According to the latest polling from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, a majority of Egyptians want to ditch the peace treaty with Israel:
Most Egyptians favor overturning the 1979 peace treaty in which Egypt became the first Arab country to formally recognize Israel. Roughly six-in-ten (61%) want to annul the treaty, up slightly from last year (54%). Just under a third (32%) want to maintain it.
Opposition to the treaty has grown significantly over the last year among young people and the highly educated. Support for annulling the treaty has increased by 14 points among 18–29 year-olds and by 18 points among the college-educated.
Meanwhile, Egypt and Israel are at each other’s throats over Egypt’s cancelation of a Mubarak-era natural gas export deal. Egyptian officials insist the decision wasn’t politically motivated but stems from Israel’s failure to pay for the gas. Israel depends on Egyptian natural gas for 40 percent of its energy needs.
The rhetoric on both sides is escalating. Israel’s Finance Ministry called Egypt’s decision ”a dangerous precedent that casts clouds over the peace agreements and the atmosphere of peace between Egypt and Israel.” Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi warned that Egypt’s border was “perpetually in danger.” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Egypt was a “greater threat than Iran.” Egyptian officials have said they were well within their rights to cancel the deal—a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman called the decision “excellent.” In response, Israel appears to have mobilized six reserve battalions to defend the border with Egypt, as well as Syria.
For an Egyptian government in turmoil and in need of cash, picking a fight with Israel over natural gas serves no one. Israel on its part would also be wise to avoid antagonizing the country that supplies so much of its electricity. Several experienced Middle East watchers have suggested that the United States, which has close relations with both the Egyptian and Israeli governments, should step in to mediate and also bolster security forces in Sinai, which is largely lawless desert full of smugglers and fighting tribes. As Steve Cook writes, ”If the United States does not wake up to the danger that the Sinai poses and the Israelis are forced to respond to a terrorist attack from the Sinai, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty is over.”