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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy 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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid