Israel and Egypt to Jointly Persuade US to Keep it’s MFO Presence in Sinai Peninsula

Foreign Affairs

By ARIE EGOZI

A picture taken on July 26, 2018 shows Egyptian policemen driving on a road leading to the North Sinai provincial capital of El-Arish. – With fruit and vegetables aplenty in the markets, public transport back on the roads and universities reopened, life is returning to El-Arish in North Sinai state where Egypt’s army is at war with jihadists. (Photo by Khaled DESOUKI / AFP) (Photo credit should read KHALED DESOUKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Tel Aviv: Egypt has joined Israel in an effort to persuade the Biden administration to keep the US-led Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula near the border with Israel even as the United States continues reducing its military presence in the Middle East.

The US has changed its priorities in the Middle East in order to focus its efforts on China.

The Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) is an international peace keeping force overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and is operating in and around the Sinai peninsula.

The United States is one of 15 countries that make up the peacekeeping body, who patrol the region, operating mostly as a separation of forces between Israel and Egypt. Under the terms of the treaty, Egyptian soldiers are banned from Sinai, with enforcement undertaken by police and Special Forces.

In recent years Israel approved the presence of some Egyptian forces in Sinai as part of the campaign against ISIS.

The US has gradually reduced its forces in Sinai over the years. Currently, there are 454 American troops out of a total of 1,156. When the forces were first deployed, there were over 1,200 US troops participating.

Experts say that an absolute withdrawal of US participation in the multinational force in Sinai is impractical because the security annex to the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is anchored in the existence of this force.

The idea of ​​abolishing or at least reducing US military involvement in Sinai occasionally arises, first for reasons of saving or isolation, and now to adhere with the new administration policy. This worries Israel especially related to the possibility of a regime change in Cairo.

Gen. (Ret.) Amos Yadlin a former general in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) and head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate

said that the US plan to withdraw its unit from the MFO is not good for Israel. “This body gives stability to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. It’s a symbolic force but in case of a political change in Egypt this force will help a new government to explain why it refrains from going to war with Israel”.

He added that Israel must oppose the American plan.