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On a formal level, since the aid package is not officially part of the Camp David accords, withholding assistance would not serve as a legal excuse for suspending Egypt’s commitments under the peace treaty.
Experts believe the peace treaty will survive a downgrade in American-Egyptian ties, mainly because maintaining peaceful relations with Israel is no less in Egypt’s interest than it is in the interest of Israel and the United States.
“The reason there is no armed conflict between Egypt and Israel is that [the Egyptians] think they’ll lose,” May said. “That understanding is what leads Egypt to keep its peace with Israel.”
Other observers agree that most parties in Egypt do not question the peace treaty with Israel because of the international and military price Egypt will have to pay for violating it. “I have no doubt the Egyptians will continue to honor the peace treaty with Israel because it is seen as good for Egypt,” Bannerman said.
American aid to Egypt, supporters of continuing assistance say, not only strengthens the Camp David accords but also empowers those who believe in peace with Israel. “Aid itself doesn’t promise anything,” Feith said, “but if you maintain the aid, it helps those who want to maintain the treaty with Israel.”
But Aaron Miller, a former State Department peace negotiator who now serves as vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, fears that cutting Egyptian aid would send a problematic message to Israel as it attempts to reach a similar accord with the Palestinians. That’s because, he argues, if America suspended foreign aid to Egypt, it may indicate that America cannot be trusted to keep its side of any deal.
“What would be Israel’s ability to make concessions on the Palestinian front if the bulwark of support for peace on the Egyptian front begins to break?” Miller asked.
Contact Nathan Guttman at email@example.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman