Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We can only rely on ourselves

We can only rely on ourselves

Hezi Sternlicht

The collapse of our gas deal with Egypt leads us to the painful conclusion that we are gradually returning to the days before the Camp David Accords. We are not there yet, thank God, but the horizon looks gloomy. Painfully, we must conclude, once again, that we have no true friends in the region. Certainly not long-term friends. Once again we are reminded, this time in the economic sphere, that we have only ourselves to rely on.

The stoppage of Egyptian gas to Israel marks a sad day. It erodes what remains of the cold, frigid and unrealized peace treaty with Egypt. Cairo received a lot in exchange for this peace, including the Qualifying Industrial Zone, where we pushed Egypt to build sewing workshops and textile enterprises, making it easy for them to export goods to the United States. In addition, the generous defense aid Egypt gets from the U.S. is a product of the peace treaty with Israel. It is thanks to us that Egypt has such a strong army. Today we stand at the threshold of a new era, and that army's tremendous strength is indeed troubling.

The cutoff of gas from Egypt is yet another stage in the creeping devaluation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. This latest development has everything to do with what is happening in the Sinai Peninsula, which has become a highway for infiltrators from Sudan and Eritrea, a no-man's-land of armed Bedouin tribes, as well as a hotbed of terrorism.

All of these problems exact a heavy burden on our public purse. The weakening of our peace treaty with Egypt is already costing us a treasure on security spending. This is money the government could readily use elsewhere, instead of being "wasted" on the rampant lawlessness south of our border.
We could have spent this money on more important things, like closing socioeconomic gaps within Israel. But this is the price we have to pay for our unfortunate location in a tough neighborhood with derelict houses and unstable residents.

Unlike our reaction to the many explosions of the gas pipeline, this time we have to send a clear message to the heads of the Egyptian regime. If we do not do something about this, the rot will continue.