'Egypt doesn't seek war; cold peace to get brittle'

Former envoy to Cairo Yitzhak Levanon says Islamist President Mursi will likely want to re-open the peace treaty with Israel.

Protesters burn an Israeli flag 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)
Protesters burn an Israeli flag 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)
If there were only minimal cultural and economic ties under former president Hosni Mubarak, there will be even less now, former Israeli envoy to Cairo Yitzhak Levanon said Monday.
However, Levanon said, Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi would likely not be the same Mursi who was, until recently, a noted Muslim Brotherhood activist.
Levanon, who was evacuated from Cairo along with his staff following the ransacking of the embassy there in September, predicted that there would not be a war with Egypt.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion at Netanya Academic College’s Center for Strategic Dialogue, Levanon – who retired from the foreign ministry in November – said that not only were the Egyptian masses not interested in returning to confrontation with Israel, but neither were the Egyptian elite, nor even the Islamists.
Nevertheless, he said Mursi will likely want to reopen the peace treaty with Israel, including the military annex that regulates the number and quality of troops Egypt can have in Sinai. However, he added, any readjustment in the treaty will need Israel’s approval.
Mursi, the former diplomat said, “will not cancel the peace treaty with Israel, in part because the agreement rests on three legs, including the Americans in connection to the economic assistance Washington gives Cairo.”
Levanon said Mursi will himself focus on the daunting economic and social challenges facing Egypt, including reassuring the liberals in the country worried not only about their status, but also about their physical security.
Since the embassy was ransacked in September, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt Yaakov Amitai has been working out of a private home in Cairo, as Israel has not found a suitable location for its embassy.
Levanon said there are landlords who don’t want to rent property to Israel; others who do, but whose properties do not meet Israel’s security requirements; and still others who have properties that fit the bill from a security standpoint, but who – as a result – are asking rental prices so high that it would be possible to “buy an entire neighborhood.”
According to the former ambassador, were the Egyptians interested in finding a building for Israel, then they would do so.
“But someone who doesn’t want to dance, always says the rug is crooked,” Levanon quipped.