Levanon formally takes up envoy’s post in ‘chilly’ Cairo

Veteran diplomat and fluent Arabic speaker born in Lebanon has served previously as Israel’s envoy to the UN institutions in Geneva.

Israel’s new ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon presented his credentials Sunday to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a ceremony at which some 20 other new ambassadors formally took up their posts in Cairo.
Levanon did not have a conversation with Mubarak.
Levanon, a veteran diplomat and fluent Arabic speaker born in Lebanon, has served previously as Israel’s envoy to the UN institutions in Geneva, the consul general in Boston, and a diplomatic adviser at the embassy in Paris.
According to diplomatic officials, Levanon has his work cut out for him in Cairo since the Egyptian establishment – reflective of the tone of the relations between the two countries – is very cool and correct with the embassy.
Moreover, Jerusalem does not see the embassy as a central player in its relations with Cairo. Rather, Jerusalem’s ties with Cairo are generally run directly by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry.
A good example of this took place earlier in the month when National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, according to a report in Haaretz, flew to Cairo and met with Egyptian officials without informing Levanon – who has been serving as acting ambassador for weeks – of the visit beforehand, or briefing him about it afterward.
Levanon’s predecessor, Shalom Cohen, also complained from time to time that he was being bypassed by the Prime Minister’s Office and Defense Ministry, which managed the relationship with Cairo at the top levels.
Diplomatic officials admitted that Levanon’s job has not been madeeasier by the animosity the Egyptian establishment has toward ForeignMinister Avigdor Lieberman for insulting comments he has made aboutMubarak in the past. Lieberman has since backtracked from the comments.
Levanon does not have open access to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry,with one official saying this was because of the overall chill in theofficial nature of the relations, compounded by the enmity of theEgyptian foreign policy establishment toward Lieberman.
Levanon’s mother was tortured and sentenced to death in Lebanon in 1961for spying for Israel, and was released in 1967 as part of a prisonerexchange after the Six Day War.