Israel Egypt relationship

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Israel-Egypt relationship: the silence before the storm?

Submited by: Nitzan David Foucks

Date: 12.5.08


"No more war, no more bloodshed, and no more attacks" said Prime Minister Begin when Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty on March 26, 1979, ending more than 40 years of hostility or at least that's what we hoped. Since 1979 the so called "peace" has become more of a cease fire than anything else. The dreams about cultural and economic cooperation have died along with the hope that any peace will come to the south. During the years, we have witnessed the rise of the Islamic brotherhood along side the spread of anti-antisemitism in Egypt, a ban over any Egyptian that has contacts with Israel and so on. This old/new situation has created some questions that must be answered:

1. Will the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt continue to exist in the following years? 2. Is Egypt a military threat to Israel? 3. Are there any signs of a negative development in the Israel-Egypt relationship within the Egyptian people?

In the following pages you will read my research results for those questions. This subject, although hidden from most of the people in Israel and in the world, is a critical one that deserves the public attention and that is why I chose this subject: to learn more about our relationship with our biggest neighbor.

Oh, and one last thing before you start reading: I hope you enjoy reading this work as much as I enjoyed writing it,

Nitzan David Foucks

Military Aspect-Egypt's Army

The first, and most important question to be asked, is can Egypt threaten Israel in terms of military power? In order to answer that we need to compare two factors between Egypt's army and the IDF: size and weapons (in weapons I included all military tools- guns, ships, tanks etc.).


The first factor as I mentioned earlier is the size of the IDF and Egypt's armed forces. This comparison is needed in order to see if Israel as any advantages in terms of numbers and if not, then to see how much bigger the Egyptian forces from the IDF. First, let's see how much regular manpower those every army have in the three branches of the army: Ground, Navy and Air forces.

Army/ Army branch Ground Forces Navy Forces Air Forces
Egypt's Armed Forces 320,000 20,000 30,000
IDF 133,000 9,500 34,000

As you can see, besides the Air force, Egypt has more regular forces than Israel. This advantage is most efficient in a surprise attack: it takes the IDF almost 24 hours before it can recruit its reserve forces. By that time Egypt can also recruit its reserve forces, and make the size advantage even bigger, and that's without mentioning Egypt's capabilities to strike at the heart of Israel ( I'll discuss the subject in the weapons category). Second, both Israel and Egypt have laws that obliged every citizen that reaches the age of 18 to serve in the army for 3 years. Every year 802,920 (2005 est.) Egyptian males come to the age in which they can serve. On the IDF side only 53,760 (2005 est.) males reach military age annually. On the female side things don't look any better: 51,293 (2006 est.) Israeli female reach military age, a small number compared to the 764,176 (2005 est.) Egyptian female that reaches the same age. We can summarize it in a table:

Army Male Female Total
Egypt's Armed Forces 802,920 764,176 1, 567,096
IDF 53,760 51,293 105,053

The bottom line: every year the Egyptian army gets more fresh recruits than the IDF and has on a standard basis a much higher number of soldiers (accept the air force) which gives him an advantage in a surprise attack before Israel can use her reserve forces.


The numbers above aren't supposed to be a big shock: each and every one of us knows that Israel is one of the smallest countries in the region in terms of population numbers, which affects the number of troops. Most of Israel's wars were fought as "few against many" and we still won thanks to the IDF technology supremacy. Well, in the last few years Egypt has been working on upgrading its army with American made weapons. Let's compare main weapon machines in two arms of the two armies:

1. Tanks- the IDF has about 3,890 tanks, 150 of them are Merkava Mk IV . The Merkava 4 is considered to be one of the best battle tanks in the world, along side the American tank M1A1 Abrahams, Egypt's main battle tank. The Egyptian armed forces has 3,705 tanks, 775 of them are M1A1 tanks. The use of the M1A1 decrease the technological supremacy that the IDF have in Armor, but for now the IDF has still more high quality tanks [1].

2. Air force- In the skies the IDF had always were superior, a thing we can see also in this comparison [2]: Israel's air force has 494 combat air crafts in service, which 391 of them are F15 or F16, two of the best fighter jets there is. Egypt's air force has 505 combat air crafts in service, which 229 of them are F16 or Mirage 2000. A note: I didn't compare the Israel's navy with the Egyptian because of the lack in professional estimation about Israel's battle ships compare to the Egyptian ones.

