Sisi's Egypt appears to draw closer to Israel

"If the media reports are accurate, we will address it bilaterally with Russia and with the other members of the UN Security Council," State Dept. says

Sisi's Egypt appears to draw closer to Israel

World Bulletin / News Desk

Despite their 1979 peace treaty, relations between Egypt and Israel have long remained cold due to the latter’s heavy-handed treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

However, there have been signs of warming Egyptian-Israeli ties since Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014.

Egypt was the first Arab country to recognize Israel after signing a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979.

While Israel is still viewed in a negative light among much of the Egyptian public, recent weeks have seen indications that the two countries are drawing closer.

Last week, Egyptian diplomat Hazem Khairat handed his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, officially becoming Cairo’s first senior emissary to Israel since 2012.

The move came almost four years after former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi withdrew Egypt’s ambassador from Israel to protest a deadly Israeli military offensive against the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Israel, for its part, reopened its embassy in Cairo last year -- four years after it evacuated its diplomatic staff after protesters ransacked the building following the killing of five Egyptian border guards by the Israeli army in the Sinai Peninsula.

Last month, outgoing Israeli ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren praised al-Sisi as an "open-minded" leader.

"Israel respects President Sisi because he is an open-minded president who wants stability for Egypt and the entire region," Koren said, according to a statement published on the embassy’s Arabic-language Facebook page.

Sisi "is fully aware of how the Middle East theater has changed and understands what Egypt and Israel are going through," the diplomat asserted.

Israel first opened its embassy in Cairo in 1980. Egypt opened its embassy in Tel Aviv one month later.

In 1982, Israel completed its withdrawal from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which it occupied during the 1967 Middle East war.

Normalized ties

In the latest sign of improving Egyptian-Israeli ties, outspoken Egyptian lawmaker Tawfiq Okasha last week invited Israeli Ambassador Koren to dinner at his home.

The move, however, drew a storm of outrage across the country and prompted Egypt’s parliament to vote to expel the firebrand MP.

Okasha, who is also a talk show host, also spoke of a planned meeting between Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of an upcoming UN General Assembly meeting in New York.

The Egyptian presidency, however, has not commented on the assertion.

What’s more, the Israeli embassy in Cairo last week invited Egypt for a friendly football match between the national teams of both countries.

The request, however, was rejected by Egypt’s football governing body.

The invitation came shortly after the head of Egypt’s Zamalek football club, Mortada Mansour, was accused of transferring money to the agent of his team’s new striker, Emmanuel Mayuka, through a bank in Israel -- a claim denied by Mansour.

And last month, a delegation of Egyptian journalists visited Israel for talks with Israeli officials.

The visit, however, prompted an uproar in Egypt, with the country’s Journalists Syndicate distancing itself from the visit, saying the journalists were not registered with the union.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 05 Mart 2016, 09:26