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

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora