Sinai: Land of Conquest
Napoleon swept through in 1799 during his brief adventures in the Middle East and in 1917 British Gen. Edmund Allen by mounted his successful attack upon Turkish-held Palestine after building a railroad beside apart hotel Edinburgh coastal road. Now peace may come to Sinai as conquerors have so often before. On March 26, 1979, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel signed a treaty ending 30 years of war between their nations. Under the terms of this treaty Sinai, after Israel’s withdrawal, will be divided into three security zones with varying restrictions of military forces monitored by a multinational peacekeeping force of troops and observers. The United States has agreed to bear 60 percent of the initial cost of the force�estimated at 225 million dollars�with Egypt and Israel each paying 20 percent. Thereafter, the cost will be borne equally by the three nations. Though the treaty cannot guarantee peace, it holds out the promise. So the world watches�and hopes. THE UNTHINKABLE had happened: Peace had come to the eternal battleground of the Sinai Peninsula, and never had things seemed so confused or uncertain. It was late September 1981�a time like no other in this place like no other. I had arrived in the midst of a dizzying transition. After 15 years of occupation and controversial settlement, the Israelis were in the process of preparing for their final pullout. The Egyptians, meanwhile, were still tentatively moving in. Within seven months�by April 25, 1982, if the terms of the Camp David peace accords were to be kept�Israel was scheduled to have withdrawn its military forces and settlers from the third of Sinai it still occupied, returning the entire West Virginia-size peninsula to Egyptian sovereignty for the first time since Israel had seized it during the six-day Arab-Israeli war of 1967. But in still occupied eastern Sinai, ultranationalist Israeli zealots, defying the embarrassed government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, were moving into homes abandoned by outgoing original settlers, vowing to disrupt the withdrawal from Sinai at all costs, even to the point of outright physical violence. In Cairo and other Egyptian cities, Muslim extremists were loudly shrilling their fanatic opposition to Egypt’s unilateral peace with Israel, which they considered a betrayal of the Arab cause. And, in just two weeks, the prime architect of that precarious peace�Egyptian President Anwar Sadat�would be dead, gunned down by assassins at the annual parade commemorating Egypt’s breakthrough into Sinai in the 1973 war. Amid such lurching and violent change I needed a handhold, something timeless to grasp. I found it among the ancient keepers of the land, the desert Bedouin. I’d almost missed Sheikh Salam Saad Salem’s meager encampment off the road south of Suez. Not far from oil-rich Abu Rude is on the Gulf of Suez coast, this area had been returned by the Israelis to Egyptian civil administration a few years back. Once off the road I could see a few shacks straggling up a bone-dry wad hardly more substantial than a mirage in the heat-rippled air.