. Indeed, jihadi action over the past two years has purposefully attempted to embarrass the Egyptian military, expose Israeli-Egyptian cooperation, and draw Israel into a cross-border response. As with the increased jihadi activity in Sinai since the military full took control, Sinai terrorist groups may opt to double down on this strategy of drawing Israel into their fight.

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