The Egyptians who raise the matter of Eilat are skating on thin ice. For the Sinai, which Egypt has convinced the world is historically part of its domain, was always a corpus separatum. It was regarded as such, and was discussed openly as such by travellers and diplomats, right up until World War I. And if many do not realize this, it is only because they have accepted unquestioningly the notion that the Sinai is part of Egypt.
When Francis Frith published his famous photographs, they were of “Egypt, Sinai,and Palestine.” When the Anglican divine Arthur Stanley wrote his book of Biblical observations, it was entitled Sinai and Palestine. No one at the Paris Peace Conference thought of the Sinai as belonging to Egypt. It was not until the 1920s that the entire Sinai was handed over to Egypt when, in fact, in large part it was connected to Jewish history (Sinai? Mount Sinai?) and to Christian history (St. Catherine’s monastery, with so much of the world’s intact Byzantine icons, and so much Christian history), but never to the Muslims. But Jewish history and Christian history did not matter, and Egypt was handed over the Sinai.
How many of you have ever seen the map, reproduced in the Diaries of Colonel Meinertzhagen, that show how much of the Sinai became Egyptian only in the 1920s? Egypt had no historic or legal title to the Sinai except that provided by Great Britain. Britain was perfectly willing to diminish unilaterally the territory intended for the Mandate for Palestine by lopping off all of historic Palestine east of the river Jordan. It was also perfectly willing to curry favor with Egypt, at the very moment when the British who had come under Lord Cromer to improve the civil service were leaving, by handing over the Sinai to an Egypt that had never before been thought entitled to it.
This was not an argument that was made by the Israelis at Camp David. They were beaten about by Jimmy Carter, who was the same Carter then as he his now. At the time, however, all kinds of Jewish leaders were falling all over themselves praising the antisemitic Carter as a veritable prince of peace. This was because they failed to know much about the treaty itself. They also failed to understand what treaties mean to Muslims. They likewise failed to see how poorly the Israelis had fared, especially since the Israelis themselves, with a few intelligent exceptions, did not and still do not understand what is happening, what is the nature of the menace they face They do not seem to know what are their own legitimate rights, and how those rights should be convincingly presented.
By all means, let us reopen the question of the entire Sinai, and to whom it belongs, or should belong. And perhaps those Egyptian members of Parliament will regret their demand for Eilat. However, the fact that this demand has been made against Israel, a country that scrupulously observed every commitment made under the disastrous Camp David Accords while Egypt failed to observe a single one of its solemn commitments to end all hostile propaganda and to encourage instead a new attitude of friendliness, should tell Israelis and supporters of Israel something. It should tell those Israelis who still think that “treaties” with the Arabs mean something, that they do not and cannot, as long as the model of Muhammad’s Treaty of Al-Hudaibiyyah stands. And it will stand as long as there is Islam, and as long as Muhammad remains the Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil.
No one, not even the Israelis, seems to comprehend that no negotiations leading to treaties mean anything other than a temporary “truce treaty” on the model of that made by Muhammad at Al-Hudaibiyya with the Meccans — a treaty he broke as soon as his forces became more powerful. If the Islamic tenets that require Muslims to attack and destroy Israel — by degrees if necessary, where outright assault cannot work — were known, then a great many people would realize that these treaties — Oslo, Camp David, and so on — are simply a snare, a delusion, a waste.
What keeps the peace now between Egypt and Israel is not something called the Camp David Accords, but the military power of Israel. In other words, Egypt does not attack Israel for the same reason that Syria does not attack it.
Amazing how resistant the foolish Israeli leadership is to comprehending this, and to making clear that it now understands what is going on. When Israelis were distracted with nation-building, and were resettling huge numbers of Jewish refugees in the first two decades of the state’s existence, such inattention was understandable. But when, after 1967, the Arabs began to methodically dress up their campaign in the camouflage of a “struggle for legitimate rights” and then invented, for the occasion, the “Palestinian people” (who are not mentioned once in the UN records between 1948 and 1967 — not once, not by any Arab or non-Arab), the Israelis should have been vigilant. They were not. They have damaged themselves, terribly.
And what is more, they have damaged the West, which not understanding the Jihad against Israel, also failed to understand the elements of Jihad that are being used against the entire non-Muslim world, with Western Europe the first to suffer. Yet one sympathizes with Israel, for it simply did not have a policymaking elite that could permit itself the leisure to think and to comprehend; they were so busy countering this or that attack, putting out this diplomatic fire, and so on. And who, after all, wants to allow himself to believe that his country will forever be a target, will forever — no matter what its size — be for the Muslim Believer an outrage, a “humiliation” (for Islam “must dominate and not be dominated”) that, sooner or later, in a decade or a hundred years, or a thousand years, be undone?