Despite tensions, Israel keen to build ties with post-revolution Egypt

Dina Ezzat, Thursday 28 Apr 2011

Israel is attempting to move beyond the chill in relations with Egypt, caused by its fierce hostility to the Egyptian revolution and defence of the Mubarak regime

Ousted Egyptian ex-President Hosni Mubarak shaking hands with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Cairo, July 2010, (AP).

Israel has been protesting through the diplomatic channels of the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv what it describes as anti-Israeli statements made by some Egyptian officials, an diplomatic source told Ahram Online.

Statements made by Deputy Prime Minister Yehia El-Gamal alluding to Israeli "fingers in the mess" of Coptic-Muslim sensitivities have provoked protest by Israel.

Tel Aviv was equally perturbed by El-Gamal’s accusation that Israel was part of attempts to counter the January 25 Revolution through incitement.

However, despite these protests, concerned Egyptian officials affirm that Israel is showing "a clear keenness" to build bridges with the new rulers in Cairo.

During the past five weeks some five Israeli delegations have visited Cairo for talks with the new team.

Murad Mowafi, the new head of Egyptian Intelligence who took over from the once highly influential Omar Soliman, was the destination of every Israeli delegation.

Foreign Minister Nabil El-Arabi has also received visiting Israeli officials. Israel is particularly apprehensive about El-Arabi in view of his past opposition to what he views as exaggerated compromises made by the regimes of late president Anwar Sadat and toppled president Hosni Mubarak towards Israel.

"We are expecting more visits in the future," said the same official source.

During their visits to Cairo, Israeli delegations have been asking "many questions" on what Egypt has in mind for the future of relations with Israel, according to sources who took part in some of these meetings.

The same sources added that Cairo affirmed its commitment to forge ahead with the peace between the two neighbouring countries. The interim Egyptian regime also made clear that it is not blocking the continuation of private deals between Egyptian and Israeli businesses.

Meanwhile, the same sources added, the Israeli delegations have been made concessions as a sign of Tel Aviv’s wish to continue good relations with Egypt. "As a goodwill gesture, Israel agreed to a standing Egyptian request to increase the military presence on the eastern borders [linking Egypt to Israel and Gaza]" beyond the numbers stipulated in the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.

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