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How is the Israel-Palestinian Conflict Affecting Egypt's Relations with Israel? - 2002-04-03

Egypt is cutting some contacts with Israel while maintaining diplomatic channels aimed at achieving peace in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Some political analysts say Egypt's move will likely not satisfy angry protesters demanding a complete severing of ties.

In a move that some political analysts say amounts to nothing, Egypt's cabinet Wednesday decided to cut direct contacts with Israel except diplomatic channels that would serve the Palestinian question and the issue of peace in the region.

A senior Egyptian official was quoted as saying the move did not effect diplomatic relations in the two countries.

The relationship between Israel and Egypt has, at best, been chilly over the past several years with little more than diplomatic relations.

Egypt is one of three Arab countries including Jordan and Mauritania that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel. All three Arab states have been under intense pressure from angry citizens and protesters to cut all ties with Israel.

Israeli embassy spokesman Madav Cohen in Cairo said the embassy would have no comment until it was officially informed of the move.

Hassan Nafae, who heads the political science department at Cairo University, told VOA the action is symbolic and has very little meaning.

Mr. Nafae said the cabinet's decision might, in fact, only further anger Egyptians who have been calling on the government to take harsh action against Israel for its role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Protesters at several universities throughout Egypt have been demanding the government expel the Israeli ambassador to Egypt and freeze its peace treaty with Israel.

Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Jordan is the only other.

In November 2000, Egypt recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv to protest its handling of the Palestinian intifada. Israel has kept its ambassador in Cairo.