Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

The Future of the Sinai Peninsula

Academic journal article Connections : The Quarterly Journal

The Future of the Sinai Peninsula

Article excerpt


The Sinai Peninsula has been a center of conflict for many years, starting with the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. After Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords in 1978, it became a peaceful region, strongly controlled by the military during Hosni Mubarak's rule in Cairo. Now, after several years of non-violence, the Sinai Peninsula is once again the center of a complicated conflict. Heavy protests across Egypt in 2011 forced Hosni Mubarak to step down from the presidency, creating a security vacuum in the Sinai that allowed radical Islamists to almost freely operate in the region. During the months that followed, insurgent groups grew in number, recruiting frustrated Bedouin who have been neglected by the Egyptian government for years.

It seems that the Sinai continues to be an area of conflict, but what about the future? Is it possible to achieve peace and stability in this region? This article describes and analyzes the past and present of the Sinai Peninsula, and projects three future scenarios.

The first part will describe past conflicts in order to give an overview of what happened in the Sinai over the past sixty years, starting with the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and extending to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979 and beyond. The second part will discuss recent and current events beginning with the Arab Spring through the time of this article's writing (December 2013). Then, the final section will present three possible future scenarios based on past and present events.

Background: The Past

To understand the present situation in the Sinai Peninsula, it is important to understand how we got here. The conflicts between Arab nations in the Middle East (mainly Egypt) and Israel between 1948 and 1978, and the attacks in South Sinai from 2004 to 2006, will be discussed in the following section.

1948-1979: Historic Wars

From 1948 to 1978, several wars were fought between Arab nations and Israel that took place largely in the Sinai Peninsula. These wars obviously had an impact on life in the Sinai Peninsula itself, but they also significantly influenced the political landscape in the Middle East.

The first war was fought in 1948, after the establishment of the state of Israel on 14 May 1948. The Arab nations in the region strongly resented the establishment of the Jewish state and the displacement of the Palestinian population, and launched an attack on Israel one day later on 15 May 1948. However, due to a disorganized command structure on the Arab side, Israel was able to fend off the attack and force the Arab troops to withdraw. The war was fought on many fronts-Jerusalem, the Negev, and the Sea of Galilee were heavily contested areas-but the Sinai Peninsula was the main theater of the conflict. The second large war between Israel and its Arab neighbors was in 1958, the Suez Crisis.1 Then, nine years later, the third large war was fought in the region, known as the Six Day War.2 The final war was fought in 1973, when Arab nations invaded Israel on the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.3 The Suez Crisis marked the end of imperial influence in the Middle East for two European countries: France and Great Britain. The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War showed that Israel, a small and new state, had achieved military superiority over the much larger Arab nations, who were deeply humiliated by their repeated defeats at Israel's hands (especially Egypt). In 1978 Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David Accords, which concluded a long period of conflict between the two nations.

1978: The Camp David Accords

The Camp David Accords were signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on 17 September 1978. President Jimmy Carter of the United States played an important role during the peace talks, negotiating the terms between Sadat and Begin. After thirteen days of intense negotiations, an agreement was finally reached and signed. …

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