This week Shurat HaDin has sent a letter to the Israeli Attorney General warning him that neither Defense Minister Ehud Barak nor the Cabinet must be allowed to unilaterally permit additional Egyptian troops to enter the Sinai and take up positions near the Israeli border.
Recent media reports indicated that following the August 18th terrorist attack along Israel’s southern border which left 8 Israelis dead, Egypt had convinced Barak that only the stationing of thousands of additional soldiers along the border could prevent future attacks. Under the Camp David Accords signed between former Prime Minister Menachem Begin and former President Anwar Sadat, Egypt is only permitted to have only civil police forces armed with light weapons along with multinational UN observers in the border area. Further south, in the middle of Sinai Egypt can deploy a maximum of four battalions equipped with light weapons to assist the civil police forces. Israel insisted upon this limited number of Egyptian troops in order to prevent another October 1973 style surprise attack.
In the years since the Camp David Treaty was signed, Egypt has continuously refused to adequately patrol the international border nor stop Hamas’ smuggling of weapons and contraband into Gaza from Sinai claiming that it could only accomplish that task with thousands of additional troops. Thus, the Egyptian army simply allows terrorists and weapon smugglers in the Sinai to freely operate.
Under Israeli law a treaty, such as the Camp David Accords is ceremonially signed by the Prime Minister but must be ratified by a majority of the Knesset in order to enter into legal force. As such, neither the Defense Minister nor even the Cabinet can modify the terms of the Camp David Accords and permit additional Egyptian troops into Sinai without the Knesset’s authorization. In our letter to the Attorney General we noted that Barak’s actions and public statements raised a serious separation of powers dilemma.
The letter states:
“What is set out above indicates that your consent to the changes in the peace treaty at the request of the Government of Egypt, by way of permitting the Egyptian government to deploy (even temporarily) the its troops in a manner that contradict the peace treaty, or otherwise – is ultra vires and therefore void. This point is also true concerning other proposed modifications you seek to make to the peace treaty, despite the fact that they might have been approved by the government. Such action is only valid if properly placed before the Knesset, and approved by the Knesset plenum.”
Although Barak and the Cabinet backed down from their announced plan, we put the Government on notice that we would immediately bring a petition in the High Court of Justice if there was any attempt to allow additional Egyptian troops into Sinai without the Knesset debating the issue and taking a vote to authorize the move. The notion that the current unstable Egyptian government is going to do Israel’s dirty work and prevent terror attacks from Sinai or smuggling into Gaza is absurd.
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