Just as we warned when civil war broke out in Egypt, the breakdown in security along the Israel border with Egypt has begun to undermine the peace in the region. Israel has relied on Egypt for years to maintain the Sinai buffer between the two countries as a demilitarized area free of threats. However, as the civil war in Egypt grew the government’s ability to maintain security in the Sinai deteriorated and then collapsed. This opened a super highway for insurgents, weapons, and equipment to move in and out of Gaza. These fighters then moved to attack Israel from its less defended flanks leaving Israel in a security conundrum. Israel now has to choose between attacking to defend its territory or absorbing the attack on its own soil. Both actions come with major consequences for the populations of both Egypt and Israel. In short, if the situation persists, Israel will be forced to action. This will escalate tensions with Egypt to the point of war just as the growing crises with Syria and Iran climax. This will then place the United States in an extremely awkward position between two of its historic regional allies.
This is an avoidable outcome if Tel Aviv and Cairo can quickly move to lock down the border region. If Cairo stalls, Israel must work quickly to isolate Gaza from the Egyptian border and build a bigger buffer. This will at least mitigate some of the cross border insurgent movement. However, without Cairo’s intervention to lock down the Sinai, Israel will be faced with a unilateral military move into the Sinai, which could lead to the outbreak of yet another Israel-Egypt War. Washington, holding the strings on billions of dollars of aid to both countries, needs to reign them both in and force them to immediately correct this erosion in security or face its own interests being damaged.