On July 8, 2015, following the series of brutal attacks carried out in the Sinai by terrorist organizations, especially Ansar Bait Al-Maqdis, which is affiliated with the Islamic State (ISIS), the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm published an article by Egyptian playwright, author and political commentator 'Ali Salem in which he criticized the Egyptian government's neglect of the peninsula. According to Salem, the Egyptians did not develop the Sinai due to fears by the country's elite that Israel would occupy the territory, which would leave any development projects in the peninsula in Israeli hands. Salem decisively argued that Israel would not undertake such a foolish act.
Salem also criticized Egypt's reluctance to normalize cultural relations with Israel out of fear that Israeli cultural influence would endanger the Egyptian regime. He argued that it was actually the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled Arab regimes, as opposed to cultural ties with Israel, which he argued would benefit the region.
Salem further said that Egypt would defeat the terrorism in the Sinai and that Israel does not exploit Egyptian violations of the peace treaty to create tension between the countries because it looks forward to improving relations in the long term. Salem concluded that the regional situation would improve once the Egyptian and Israeli peoples cooperated with each other.
Following are excerpts from the article:
'Ali Salem (image: Alarabiya.net)
Israel Will Not Reoccupy The Sinai
"After Egyptian President Sadat recovered the Sinai by way of war and peace, there was peace in Egypt. However, Israel's withdrawal from Sinai to the international Egyptian border as a result of the peace treaty between the two countries did not alleviate fears by intellectuals and regime officials regarding the fate of the Sinai...
"Some thought of many ideas on how to restore and develop the Sinai Peninsula, but many members of the elites believed that Israel would reoccupy the Sinai, reiterating that Israelis are the enemies, are evil, and hate us.
"Additionally, some declared honestly that when Israel seeks to reoccupy the Sinai, it would be hard to defend, which is why any construction in the Sinai actually meant handing over territory rich in agricultural, industrial, and tourism projects to the enemy. This real fear resulted in all the restrictions we have placed on the Sinai...
"By all estimates, Egypt will win its campaign against terrorism and the terrorists... I digress in my thoughts to the post-war phase and say: Sinai is Egyptian territory, and Egyptian law applies there. The residents there enjoy the same rights as residents of Egypt [proper], so everyone should avoid fearing for the fate of the Sinai, since this fear turned [the Sinai] into an environment that fosters terrorism. I wager that Israeli leaders are not so gullible as to try and launch a campaign against Egypt and occupy the Sinai.
"It is clear that [the Israelis] have decided to make do with the fact that the peace treaty would end the cycle of fighting between them and us, and that they do not hold normalization in high regard. But they make sure not to cause difficulties in the relations. They can obviously cause a ruckus due to what can be seen as an [Egyptian] media violation of the peace treaty; meaning that it is enough for a TV host to mention the term 'the Israeli enemy' [to anger them], but they ignore it. They look to the long term, and the moment when the Egyptians can shed their fears and relinquish their negative ideas.
"Sinai is Egyptian land and home to Egyptians. All Egyptian laws apply there. The notion that Israel would attack Sinai some day is nothing but a nonsensical fairy tale. The people in Israel know full well that they have good neighborly relations with the Egyptian people. The situation in this poor region will improve when these two most ancient peoples in history - the Hebrews and the Egyptians - cooperate with each other...
No Reason To Fear Cultural Normalization Between Egypt And Israel
"Immediately after our defeat in 1967, a new saying emerged claiming that the conflict between us and Israel was a culture war - meaning that it would not be won on the battlefield alone. However, up to this moment I do not know what they meant when they said 'victory' and how we wish to achieve it... Generally speaking, there was fear of peace.
"It is amazing that the regime of President Mubarak agreed to minimal normal commercial and industrial relations with Israel, such as the QIZ project, but sternly opposed any cultural normalization. They probably believed that [cultural] relations could infect Egypt with ideological and cultural viruses that could endanger the regime. Oddly, this affliction eventually came from Al-Tahrir Square as opposed to normal cultural relations between Israel and Egypt."