Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy: Ministry of Finance spokesperson)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz was known for years as a “prophet of doom”
regarding Israel’s relations with Egypt, but now that those ties have
deteriorated, he declined an opportunity to gloat.
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Steinitz spoke about
Egypt for the first time since last Thursday’s terrorist attacks on the
Israeli-Egyptian border and the demonstrations outside Israel’s embassy in Cairo
intensified. He downplayed his years of intense criticism of Egypt and called
for calming the situation with Israel’s southern neighbor.
criticize Egypt in the past, particularly on the issues of smuggling weapons
into the Gaza Strip and incitement against Israel in their education system and
their media,” Steinitz said.
“I had demanded that Egypt be pressured to
take action to stop these problems, because our peace with Egypt is so
important. Now Egypt is in a sensitive time, and we must do everything possible
to maintain our relations, which are so critical strategically.”
has left the job of censuring Egypt this week to another fierce critic of the
country over the years, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Steinitz never called for bombing the Aswan damn as Lieberman did, he sounded
warning bells about Egypt in every possible forum for more than a
“Egypt is a serious threat to Israel,” he was quoted as saying in
2001. “It is preparing for possible war against Israel.”
He estimated at
the time that Egypt’s defense expenditures in real terms increased 15 to 25
percent per year since the 1990s, despite the Oslo agreements Israel signed with
the Palestinians. He charged repeatedly that Egypt had not honored key clauses
in its peace agreement with Israel, including building economic ties and
stopping anti-Israel incitement.
In 2005, as chairman of the Knesset
Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, he suggested that Egypt was intentionally
avoiding fighting arms smuggling in Sinai as a means of getting military forces
back into the peninsula.
“Egypt has been allowing terrorist groups
operating out of Gaza to smuggle in missiles,” he said. “It is a mistake for
Israel to view Syria as its principal enemy, while neglecting the threat to the
South just because Israel maintains diplomatic relations with Egypt.”