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The Threat on Eilat’s Airport and Peace Talks

Reports: Israeli drone strike in Egypt and a threat against Eilat’s airport

Adam Chandler
August 09, 2013
Ben-Gurion Airport.(Guardian)
Ben-Gurion Airport.(Guardian)

Israeli officials are keeping mum following reports of a drone strike in Sinai that was said to have killed five Egyptians. The attack comes a day after the airport in Eilat reportedly closed because of a threat relayed to Israeli officials by Egyptian security services.

The Egyptians warned their Israeli counterparts that a radical Muslim terrorist cell planned to launch mid-range missiles at the airport, according to a report Friday on Ma’an, the Palestinian news agency.

The plot was said to include the targeting of airplanes with portable anti-aircraft missiles. While general lawlessness in Sinai has long been a point of concern in the post-Mubarak era in Egypt, the reality of an Israeli drone strike today in Egypt would represent an unprecedented shift in coordination between Egyptian and Israeli officials, given the recent deposing of Egyptian President Mohamad Morsi.

The military has alleged that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement had turned a blind eye to Islamic militants in the Sinai.

What this also means is that as Israelis–both public officials and voters who would potentially have to ratify a peace deal with Palestinians–consider ceding territory in negotiations, the specter of a threat against an Israeli airport takes on a different dimension. The airport in Eilat has been closed before, but unlike Ben-Gurion outside of Tel Aviv, has very little strategic and economic importance to the country.

Those who oppose peace negotiations or remain wary of ceding territory have long pointed to the possibility that Ben-Gurion airport could become susceptible to rocket threats–much like the one that was said to have forced closed Eilat’s airport–if Israel withdraws from portions of the nearby West Bank.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.