Andy: I think this is among the most ominous pieces of news to have emerged this turbulent year. Israel occupied the Gaza strip from 1967 to 2005 because Palestinian terrorist attacks from the Gaza strip, including rocket attacks, were a constant danger and provocation during the 1950s and 1960s. Those attacks were ideally suited to tit-for-tat retaliatory escalation, and because they emanated from territory nominally under Egyptian control, they helped push Israel into war with Egypt in 1956, and again in 1967. The Camp David Accords of 1978 ended any Egyptian claim to the Gaza strip. But Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 still had to involve the Egyptians, because if the Egyptians did not help keep weapons out of Gaza, and instead encouraged terrorist resistance to Israel, Israeli security would be mortally threatened — and the two countries would start drifting back toward the logic of confrontation that existed between them in the 1950s and 1960s. Israel had originally insisted on controlling the Egypt-Gaza border after the unilateral withdrawal, but caved in to the Egyptians’ assurances that they would control it effectively.
The Obama administration should have been keenly sensitive to this, and should have conditioned all U.S. aid on Egypt’s upholding agreements and undertakings made with respect to Gaza in connection with the Israeli withdrawal. The whole purpose of making Egypt one of our principal recipients of foreign aid since 1978 was to keep it in compliance with the Camp David Accords. Instead, Obama has seen fit to reward the Egyptian government’s drift back towards confrontation with Israel with a massive proposal for debt relief. Congress should block that proposal so long as the Rafah crossing remains open — and should condition all future aid on a reaffirmation of Egypt’s previous undertakings to isolate extremists and uphold the peace process.