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Egypt and Israel after the embassy

Egypt told Israel to allow its ambassador to take a holiday, but it didn't. Then the embassy was attacked, say officials

Dina Ezzat , Monday 12 Sep 2011
Israel
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"For Israel, good relations, even in the context of the so called 'cold peace', are a very serious matter; it is much more important than relations with Turkey or the situation in Syria, and for us in Egypt keeping peaceful relations with Israel is essential and there is no doubt about it," said an Egyptian diplomat who asked for his name to be withheld.

He added that the US, the guarantor of the Egypt-Israel peace, is also "very serious about avoiding any rupture in relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv, especially now with so many anti-Israeli sentiments being expressed all over the region".

The tension, however, is not to be underestimated. Israel, according to Western diplomats in Cairo, is complaining a lot about the vibes of animosity that are being increasingly voiced against its limited presence in Cairo.

The consecutive angry demonstrations in front of the Israeli Embassy in Giza, to protest the killing of six Egyptian border guards last month by the Israeli army, who violated Egyptian territorial sovereignty, and the taking down of the Israeli flag twice in less than four weeks is making the government of Binyamin Netanyahu very uncomfortable.

"The Israelis tell us they know that the Egyptian authorities are committed to peace with Israel, but they are not sure how far the public anger could go, and how much it would influence the decisions of the authorities towards Israel," the same diplomat added.

According to identical accounts offered by Egyptian officials and foreign diplomats in Cairo, Egypt had asked Israel before the developments of last Friday to keep the Israeli ambassador in Tel Aviv and to reduce the volume of its staff to the minimum, but Netanyahu insisted on sending the ambassador back only a few days before the latest protest.

"We are not expelling him, but we thought a long holiday for the Israeli ambassador in Egypt would be useful for all of us now; unfortunately, Israel thought otherwise and when anger erupted on Friday evening they had to solicit the intervention of the Americans who sent a plane to carry him and the rest of the staff out of Egypt," said one official.

Today, there is a tacit agreement between Egypt and Israel that the long holiday for the ambassador is in place and there are guarantees offered by Cairo to both Washington and Tel Aviv that stepped up security measures will be in place to prevent another attack on the embassy.

Meanwhile, Egypt is insisting that Israel should proceed faster with its investigation in the killing of Egyptian border guards – despite Israeli hesitation and complaints about the attack on its embassy.

"We are telling the Israelis that the authorities have to tell the public that it did not turn a blind eye to the killing of Egyptian soldiers," the same official added.

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