(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Egyptian-Israeli peace, now entering its 40th year, could be “warmer” and “reach the street level” in Egypt were Israel able to conclude a peace deal with the Palestinians, Egyptian Ambassador Hazem Khairat said on Wednesday.
Khairat’s rare public comments came at The Jerusalem Post’s annual diplomatic conference. He arrived in Israel some 11 months ago, the first resident Egyptian ambassador in Israel since 2012.
The ambassador said that he frequently hears Israelis ask why the peace deal, which began 39 years ago this month with Anwar Sadat’s historic trip to Jerusalem, has not filtered down to the people in Egypt.
“My answer is that this peace can certainly be warm, and reach more people, if we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a just and comprehensive peace,” he said. “A viable two-state solution is the only way this conflict can be brought to an end, and it is still available and possible.”
Though former defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said at the conference, just before the ambassador spoke, that it was clear that the Israeli-Palestinians situation was not a root cause of instability in the region, Khairat said it was a major issue.
“Frankly, I have to say that a Palestinian state is one of the most pressing regional; issues and must be prioritized,” he said.
He added that Egypt was “deeply concerned that the recent bill on settlement outposts will be a prelude to legalizing Israeli settlements,” which he said “undermine” peace-making efforts.
Khairat said that the 2002 Arab peace initiative, calling for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines and a full normalization of ties with the Arab states, remained the “most practical way” toward reaching a solution.
According to the ambassador, the Egyptian- Israeli peace marked a “turning point” in the region.
“Egypt is committed to the peace with Israel,” he said. “In retrospect, four decades ago probably very few people would have imagined the resilience of the Israeli-Egyptian peace, and the two countries’ abilities to overcome many difficulties.”