A shift in its policies, especially after signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1978, was an indicator that the country would no longer remain the heart of the Arab world as it used to be, argues the Tehran Times.
The Camp David Accords were seen by many as treachery towards the Palestinian struggle, as they paved the way for the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israelis, which in turn opened the door to the 1994 treaty between Israel and Jordan, states Mona Hojat Ansari in her analysis published by the Tehran Times:
Egypt is often mentioned in the context of decline . The most populous Arab country was home to the Arab League, and for more than 6 decades, it was the biggest supporter of Arab independence movements in the region. To the point that many argued the fight for Palestinian liberation runs through the streets of Cairo.
A shift in Egyptian policies in 1978, however, meant that the country would no longer remain the heart of the Arab world.
When Egyptian President Anwar Sadat decided to sign the Camp David Accords with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, under the auspices of the U.S., he was hoping that the deal would bring prosperity and economic development to his country. He was also hoping that the agreement would serve as a basis for peace in West Asia, as it could help stop Israel from attacking more Arab territories in the future.
The Camp David Accords were seen by many as treachery towards the Palestinian struggle, as they paved the way for the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israelis, which in turn opened the door to the 1994 treaty between Israel and Jordan.
Now, more than 45 years after the signing, many are questioning whether Camp David was able to give to the Arabs, as much as Israel took from them.
“The deal might have looked good at first glance as it said that the Egyptians would get a total of $2.15 billion in aid. But the U.S. also demanded the privatization of the public sector, which meant that Egypt could only make money from the Suez Canal and tourism. The money collected from remittances was also another source of income,” Muhammad Mahmoud Refaat, the head of the Nasserist National Accord Party in Egypt, tells the Tehran Times.
“This led to an economic collapse in Egypt which ultimately forced the country to resort to borrowing. Egypt’s total external debt has now reached $165.36 billion”.
Sadat’s aspirations for prosperity and economic development are still far from materializing in 2023. Egypt is stuck in political stagnation while it grapples with worsening economic woes. The Egyptian pound has lost more than 50% of its value in recent years, and over 60% of the population is categorized by the UN as “either poor or vulnerable”.
In an interview Sadat had with American media a year after the signing, he expressed hope that the U.S. could help restrain Israel’s military assaults. “The Israelis need an electric shock to tell them: You should behave for peace,” he said before defending the Egypt-Israel peace agreement by saying that the U.S. “Holds 99% of the cards in the Middle East”.
But the late president’s peace vision also failed to take shape. Merely four years after the signing of the Camp David Accords, Israel initiated a disastrously destructive attack on Lebanon. Subsequently, it embarked on the Judaization of significant portions of the West Bank and actively participated in a US-led military intervention that continues to plague Syria. The regime’s latest belligerent action involves the relentless targeting of the Gaza Strip, resulting in the brutal demise of over 20,000 Palestinian civilians who have been subjected to the most inhumane forms of cruelty and oppression.
Furthermore, people have become growingly critical of Egyptian rulers over time. Citizens, reminiscing about Egypt’s past role in the region, have not yet come to terms with their country’s significant loss of clout. They have also remained more or less committed to the Palestinian cause.
That’s why reports suggesting that Egypt is considering a deal to host Palestinians displaced from the Gaza Strip in exchange for U.S. debt relief is deeply troubling millions of Egyptians who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to express solidarity with the Palestinians.
“Indeed, Egypt has rejected this offer up until now. However, I doubt the current government in Egypt will continue to reject this financial offer, especially since Egypt has reached a point where the people in Egypt cannot bear,” commented the head of the Nasserist National Accord Party, while remarking that Cairo must not bow to Western pressure, as supporting the Palestinian cause is the only way of protecting Egypt’s national security.
“Once Israel re-occupies Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula is next.”
Some analysts, however, believe Egypt has learned from its past mistakes and will continue to resist Washington’s demands. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has reportedly warned Israel of “a rupture” in relations if the regime forces Palestinians to flee to the Sinai.
Apart from worrying about Israel’s expansionist tendencies, Egyptian officials seem to be looking at the current war in Gaza from a strategic prism. Egypt’s Commander-in-Chief and Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki warned this month that the latest Israeli war on the besieged strip aims at “imposing a reality that leads to the liquidating of the Palestinian cause”.
Israel now holds full control over the West Bank. With the occupation of the Gaza Strip and the forced displacement of its 2.3 million residents, the last remaining front against the occupation will be lost forever. That will make it impossible to endorse any solution to end the Palestinian struggle, including the two-state one, from an Egyptian perspective.
Egyptian authorities’ recent stance against the liquidation of the Palestinian cause has been received well by many critics and analysts inside Egypt who believe that the current Israel-Gaza war can give the country the chance to regain some of its lost diplomatic heft. They believe Cairo has been punching below its weight for too long and it’s time Egypt puts an end to its tragic tale of decline.