Peace is more than just expressing a willingness to abide by international
treaties, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Tuesday, even as he positively
noted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy’s stated willingness to respect the Camp
Liberman, during a speech at a Tel Aviv legal conference,
called on Morsy to host Israeli representatives, agree to be interviewed by the
Israeli media and visit Israel.
The foreign minister’s comments were in
response to an interview Morsy granted Reuters Monday, saying he would abide by
all international treaties, including the Egypt-Israel peace accord.
was the Islamist president’s first interview with an international news
organization, and was carried out on the eve of his visit to China and
“Egypt is now a civilian state... a national, democratic,
constitutional, modern state,” he said. “International relations between all
states are open and the basis for all relations is balance. We are not against
anyone but we are for achieving our interests,” said the American-educated
engineer, appearing confident and assertive in the marble-lined presidential
Morsy, who refrained throughout the interview from mentioning
Israel by name, indicated it had nothing to fear from a new military campaign in
the Sinai Peninsula, which he ordered after terrorists attacked an Egyptian
border post earlier this month, killed 16 guards and tried to burst across the
frontier into Israel.
“Egypt is practicing its very normal role on its
soil and does not threaten anyone, and there should not be any kind of
international or regional concerns at all from the presence of Egyptian security
forces,” he said, referring to the extra weaponry, police, army and other forces moved to the
The military campaign was in “full respect to international
treaties,” he said. The Egypt- Israel peace deal includes strict limits on
Egyptian military deployment in Sinai, and Israeli officials complained earlier
this month that Egypt was moving weaponry and forces into Sinai without Israeli
approval as designated in the treaty.
Morsy would not say if he would
meet Israeli officials.
Deposed president Hosni Mubarak regularly
received top officials, although he only went to Israel once as president, for
the funeral of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Liberman, in Israel’s
only formal reaction to Morsy’s comments, said he was “happy to hear” the new
president talk about “Egypt’s commitment to peace with Israel, to the Camp David
treaty and the struggle against terrorism. That is a very important message.”
But, the foreign minister continued, anyone talking about peace and security
needs to understand that this cannot just be something theoretical and abstract.
“Peace also has tangible expressions,” he said. “Peace is not a
Therefore, he added, “we hope to see President
Morsy host official Israeli representatives; we want to see him give interviews
to the Israeli press, and we want to see him in Jerusalem as the guest of
President [Shimon] Peres.”
Liberman made it a point in his speech to note
the role the US has played in maintaining equilibrium in Israeli-Egyptian ties
during the current sensitive time.
“We need to thank our friend the US,
which over the recent period – a very sensitive time – did very important, even
critical, work,” he said. In addition to passing messages between the sides, the
United States also acted as a “shock absorber” during this rocky
“If there is regular communication between Israel and Egypt, the
US has a large role in that,” Liberman said. Diplomatic officials said that the
US Embassy in Cairo played an essential role over the last few months, and has
been in very close contact with the Israeli Embassy in Egypt.
emphasis on “balance” during his interview, as well as his choice of China as
his first destination outside of the region, suggest to some that he is seeking
a less explicitly pro-American role in the region. In an effort to increase
Egypt’s role in regional affairs, he has called for dialogue between Egypt,
Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran to find a way to stop the bloodshed in
Notably, the initiative has been welcomed by Iran, the only
country in the group that supports Syrian President Bashar Assad.
his interview, Morsy gave a particularly strong call for Assad to be removed
from power, suggesting that he is comfortable taking a high profile role in
regional affairs. It is a message he will take on his trip to Iran and China,
which along with Russia, are the main countries backing Assad.
the time to stop this bloodshed, and for the Syrian people to regain their full
rights, and for this regime that kills its people to disappear from the scene,”
“There is no room to talk about reform, but the discussion is
about change,” Morsy said, adding Egypt had repeated that “the friends of the
Syrian people in China and Russia and other states” need to back ordinary
Syrians. However, Morsy said he opposed foreign military action in Syria “in any
In what could be an important sign of a shift in the region,
Morsy’s visit to Iran this week will be the first by an Egyptian leader since
Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. The two countries broke off diplomatic relations
at the time over Egypt’s support for the ousted Iranian Shah and its peace with
Israel, and have yet to formally restore ties.
Officially, Morsy’s visit
is to attend the summit of the 120- nation Non-Aligned Movement, and he would
not be drawn into whether Egypt would resume full diplomatic ties with
Asked whether he saw a threat from Iran, Morsy said: “We see that
all the countries in the region need stability and peaceful coexistence with
each other. This cannot be achieved with wars but through political work and
special relations between the countries of the region.”
After Iran, Morsy
will travel in September to the US, which still gives the Egyptian military $1.3
billion in aid a year.