In the field of war machines Israel is losing it's technological supremacy. But that's not all; there are also strategic weapons that must to be considered: Since 1973 Egypt was working on purchasing a range of ballistic missiles that are capable of striking the enemy nation from within Egypt. The first ballistic missile was the Scud B, which his Iraqi versions were launched at Israel in 1991. This missile is not much of a threat: its CEP (circular error probable, in other words the weapon's precision) is about 900m, which means that it will be used only to terrorize the civilian population. The second missile is the Scud C, and upgraded version of the Scud B with more devastating features: It's has a range of 550-600 km and CEP of 500-750m. The Egyptian have an estimated 100-200 ballistic missiles from both kinds, and it's has the option to produce even more thanks to the purchase of Scud-C production lines from North Korea in 1996 ( a purchase that should have ended their agreement with the USA, an agreement that give them 1.3 billion dollars for their military). If the Egyptian want to lunch a surprise attack against Israel their first move would be to bombard Israel's heart, Gush Dan. The chaos that this strike will make in Israel population will give the Egyptian forces more time to attack before the IDF will be able to assemble his reserves.

You would of curse think that Israel can deploy Arrow missile launchers or use the Air force to take down the Scud-C launchers, but there are problems with both measures:

1. The Arrow interceptor, which Israel has been working for a few years on developing it, doesn't have the numbers to take down all the missiles that will be sent to Israel, perhaps not even half of them.

2. Egypt can launch her missiles from as far as the western desert, near the Libyan-Egyptian border. If the IDF air force will attempt to destroy those mobile launchers, which most likely would use "shot and run" tactics, they would have to past miles upon miles of hostile ground, filled with AA (Anti-Aircraft) guns and missiles.

Egypt has the numbers and the tools to wage a war against Israel, and to inflect it with great damage. Scud missiles upon Tel-Aviv, Armed division moving through the Sinai Peninsula, war ships bombarding Haifa's shores and non-Israeli F16 crossing the sky above Jerusalem aren't science fiction but a terrifying possibility. Can that possibility become a reality? As a saying among military personals go:" Guns don't kill people, people kill people" we need to see if the Egyptian are willing to fire this "gun".

notes: [1]- A full detail report on Israel's and Egypt's armed forces is available in the appendix. [2]- A full detail report on the Airforce of both nations is available in the appendix.

"A cold peace"- An historic view of Israel-Egypt relations since 1979

In order to predict the future we must first look at the past. In previous pages I have shown the changes that Egypt has undergone in it's military force and the threat they posses to our country. But now I must answer a more critical question: can history show us a cooling in Israel-Egypt relations?

In 1979 Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt, those ending more than 30 years of conflict. The hope, at the signing, was that Egypt and Israel will create new economic and cultural connections. Reality, in it typical behavior to go against men expectations, decided to take a different curse: Egypt's intellectual elite has banned any connection with Israel and spread it through out the Egyptian society and Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak, had been leading a very anti-Israeli police since he came to power in 1981. In these pages I will only discuss Israel-Egypt relations from the governmental view. For the relations from a social point of view look at "the voice of the crowd" in the following pages.

From 1981 to 1993

On October 6 1981 Anwar Sadat, Egypt's president that signed the peace agreement, was murdered by Islamic fanatics. This was a fatal blow to the peace efforts (not that Anwar was a great "peace lover").

His successor, Hosni Mubarak, continued efforts to make sure that the Israelis will make their part of the peace agreement: retreating from all of the Sinai Peninsula, including the destruction of the Israeli civilian town "Yamit". In April the 25, 1981, the last Israeli left Sinai. Mubarak called Prime Minster Begin and told him how much he appreciated the complete execution of the peace agreement. This was last good thing that Mubarak told about Begin.

When the first Lebanon war started, in 1982, Egypt had returned it ambassador from Israel in a protest against Israel's attack and in the following years of the war Egypt also worked to isolate Israel from the world.

Besides condemning Israel for the war in Lebanon, Egypt also claimed that Israel is still controlling a part of Sinai: An Israeli hotel on the coast of Taba. After a few years of negations both countries decided to let the international community decides on the subject in 1986. At the same year Egypt returns it ambassador to Israel, but that was no sign for any improvement in the future, on the contrary: from 1993 to 2000, Egypt had become an even worse enemy of Israel.

