Is the Camp David Agreement still valid?

Is the Camp David Agreement still valid?

Israel continues to attack Gaza. A critical phase of the offensive remains the Rafah border crossing and the Sinai Peninsula.

Parallel to the developments in Rafah and Sinai, there rises some voices in Egypt questioning the Camp David agreement with some openly advocating to discard it.

We asked Ramazan Bursa, an expert on Egypt, what Egypt’s attitude towards these developments might be and the meaning of the rapprochement between Türkiye and Egypt that started after 11 years. Our guest evaluated these questions in the context of the ongoing war in Gaza.

In the last interview we had, you had drawn attention to the issue of Rafah. You said that this is one of the key points, perhaps the most important one. And now, in the last period, the conflict has started to focus more and more on Rafah. Starting from the period when Israel launched military attacks, was it clear that the key point would come to be the issue of Rafah?

It was obvious in a way. Israel’s aim is to change the current administration in Gaza, completely end the resistance there, and in addition, if it succeeds to evacuate at least 1 million or in a better scenario for Israel 1.5 millions of 2.3 million people living in Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula via Rafah.

In the first one or two months of the war, it was predicted that there would be a ceasefire with the help of the pressure from the regional countries in the region, and the peoples and governments in the world. The Palestinian resistance also predicted this. Of course, they knew they were to face a greater destruction compared to other wars. But despite the opposition of the entire international community, despite the opposition of the peoples all around the world, Israel has deviated from its usual method in other wars.

The Ben Gurion Project

It is necessary to know the history in great detail. Israel has a canal project, the Ben Gurion Project, as an alternative to the Suez Canal. Israel aims to connect this with the Red Sea through the occupied Palestinian territories. However, the economically more advantageous route of this canal project to build it starting from the north of Gaza and going down to the Red Sea. For this reason, the occupation of Gaza was essential for Israel. This is the first point.

The second is that Israel always wanted to destroy Palestine in Gaza, but recently it seemed much more determined in this regard. Thirdly, Israel does not want such an intensely populated Gaza.

“Israel considers Sinai as its historically own land”

Fourthly, as Israel considers the Sinai as its own historically, just like the occupied Palestinian territories, they are seeking a pretext to occupy Sinai all down the Nile River. That’s why Israel wants to expel 1.5 million Gazans to Sinai.

A few years later, Israel is going to declare “Hamas is organising in Sinai, so for our country’s security we should conduct military operations there”.

War in Gaza in the broader regional context

And lastly, I told this much in the broadcasts to draw attention, the war in Gaza should not be considered as only related to Gaza. If you evaluate the Gaza war through the Israeli plan to occupy Sinai, the war in Gaza is actually an Egypt war. It is also a Jordan war, Lebanese war, a Syria war. When evaluated based on the Mediterranean, it is also a Türkiye war. In other words, with this war in Gaza, Israel is making moves against all the countries in the region.

Let me elaborate on the Mediterranean aspect. The US is establishing a temporary port in Gaza. American officials made a statement that they will make it permanent in time. Now they are working on the following plan: Aids going to Gaza first come to the port in Cyprus. A team from Israel inspects the aid and then it is transported to the temporary port built by the Americans in Gaza. What does this mean? It means that the US, just as it had used democracy as an excuse to occupy Iraq, “defalcates” in the Mediterranean under the pretext of aid to Gaza. This is a move to usurp the rights of Türkiye, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and of course Palestine and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the Mediterranean.

In addition, after this war, when that port is made permanent, no one can guarantee that an agreement similar to Türkiye’s maritime agreement with Libya will not be made between the Greek Populated Southern Part of Cyprus and Palestinian administration by putting pressure, which is what they are trying to do.

So, the war in Gaza is not only about Gaza. We should define it precisely. And if we cannot reach a result in favour of Gaza and Palestine at the end, the fire in Gaza will burn the whole region.

“Israel’ massacre is beyond predictions”

Let me first ask about Gaza and then move on to the Egypt-Türkiye dimension. In our previous interview you said Hamas had been expecting support from the countries in the region, but this expectation wasn’t met. Today, do you see any change?

Let’s begin from Israel’s side. What Israel has been doing in Gaza in the last six months has actually gone beyond expectations. Yes, it was predicted that Israel would respond very harshly to the Al Aqsa Storm, but I think Israel’ massacre is beyond what even Hamas predicted.

The success of Ansarallah

Secondly, there is no change in the actions of countries in the region. The exception here is the Yemen Ansarallah movement. The other groups that are considered to be part of the resistance front are taking some actions, but they don’t do these with all their capabilities and thereby not effective enough to change the course of events in Gaza. The only movement that is using all of its capabilities is Ansarallah. They made a worldwide impact.

Hasan Nasrallah stated that they will enter a full-scale war only if Israel declares war against Lebanon. I find this strategy frankly erroneous. Because a very short time after Israel organises Gaza the way it wants, the first thing it will do is to turn to Hezbollah. That time, just as Gaza was left alone and helpless today, history would repeat itself and Hezbollah would experience the same.

