Former Ambassador: Israel-Egypt ties unhurt

Israel’s former envoy to Egypt Shalom Cohen says while Morsi distanced itself, the countries cooperate on practical matters.

Border between Israel, Egypt 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Border between Israel, Egypt 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
WASHINGTON – Ties between Israel and Egypt have not been seriously hurt following the rise of an Islamist-led government in Cairo, according to Israel’s former envoy to the country.
“Relations between Israel and Egypt have not really suffered with the change of regime in Egypt,” assessed former Israeli ambassador to Egypt Shalom Cohen, at an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Friday.
He said that while the political leadership, headed by President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has distanced itself from Israel, the countries continue to work closely on practical matters.
“Gone are the days – temporarily, I hope – when the Egyptian president will pick up the phone to chat with his Israeli counterpart, or even invite him for lunch at his palace,” he acknowledged.
But, he continued, “While Egypt’s approach is frosty at the leadership level, it is almost business as usual at the working level.”
Cohen pointed to ties between the two militaries and foreign ministries, and that intelligence contacts are continuing unchanged under the new government, with ongoing partnership over border issues, terrorism, smuggling and certain economic issues.
Even if the Muslim Brotherhood was to further consolidate power, Cohen said he expected that the operational relationship was likely to continue in the same vein.
Last month’s violence in Gaza, in which Morsi pursued a cease-fire rather than intensifying the conflict, was one sign of this enduring interest, Cohen suggested.
“There is an understanding that the peace process is one of the pillars of the stability of Egypt, Israel and the region,” he said.
Cohen described Israel’s two principles in handling the changes in government in the region as first, not to interfere in the internal politics of other countries, and second, to preserve the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
So far, he stressed, the treaty has proved durable.