The Peace Process

When Egypt first signed the peace agreement with Israel it's leaders hoped that from thas point forward Egypt will be the main mediator between Israel and the other Arab states. This hope was proved as a false one when the Oslo agreements were signed on August 20, 1993. This breakthrough between Israel and the Palestinians happened without any intervention by Egypt. The same was when Israel signed a peace agreement with Jordan on October 26 1994. This new "peace process" between Israel and the Arab countries that happened without Egypt's intervention was like a sign for Egypt's leaders that Egypt is loosing it's position as leading Arab state, a position that it hold since the late '40. Because of that Egypt's became one of the leading opponents to the normalization with Israel. Here are two examples for this:

1. In the first Economic Cooperation in the Middle East conference on November 1994 Egypt condemned the idea of having economic projects with Israel and hoped that by decreasing the attraction of the idea in the Arab nations it can ensure that there will be no economic projects that will bypass the Suez Canal, which has a main position in Egypt's crumbling economy.

2. When Shimon Peres launched his idea of a Middle East common market Egypt launched the campaign against it. 200 Egyptian politicians, professors, and other public figures signed a petition that called Peres dream a: "looming danger threatening the future of the Arab nations."

Egypt wanted to be the only country that could save the peace process and worked hardy to ensure that. This also the reason for why Israel's left governments where a big problems for Egypt's hope to be the leader of the peace process. When the Likud's government came into power in 1996 it was a blessing for the Egyptians: the new government was antagonistic towards the Oslo agreements and Egypt started to look again like the only country that can save the peace process, a thing that it was more than eager to ruin. Egypt's media started a full scale attack on Netanyahu, then Israel's prime minister and even Mubarak wasn't a great fan of him to say the least.

On those days Egypt's started to regain its power among the Palestinians and worked to delay the peace process between them and Israel.

An outstanding example for this can be found in the Camp-David negotiation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on 2000. In the summit president Mubarak not only didn't assist Clinton in pushing Arafat forward in the negotiation, but also told him that he will be considered as a traitor by his people if he accepts Clinton's offer and that he as no right to make decisions on Jerusalem and its holy sites. There is no need to mentions that the Camp-David summit was proved as a great failure and a break point in the peace process.

Al- Aqsa Intifada

The period of violence that came after Camp-David is called "Al- Aqsa Intifada" in which Israel-Egypt's relations became even worse. Egypt's foreign minister at that time, Amr Musa, called for an all Arab support in the "Palestinian people, and its resistance to Israel's conquest…" (A quote from his speech in the summit of the Arab league). He also stated that all necessary steps would be taken to prevent Israel from "infiltrating" the Arab nations. This wave of Anti-Israeli statements went to the highest of positions in the Egyptian government, including President Mubarak himself. In several occasions, while Israel's civil population is suffering from a wave of suicide attacks, Mubarak explained why he didn't considered those attacks to be terrorism.

Those steps, along side the return of Egypt's ambassador from Tel-Aviv, fit Egypt view of the Intifada: a new opportunity to weaken Israel without starting a direct full scale war. Egypt, during the years of the Intifada, supported the Palestinians armed struggle and made the Sinai Peninsula a greenhouse for terror and arms smuggling. An example can be found in a series of terror attacks in the Sinai Peninsula against Israeli tourists in October 2004.

Egypt's campaign of terror against Israel, along side threats from Mubarak and other Egyptian officials about an "escalation" in the area, was known to Israel's prime ministers but it's seems that Arial Sharon forget that little fact when a gave Egypt the control over the Philadelphi Route and giving them the opportunity to arm Hamas in its fight against Israel.

From 2005 to today

Israel's unilateral disengagement plan took place during the summer of 2005 and during it Israel retreated from the Gaza Strip and gave Egypt the control over the Philadelphi Route, a strip of land along side Israel's border with Egypt. This strip of land is one of the main routes that arms smugglers use to transfer weapons to the Gaza Strip and from 2005 Egypt was responsible to fight those smuggles.

In theory Egypt's should have fought those smuggles, not because of it love to Israel, but because most of them helped the Hamas movement, a daughter organization of the Islamic brotherhood, one of Mubarak's biggest threat,to gain more power. In reality Egypt decided to look the other way while weapons are smuggled in large quantities to arm the Hamas movement in its fight against Israel: Most of the materials for the making of the Qasam rockets, along side RPG rockets and AA missiles came from the Sinai Peninsula.

