It is well known that the 1967 war broke out after Egypt closed the straits of Tiran and strangled the trade from Israel’s southern port city of Eliat.
Yet it is hardly known that Egypt has staked a claim to Eilat ever since it lost the city to the nascent state of Israel in the war of 1948. Indeed, even though the Israelis defeated the Egyptian army in that war and the Egyptians were expelled from this southern port city on the Red Sea, Egypt still lays claim to Eilat.
Now, in wake of recent reports about plans to dig a canal linking the Red Sea on the Israeli side and the Dead Sea on its Jordanian side, Yediot's Smadar Perry reports that a fiery argument broke out in Egypt's parliament, with the MPs speaking out against the "Israeli plot to choke the Suez Canal to death."
In the course of the debate, which has been going on in parliament for the last two days, Abed el-Aziz Sayef a-Nasser, an aide to the Egyptian foreign minister, was called as an expert witness. A-Nasser is the director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry's legal department. "Eilat, or by its former name Umm Rashrash, belongs to the Palestinians," he said, representing the opinion of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
His predecessor, Dr. Nabil el-Arabi, was the head of the Foreign Ministry's legal department and headed the delegation for negotiations at Taba. He also emphatically declared: "Eilat belongs to the
A-Nasser's response was meant to calm tempers in the rowdy debate in the Egyptian parliament, after dozens of opposition representatives demanded holding negotiations to have Eilat returned to Egyptian sovereignty. Opposition MPs recruited several legal experts, international law lecturers and experts on geography and topography who argued that Eilat is territory that belongs to Egypt and was captured in 1949 by Israel. They contended that the Egyptian negotiating team to Taba conceded Eilat to Israel 20 years ago "in the framework of the wish to build confidence and to display Egyptian goodwill in the spirit of the peace agreement."
This was not the end of the matter. An Egyptian international law expert presented an intermediate position in parliament: "Eilat belongs formally to Egypt and administratively to the Palestinians."
In the debate in parliament two days ago, an opposition MP, Mohammed el-Aadali, whipped out a document from 1906 which states, in the name of the Ottoman sultan: Umm Rashrash belongs to Egypt. On this territory, the Egyptian experts on topography and geography stated, Egyptian pilgrims would stop and rest on their way to the holy cities in Saudi Arabia.
A document that was used in the proceedings revealed testimony relating to 350 Egyptian police who were in Umm Rashrash just before it was captured in March 1949 and who were killed in battles with IDF soldiers.
Significantly and typically, in the debate among the Egyptian MPs, the experts and the Foreign Ministry officials, no mention was made of the possible legitimate Israeli sovereignty of Eilat. The debate in Cairo was between two camps: the Egyptian Foreign Ministry which claimed that Eilat belongs to the Palestinians, and the opposition MPs who claimed that Eilat belongs to Egypt.
The opposition Egyptian MPs have threatened to relay their demand for an Israeli withdrawal from Eilat to the Arab League to handle. Despite Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, the Arab League’s 1948 declaration of war to liquidate the state of Israel remains in force. While Egypt was the kingpin of the Arab League from 1948 until 1977, the current dominant power in the Arab League is Saudi Arabia, which remains in a consistent state of war with the Jewish state. To that end, Saudi Arabia finances all Islamic terror groups that fight Israel, and continues to forbid any Jew from stepping on the soil of the Saudi kingdom.
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