PM: We can't rush diplomacy amid Mideast upheavals

EU ambassador: An agreement with the Palestinians would remove Israel as an issue on the Egyptian street.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
As unrest continued in Egypt on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said those calling on Israel to move quickly with the Palestinians had their heads “buried in the sand.”
Netanyahu, in an address to the Knesset, said those who urged him to “seize the opportunity and rush into an agreement” were wrong.
“We can’t know who will end up with any piece of territory we give up. Reality is changing all the time, and if you don’t see it, your head is buried in the sand,” the prime minister said.
Just before he spoke, EU Ambassador to Israel Andrew Standley said at a press briefing in Jerusalem that it would be wise for Israel to move quickly now and reach an agreement with the Palestinians in order to remove Israel as an issue on the Egyptian street.
While at the beginning of the year Israel was barely mentioned among the protesters in Egypt, that situation has now changed, he said. Standley argued that it was important to push the peace process forward, to ensure that the lack of a peace process won’t be an additional “disturbing fact” in the Arab world.
Unaware of Standley’s comment, but keenly aware of the sentiment of his remarks, which he has heard repeatedly over the past few months from European interlocutors, Netanyahu told the Knesset, “Last February, I stood on this stage as millions of Egyptians took to the streets of Cairo, and my friends in the opposition explained that this is a new time of liberalism and modernity. When I said that, despite our hopes, it’s more likely that an Islamist, anti-America, anti-Israel wave will come, I was told that I’m trying to scare people and I don’t understand where things are going.
“Well, things are going somewhere. They’re going backwards, not forwards,” he said. “I’m looking at reality, not hopes and wishes.”
It was already clear that his “careful attitude was correct, smart and responsible,” Netanyahu said.
As Israel faced regional instability, it must deal with facts and not give in to hopes, he said.
Government officials, meanwhile, said Israel was carefully monitoring the volatile situation in Egypt.
“We can only hope that as Egypt moves forward with its process of political reform, that the people governing it will honor the peace treaty with Israel,” one official said.
The need to do so, US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said during a visit to Kiryat Gat, was something Washington was consistently raising with Cairo, reminding the Egyptian leaders that preserving the treaty was not only important for Israel and Egypt, but also for US interests in the Middle East.
Government officials said that, over the past few weeks, there had been good communications with the now-embattled transitional government in Cairo.
“If Israel has concern, it is not about the current [Egyptian] government, which has proven itself committed to peace. We faced serious challenges, but dealt with them effectively,” the officials said.
Among those challenges have been the terrorist attack near Eilat that was staged from Sinai in August, the ransacking of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in September, the Gilad Schalit swap mediated by Egypt and the imprisonment and later release by Egypt in a prisoner swap of American-Israeli Ilan Grapel.