Livni, Gheit to patch up relationship

Israeli and Egyptian FMs to meet for first time since verbal spat over Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels.

Livni Jordani Egypt FMs (photo credit: AP)
Livni Jordani Egypt FMs
(photo credit: AP)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will meet Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit in London on Friday. The meeting between the two is the first of its kind since tensions ebbed following criticism from Livni over Egypt's handling of the smuggling threat along the Philadelphi Corridor in the southern Gaza Strip; criticism that drew a harsh response from Gheit. Diplomatic officials confirmed Tuesday that the purpose of the meeting was to patch up the working relationship between the two. The foreign minister's remarks came during a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting in December 2007 after Likud MK Yuval Steinitz charged that her decision to prevent the US Congress from watching video footage of Egyptian soldiers assisting Hamas smugglers was a "major mistake." "As published in The Jerusalem Post , Israel could have scored a major victory with the US Congress, and [could have] persuaded them that Egypt is incapable of defending the Gaza border," Steinitz told Livni. "But the Foreign Ministry intervened with no suitable explanation." In response, Livni said, "Some things are done on stage, some are done in Congress and some other things are done behind the scenes. Every move needs to be calculated. To take an extreme scenario, would you sever relations with Egypt over weapons smuggling?" Livni told the committee about the Foreign Ministry's activities during the last half of 2007. "Egypt played a positive role in Annapolis," she said. "But this does not negate the fact that their performance on the Gaza border is awful and problematic. The weapons smuggling lowers the chances that pragmatic factions in Gaza and the West Bank will regain control." Responding to Livni's statements, Gheit said that "It would be better if the Israeli minister did not run on about matters that she does not know enough about." In a television interview quoted by Egypt's official news agency MENA, Gheit said 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." Herb Keinon and Sheera Claire Frenkel contributed to this report