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Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee Rejects Prime Minister Sharon's Plan To allow Egyptian Troops To Re-enter Sinai

MK Steinitz: 'Tragic Mistake To Allow Egyptian Troops Back Into Sinai!'

Vice-Premier Peres: 'Gaza Evacuation Will Be Postponed from July To Mid August Due To Jewish Holy Days'

Egyptian tank in Sinai during Yom-Kippur War

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has voted 8-2 in favor of a vote by Israel's Parliament on the issue of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal to allow Egyptian troops to re-enter Sinai in order to block the smuggling of Palestinian weapons into the Gaza Strip. Members from both the right and left supported the proposal. The committee first heard three leading jurists who all said a deal to allow Egyptian troops into Sinai would reopen the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty which calls for the demilitarization of Sinai.

Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is rebelling against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to enable Egyptian troops to re-enter Sinai to d block the Palestinian smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. Three top legal experts first told the committee that Israel's green light would constitute a reopening of the demilitarization clause in the peace treaty. Sharon had been talking about a separate deal with Cairo that he contended would not alter the peace treaty. The idea is that 750 Egyptian soldiers would replace Border Guards along the Egyptian border with Gaza to block the Palestinian arms smuggling. Up to 5,000 Egyptian troops might later be allowed to patrol along the Egyptian border to Israel's southern town of Eilat. The committee called on the government not to conclude any arrangement with Cairo until the full House takes a vote.

The committee vote obviously reflects mainstream feeling in the Knesset against tampering in any way with the demilitarization of Sinai. Voting against were: Yuval Steinitz, David Levi, Uzi Landau and Ehud Yatom of Sharon's Likud party; Effy Eitam, Aryeh Eldad of the National Union, Danny Yatom of Labor and Ilan Shalgi of Shinui. It is very likely then that if the Prime Minister brings his proposal before the House he will lose. The Egyptian role, although important is not crucial to the withdrawal plan; Vice Premier Shimon Peres confirms that it will be postponed from July 21 to mid-August because of the holy days before Tisha B'Av that marks the destruction of the First and Second Biblical Temples in Jerusalem.Committee chairman, Yuval Steinitz says it would be a tragic mistake to allow the Egyptian Army to return to Sinai. He adds that the Egyptians could block the Palestinian arms smuggling if they wanted to but are exploiting the situation to annul the demilitarization clause in the peace treaty. In a recorded interview, Steinitz also charges that Egypt has aggressive intentions toward Israel.


David Essing

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