'Israel-Egypt ties never been better, yet don't expect Sisi trip to Jerusalem'

The domestic Egyptian situation and the lack of progress in resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict has thus far prevented a visit by Sisi to the Jewish state.

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September 4, 2015 05:23
2 minute read.
An IDF tank takes position along Israel's border with Egypt's North Sinai

An IDF tank takes position along Israel's border with Egypt's North Sinai. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Relations between Egypt and Israel are at their “best,” perhaps the best they’ve ever been, because of ongoing security coordination, a high-level Egyptian source said.

Even though President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is not going to visit the Jewish state anytime soon, there is ongoing security coordination related to the war against terrorist organizations near the border with Israel, the Iraqi daily Azzaman quoted the source on Wednesday as saying.

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This includes Israel’s granting permission to Egypt to position greater military force in the Sinai than permitted in the 1979 peace treaty, the source added.

An Egyptian presidential source quoted in the article said that the domestic situation in his country and the lack of progress in resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict prevented a visit to the Jewish state.

Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt and is currently a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a contributor to this newspaper, said that the Azzaman article is interesting, since the Egyptian sources not only abstained from using negative language regarding Israel, but also praised the good relations between the countries.

Security cooperation is undoubtedly very important for Egypt, he said, since it is wrestling with persistent Islamic terrorism that prevents Sisi from directing all of his energy and resources to economic development.

“This cooperation is also important to Israel, given that the terrorists operate very close to the Israeli border,” observed Mazel.

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As for a possible Sisi visit to Israel, Mazal said, “No one here expected it to occur in the present circumstances. Perhaps after the Egyptian president stabilizes the domestic situation, it could be possible to warm economic ties with Israel.”

Regarding the advantages of importing gas from Israel discussed in the article, Mazel noted that the supply of Israeli gas to Egypt would address a very urgent Egyptian energy need.

“Egypt is still the most important Arab country, and its stability and prosperity are important to all of the countries bordering the Mediterranean basin,” he pointed out.

Prof. Hillel Frisch, of Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that relations with Egypt “are quickly modeling the traditional relationship between Israel and Jordan – excellent security cooperation, but as far from the public eye as possible.

“Egypt maintains excellent security ties over Sinai and Hamas,” he said, while noting that Egypt made sure to refrain from inviting Israel to the festivities surrounding the inauguration of the expansion of the Suez Canal last month.

“The key difference between the Israeli-Egyptian relationship compared to the Jordanian-Israeli case lies in the consistency of such a relationship. Egypt is far too ambitious and too competitive with Israel to maintain such a relationship in the long term,” Frisch argued.

Any improvement in the Cairo-Jerusalem relationship as a result of success in the counter-insurgency effort in Sinai could be offset by the successful development of the massive gas field discovered off Egypt’s coast. This could lead Egypt into a more competitive relationship with the Jewish state, concluded Frisch.

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