“Muslim countries can’t go beyond condemnations”

In terms of Muslim countries, there are nearly sixty members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Despite that they disagree on many, the issue on which they have no disagreement is the establishment of an independent Palestinian State, the rights and freedoms of Palestinians, the preservation of the position of Al-Aqsa Mosque, in short the Palestinian issue.

But unfortunately, in this war in Gaza, they could not even bring a kilo of rice from Rafah Border Crossing to Gaza without Israel’s permission. They couldn’t go beyond mere “condemning” the massacre. This shows the helplessness of the Islam world. We see that Islamic countries have no sanctioning power. Iran, Türkiye, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, they all say that they are “regional powers”, they have “very strong armies”, their GDP is “very high”, so and so on. But the picture in Gaza is standing in front of us. We have seen that they do not have the power to actually do anything against Israel. Islamic movements also failed in this regard.

Importance of Erdoğan-Sisi meeting

Erdoğan and Sisi met after eleven years. Does this meeting have a dimension concerning the Palestinian issue and the development about Sinai?

I think that Egypt-Türkiye relations should improve quickly. Türkiye has strong very historical ties with Egypt. Egyptian and Turkish people are the most similar people in the region. Turkish nobles ruled Egypt for a long time, insomuch that until the era of Gamal Abdel Naser, Turkish stayed to be the language of the Egyptian Palace.

Of course, the Palestinian issue was also on the agenda during this meeting. But we can’t know if the Sinai issue was addressed in these. I know that according to the information I got from a personal source, Mr. President Erdoğan demanded to go to Rafah, but the Egyptian administration was not very warm to this idea.

The Port of Alexandria

In the Arab press there was some news that the Port of Alexandria could be given to Türkiye to operate. This is extremely important. Alexandria is one of the most strategic ports of Egypt and one of Egypt’s most ancient cities. This means for Türkiye to strengthen its position in the Mediterranean.

If Türkiye takes over the operation of the port of Alexandria, this will also be in Egypt’s favor because Egypt is already not happy with the division in the Mediterranean due to violation of its rights regarding the continental shelf.

Is the Camp David agreement still “valid”?

There are some increasingly higher voices in Egypt which say that the Camp David agreement has lost its “validity”. Do you see any possibility of Egypt withdrawing from the agreement?

The Camp David agreement was made under the pressure of Israel and the big powers that support it. Egypt was forced to it. With the agreement, yes Israel withdrew from Syria and Sinai was accepted as Egyptian land, necessarily, but also Egypt, wasn’t allowed to have more than around eight hundred thousand soldiers. If they are going to conduct military exercises, they have to inform Israel. So, the Camp David agreement kept Egypt from having full sovereignty over its own territory.

Another reason why Israel brings Sinai into the discussion is, in terms of international law: Egypt was considered a part of the Ottoman Empire till the end of the World War I. Israel is claiming that Sinai is an Israeli territory referring to the withdrawal of the Ottomans from Sinai at the end of the war. This claim is completely false, Israel did not even exist when these territorial divisions were made.

Mursi questions the Camp David

When the late Mohamed Morsi was President, he opened the Camp David agreement into discussion saying that the agreement is no longer to produce positive consequences for Egypt. At that time, the Israeli media, with a threatening tone, wrote that Morsi was planning to withdraw from the Camp David. So, the question of “validity” you mentioned was brought up by the president of Egypt himself in 2012. I also believe that the Camp David is to the detriment of Egypt, in the near future it is very difficult for Egypt on its own to decide to withdraw. But if Israel decides that the agreement is not in its favour anymore, it can unilaterally break the agreement, or it can create such an environment that the agreement cannot be valid.

To defend Sinai…

To defend Sinai, Egypt first needs to address its economy which is going very bad. In the last few months, 1 dollar has risen from 30 to 70 Egyptian pounds. Secondly, Egypt sold a town for approximately one hundred billion dollars to the United Arab Emirates. So, the UAE has land in Egyptian territory. This is not something acceptable. The UAE gives the biggest harm to Egypt in the disputed desert area between Egypt and Sudan, because the companies of the UAE are effective in that region. The fact that the UAE has such land in Egyptian territory provides them the means to stir up Egypt. And thirdly, Egypt should ensure national peace at home.

Why FETÖ and Ikhwan are different

Some in Türkiye liken Ikhwan with the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) in Türkiye. It is not a correct analogy. Ikhwan wasn’t engaged in terrorist activities, unlike FETÖ. Ikhwan won the elections and Morsi became the president. They are far from being similar in terms of ideology. Ikhwan was born to resist British occupation in 1928, while FETÖ was from the very beginning shaped by the Westerners. So, the Egyptian government should re-establish relations with the Ikhwan, with the liberals and some leftist structures that it has been at odds with so that it can get stronger against the external threats.

Do you see any signs of such a rapprochement?

I have been saying this for many years. In 2023, president Sisi invited groups that criticized him to iftar during Ramadan and there he used the phrase of “national peace”. I think it was a very appropriate and successful policy. Even the government had talks with Ikhwan at that time.

Şafak Erdem

Şafak Erdem was born in Istanbul in 1993. He completed primary and secondary school in Istanbul, then studied philosophy and sociology as an undergraduate at Boğaziçi University. He is currently doing a master's degree in philosophy.

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June 2024