Jerusalem – Relations between Israel and Egypt are tense. Both sides famously concluded a peace treaty in 1978 under the Camp David Accords, which led to Israel’s return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1982, but diplomacy between the two nations shows a strained relationship.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, director of the political-security staff in the Israel Defense Ministry, recently submitted a formal letter of complaint to the Egyptian authorities about military maneuvers the Egyptian army recently held that were “directed against Israel.”
Maj. Gen. Gilad was recently in Cairo, where he met with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman and Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi.
In the course of those meetings, Maj. Gen. Gilad said Israel was concerned by “the absence of any relations between the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, and the Egyptian Army.”
“[T]here are no visits by Egyptian officers to Israel, no delegation exchanges and meetings between collegial counterparts,” Maj. Gen. Gilad said.
The director of the Egyptian Army’s Intelligence Branch has not visited Israel despite the IDF Intelligence Branch director’s visit to Cairo.
Maj. Gen. Gilad also noted that Israel was concerned by “Egyptian Army exercises that are directed to meet an Israeli threat and, yes, by the fact that Israel is treated it as if it were an enemy and by the central focus by the Egyptian officers on building military strength.”
In conclusion, Maj. Gen. Gilad protested the “absence of a culture of peace between the two armies, which could have salient negative ramifications.”
Mr. Tantawi replied that improving relations between the armies would become possible in the future, in tandem with progress in the regional peace process.
He said Egypt’s military buildup had been spurred by the security challenges it faces, which has obliged it to build an effective deterrence force.
Ever since the Yom Kippur War, the Egyptian Army has been upgrading the quality and quantity of weapons and equipment in its arsenal and seeking out Western military equipment, particularly American weaponry.
The Egyptian Army placed special emphasis on remedying its weaknesses, and purchased Apache helicopter gunships, F-16s, mobile anti-aircraft systems and advanced munitions. The Israel Defense Forces and Israeli Air Force also operate many of these same weapon systems.
The Egyptian army did not discard its old Soviet equipment; rather, it simply bought newer equipment in addition. They bolstered their maneuvering ranks and their mobile artillery troops, as well as increasing the number of M-113 armored personnel carriers in use.
The Egyptians also expanded their navy, purchasing missile boats, frigates and submarines. Egypt now has the largest army in the Arab world.
The Egyptian Army has maintained training to give its troops offensive capabilities. It is safe to assume that those efforts are being made not solely in anticipation of a conflict with Sudan or Libya but, rather, from fear of another round of warfare in the Middle East, in which the the Israeli-Arab conflict takes center stage.
The strength of the Egyptian regime, first and foremost of President Hosni Mubarak, relies mainly on the strength of the military. It fears efforts by the Egyptian opposition to attack and to damage the regime.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008