In April of this year, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dubbed the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt a “kind of Wild West” after rockets fired from there targeted the resort town of Eilat. According to Netanyahu, the peninsula is exploited by Islamist militants helped by Iran to smuggle weapons and stage attacks on Israel. In August, 16 Egyptian border guards were killed in an attack by Islamist militants who then crossed the border. This is one of a string of violent incidents since Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected president of Egypt in June.
Since the fall of the Mubarak regime, Egypt has had to recalibrate its interactions with Israel and Palestine. The August attack exposed a particular set of vulnerabilities in Egypt’s security policies. The country was already shaken by riots and sectarian violence challenging Morsi’s presidency, and the border incident placed the spotlight on the messy question of who actually controls the country’s national security policy.