This point, when Egypt's became responsible for arming Hamas, isn't the lowest point in this cold peace, oh no. In March 2007, a movie called "Roach Shaked" (Spirit of Shaked) claimed that during the six days war an IDF unit executed 250 Egyptian prisoners of war (POW). Just a few days after, Egyptian parliament members called to cancel the peace agreement with Israel. This started a row of events in Egypt against Israel: Egypt claimed that Israel had transported a truck full of radioactive materials into Cairo and arrested a man, which it claimed to be a part of a network that spies for Israel.

This events, along side the continuation of the arms smuggling to Gaza, ensure Israel relations with Egypt will continue to decrease, there by showing that on the historical view Egypt and Israel never lost their tensions with each other and the only thing that keeps this situation from blowing up is the peace agreement. But will it survive when the Egyptian people finally get control over their lives?

"The voice of the crowd"- Egypt's people view

When examining the relations between the two nations, in order to predict the future of those relations, we need to examine how the people of those nations view each other. This examination becomes even more important when one or more of the nations is non-democratic, like Egypt. After showing the historic and military aspects of the Israel-Egypt relationship in previous pages, in the following pages a new aspect will be examined: Egypt's people views of the relations with Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood

Before discussing Israel-Egypt relations from the Egyptian public view we first need to learn about the main anti-Israeli movement that has a major role in Egypt's politics and society: The Muslim Brotherhood.

The movement was founded in Egypt in 1929 by Hassan Al-Banna, which was named by his followers "the high guider". This title was taken from the mystical cults of Islam, and it wasn't the only thing that the Brotherhood took from those cults.

The movement was founded to create a new Islamic caliphate that will follow the rules of Islam and will dominate all across the Islamic world, including Israel. In order to achieve that goal the movement worked in two fields: the political and the social.

In the political field the movement has three main objectives: eliminate the secular government in Egypt, spread the Brotherhood in other Islamic nations and destroy the cancer that lies in the heart of Islam- Israel. I will divide the historic review into subcategories; each will talk about one of the objectives:

1. Eliminate the secular regime in Egypt- Since the movement was founded in 1929, it prepared its members to fight against the regime. Death squads were created along side military training for members. In 1945 the movement started to use its trained manpower to create a wave of riots and political assassinations in Egypt until 1948. In 1948 the movement was outlawed by the Egyptian regime and its members were hunted down by the movement. One year later, in 1949, the regime agents assassinated Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the movement. Those attacks against the Brotherhood were supposed to save the regime but this serpent is much more difficult to destroy.

Through the years, one regime came after another, presidents came and went, and the movement continued to work in the shadows, mainly because of the pursuit after its members hadn't stopped, although the governmental changed in 1952.

This pursuit continued until the early 70s when the Egyptian government, under the leadership of Anwar Sadat, became more tolerated toward the movement. Unfortunately for Sadat and his successor, Mubarak, this act of good will gave the Brotherhood the opportunity to use its great power among the Egyptians in order to take control over the nation by a democratic way.

Since the elections of 2005 the movement has 88 seats in parliament (20%) even though the government efforts to lower the voting rate for the movement during the election by very violent means (mass arrests of Brotherhood's members, police riots in voting points in areas that are considered Brotherhood stronghold, etc.).

2. Spreading the movement in other Islamic nations- In order to achieve its goal, creating an Islamic caliphate that will dominate the Islamic world, the movement spread around the world and even got a foot hold in non-Islamic countries like the USA. Every branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has a unique history but this work is after all not a study about the movement. That's why I will summarize the main points: the movement has branches in 16 countries and each and every one of them operates in the social and political spheres of the nations' Muslim population.

3. Fight Israel- Since the late 30s the Muslim Brotherhood had fought against the Jews who stayed in the land of Israel. During our independence war in 1948 the movement recruited volunteers to fight in the war and in the years that followed the movement had spread anti-Israeli and anti- Semitic materials in Egypt and other nations.

One of its branches, the Hamas movement, is the most violent and anti-Semitic organizations among the Palestinian liberation movements.

The other sphere that I mentioned was the social field, in which the Brotherhood has even more remarkable achievements. During its years of its existence, the Brotherhood created charity and social care services for the poor and in a country like Egypt, where millions of people are needed, those services gave the Brotherhood high popularity and support. It also spread its ideas in universities and became a very popular movement among the Egyptian intellectual elite and middle class.

