News / Middle East

Egypt-Israel Ties Are Stronger Than They Appear

A Palestinian prints posters in preparation for a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel, in Gaza City, October 16, 2011.
A Palestinian prints posters in preparation for a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel, in Gaza City, October 16, 2011.
Elizabeth Arrott

Egypt's mediation of a deal swapping Palestinian prisoners for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is the interim military government's first successful foray into high-profile foreign affairs.

The move appears to counter predictions that Israel's ties with post-revolution Egypt would founder.  

The prisoner exchange deal represents a diplomatic coup for Egypt's military, and Israel has thanked its neighbor for "the central role" it played in bringing it about.  

The warm words are a stark change after the tensions of the past months, which included Israel's killing of five Egyptian border guards, a retaliatory riot and attack of Israel's embassy in Cairo, and the fleeing of the Israeli ambassador from the country.    

On top of these troubles, Israel has been alarmed by the rise of Islamists in Egypt since former president Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February. During his time in power, Israel's long-time ally had suppressed Islamists, some of whom killed his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in part for signing a peace treaty with Israel.  

Enduring relations

But even with those concerns, Egyptian-Israeli relations may be less fragile than they appear.  

At a fundamentalist rally in downtown Cairo this week, the man who spent 30 years in prison for plotting Sadat's assassination argues that the peace treaty should be preserved.    

Aboud el Zomor said Egypt needs to remain committed to the deal to achieve stability. The recently released ringleader speaks now in lawyerly terms, saying "there are mechanisms within the treaty itself" that allow for modifications. He adds there is a platform for talks on such key issues as economic and social relations.  

Others in Cairo, including the nation's military rulers - the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, or SCAF - share that pragmatism.   

Closing tunnels

Egyptian political analyst and publisher Hisham Kassem points to the SCAF's dealings with the illegal supply tunnels between Egypt and the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip. The tunnels were an open secret in the Mubarak years, undermining Egypt's nominal promise to keep the borders to the blockaded territory, with its anti-Israeli militants, closed.    

"The policy now seems to be much more rational because SCAF has even acquired new equipment to destroy the tunnels and put an end to that, and started opening the border again in a sensible and regular way," said Kassem.

Kassem believes such "sensible" policies will continue, no matter who is elected to succeed Egypt's military government.  

"The next president is not really going to be the commander-in-chief. The commander-in-chief will be within the army, even unofficially, and the military knows the cost of war and the consequences of one. So if we were to get a government and a president who want to go to war, the military will not go along," said Kassem.

Maintaining peace

Kassem argues that, if nothing else, war would be too expensive - he cites a figure of $100 billion - and would cut Egypt off from Israel's western allies and their much-needed aid.  

Also, public support for conflict with Israel appears slim.

Despite frequently expressed anti-Israel sentiment, recent opinion surveys indicate some 75 percent of Egyptians want to keep the peace treaty with Israel intact. Most, it appears, favor the status quo in foreign affairs, and simply want to rebuild their own country after decades of authoritarian rule.    

American University in Cairo professor Said Sadek said there may be grudging respect for the Israeli government, which spent five years trying to get their soldier, Gilad Shalit, released.  

"The whole Arab Spring is about domestic issues, you know, turning subjects into citizens. People do not want to be treated like subjects.  They want to be treated like Shalit is being treated by his own government: [that] they care about them," said Sadek.

Sadek argues that Egyptians, too, want that kind of respect and concern from their leaders.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid