Israel vows to stand firm on Sinai
Pressure mounting to rethink historic agreement with Egypt
Israeli officials said Sunday they would resist any Egyptian attempts to reopen the military arrangements under the countries' historic peace deal, despite the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Egypt's Sinai peninsula.
But following a series of attacks staged by militants in the Sinai, including a raid that killed an Israeli soldier last week, Israel may have no choice but to allow Egypt to beef up its forces in the largely demilitarized border area.
Friday's shooting is likely to fuel new Egyptian calls to reopen the peace treaty. In recent years, as shadowy militant groups have grown more active in the Sinai, Egyptian security officials have said they need to be allowed more firepower to bring the area under control. Ansar Jerusalem, a group inspired by al-Qaida that is hostile to both Israel and Egypt, claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
For now, Israel is standing tough. Israel's hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Sunday that Israel would not agree to re-evaluate the terms of the peace deal.
"There is no chance that Israel will agree to any kind of change," he told Israel Radio. "The Egyptians shouldn't try to delude themselves or delude others, and they should not rely on this demand."
Lieberman said troop strength was not the issue and suggested the Egyptian military was just not prepared to tackle the challenge. "The problem in Sinai is not the size of the forces, it is their readiness to fight, to put pressure and to carry out the job as is needed," he said.
The 1979 peace accord, the first between Israel and an Arab country, has been a foundation for regional stability for three decades.
For Egypt, it brought the return of the Sinai, captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, and access to American aid and weapons. For Israel, it allowed the military to divert precious resources to volatile fronts with Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians.
This arrangement, however, has been jolted by the growing unrest in the Sinai since an uprising toppled longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year. Friday's attack was the third deadly border raid since Mubarak's ouster.
Israeli jitters have been heightened by Egypt's election this year of a president from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Morsi. The Islamist group, cool to Israel, has said that Egypt will continue to abide by the accord. At the same time, it has repeatedly called for changes in the treaty's limits on troops in Sinai, seen as humiliating.