After this short background, let's begin the main subject: Egypt's people view on Israel.

"Israel- The enemy"

When the peace agreement was signed in 1979, there was hope that the hostility between Israel and Egypt would disappear. Egypt's workers' unions answered that hope in 1980 when they banned any connection with Israel. In 1994, when the famous Egyptian writer Ali- Salam visited Israel, he was banned and there was even an attempt to get him out of the Egyptian writers' association.

Those who banned connections with Israel and fought every Egyptian that tried to make a connection are not uneducated people but Egypt's top intellectual elite. Thanks to the power of the Muslim Brotherhood have in universities almost every young student gets brainwashed with anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist materials. After he finishes to learn he goes and spreads his twisted concept of reality among others, thereby ensuring the continuation of the hate toward Israel.

But that's not all: Egypt has a very developed hate industry that spreads its materials around the Arab speaking world. Here are two small examples for Egypt's hate industry:

1. In 2005 a very interesting book was published in Egypt:" The Jewish plans to take over the world and how to deal with them". This book is only part of a long series of Egyptian books that are dedicated to revealing the Jewish plan for world domination. The most interesting fact about it is that copies were sold in the international books fair that took place in the Cairo at the start of 2007, along side a more traditional anti-Semitic book.

2. In 1897 the most popular anti-Semitic document saw light in Europe. Its name was "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion". 110 years since it was first published, copies of the Arab world best seller could have been found in the international books fair.

Those small examples says everything: the Egyptian people hate and there is no sign of improvement, on the contrary: a poll in 2006 revealed that 98% of the Egyptian defines Israel as an enemy state, a thought that matches with Muslim Brotherhood's call to cancel the peace agreement with Israel.

The most ironic thing in this situation is that the Brotherhood supports a democracy in Egypt, and so do the Americans. Perhaps in a few years the Americans will succeed in the democratizing Egypt and the Brotherhood will then succeed with its first objective: eliminate the secular government in Egypt.


My research question was: does Egypt posses a threat to Israel, and now, after much research I can answer the question: yes.

In the last two decades, Egypt has been assembling a military force that can match the IDF in land, sea and perhaps in a few more years even in the air. Egypt has used billions of dollars in order to buy new weapon system and maintain the size of its army, and all of this investment without any threat from its surrounding neighbors (I'm pretty skeptic that they need M1A1 Abraham tanks in order to defend themselves from the Libyan army).

During the years that they invested mass amounts of money in building their army, the Egyptian government has cooled down the relations with Israel to the point in which those relations were considered to be a cold war, not a cold peace. To finish these relations of hostility, the Egyptian people see Israel as the enemy that must be crushed since it was founded by the descendants of apes and pigs (yes, the Jews came from those animals) and the Muslim Brotherhood continue to gain power in order to take control of Egypt and cancel the peace agreement with Israel.

Those are my findings. You can argue with them, you can ignore them, and you can keep imagining that we have real peace with our neighbor in the south. But you can also learn from this and understand that we should keep an eye on Egypt in order to be more prepared for this new, yet old, threat.


Before the start of the feedback let me just say this: I love Google! After this dramatic announcement

we will continue with the feedback on my work:

From the announcement I gave you must have guessed that I used Google a lot during this work, and that is correct. The research materials that I needed for this study weren't easy to find and I spent hours seeking the articles and researches that I needed.

The time spent researching took hours and caused another problem: most of my free time was dedicated to learning for tests, and there were a lot of them during the year. Fortunately good time management provided me with the time to finish this work and even rewrite it with the help of my teacher.

Oh, and if I already mentioned the help of my teacher, I want to mention an internet tool that helped me a lot in editing and organizing my work: The wiki software. This easy to control software provides you with the opportunity to create, share and edit all kinds of information. It's really a great tool to work on the information that you obtain.

In conclusion, there were some problems in developing the project but in the end they weren't things I couldn't handle.




(Comment.gif: Nitzan, I hope you are now ready to record your presentation. Here is the information on how to do it. --Warm wishes, Nellie Deutsch 11:50, 26 December 2008 (UTC)) (Comment.gif: Excellent content and use of wiki codes especially for the tables. Very impressive, Nizan. Check out the links in the bibliography to see how to add external links and make bullets. ) --nelliemuller 12:30, 2 November 2008 (UTC)Ort Gutman High School