(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, whose statements regarding Egypt last week infuriated Cairo, was completely mum Monday following a sharp counter-attack from Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit.
Apparently in reference to a videotape Israel sent to the US to prove Egyptian collusion with smuggling of arms and terrorists into Gaza, Gheit said in a television interview quoted by the MENA news agency that if Israel continued "to push and try to affect Egypt's relationship with the US and harm Egyptian interests, Egypt will certainly respond and will try to damage their interests."
Gheit was quoted as saying that Egypt had "capabilities in every direction" that "may inflict profound damage."
The Prime Minister's Office directed inquiries about Gheit's statement to Livni's office. But Gil Messing, Livni's spokesman, did not return calls. The Foreign Ministry also had no response.
Livni said in the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week that Egypt's performance on the Gaza border was "awful and problematic" and that the weapons smuggling lowered the chances that pragmatic factions in Gaza and the West Bank would regain control. These comments cast a heavy cloud over Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Egypt last Wednesday.
One diplomatic official said Israel was surprised by Gheit's comments, as he believed that Barak had managed during his trip to put Livni's comments and the videotape issue "behind us."
Two weeks ago, the US House and Senate agreed on a 2008 foreign aid bill that would hold back $100 million in military aid for Egypt, out of a $1.3 billion allocation, unless US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certified that concerns about smuggling weapons into Gaza and human rights abuses had been addressed. It is the first time that Egyptian military aid, supplied since the Camp David Accords, would potentially be restricted, and it has incensed Egypt, which blames Israel for lobbying against it in Washington.
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