Officials hope Egyptian envoy attends event to mark 30 years of peace; Bible Lands invitation spurned.
By BRENDA GAZZAR
Foreign Ministry officials are hoping that Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Reda will attend a reception on Wednesday to celebrate three decades of peace between the two countries but say he has yet to accept the invitation. The envoy has already declined an invitation to the opening of a Bible Lands Museum exhibit on Egypt.
"He has known about [the Foreign Ministry reception] for some time, [yet] we still have no confirmation," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. "Obviously, when you want to commemorate and celebrate an anniversary of the peace treaty, you are supposed to do it with the presence of both parties concerned. This should be an opportunity for common celebration, for Israel and Egypt. Peace has greatly served the interest of both countries, and both peoples, obviously, should celebrate it."
As of Thursday, the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv had not received instructions from Cairo regarding the Foreign Ministry reception, an Egyptian official said.
He declined to state whether the government's hesitation had anything to do with the likelihood that Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman would become Israel's next foreign minister. He said things would become clear within the coming days.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki, speaking to DPA on Thursday, said, "We don't have any information suggesting that the ambassador to Israel will boycott the celebrations. Why should he?"
Similarly, Israel's Foreign Ministry also released a statement on Thursday stating that the Reda gave no indication that Egypt would boycott the planned reception in a meeting he held with officials this week.
In addition to the reception, the ministry is also holding a seminar on Wednesday morning commemorating the anniversary. Reda is also invited to attend this event, the statement said.
Lieberman said last year that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "can go to hell" if he doesn't want to visit Israel, and has suggested that, in the event of war, Israel should bomb Egypt's Aswan dam. He has been called racist by Egyptian and other Arab officials.
When asked about Lieberman on Wednesday, Zaki told The Jerusalem Post that it was too early too comment, noting that a new Israeli government had yet to be formed. But he did say that Egypt was "following closely what is going on and we are concerned that if this government is going to be taking positions that will not support the peace process and the two-state solution, this will bring us all back to Square One, and it will be a really unfortunate thing to happen."
Zaki also said that Egypt's relationship with Israel was based on the 1979 peace treaty signed between the two countries, an obligation that he said Cairo did not take lightly.
"It is a relationship that has been defined very carefully and Egypt stands by its obligation and legal commitments," Zaki said. "The question is whether the new Israeli government is going to be supportive of the peace process and the two-state solution."
On Monday, following reports of a Netanyahu-Lieberman deal, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit was quoted in the Arab press as saying that the "emergence of an extreme right-wing government in Israel" was a "negative factor that might cause damage" to the peace process.
If such a government "implemented what they have spoken about in recent years, we will face great difficulties," he said.
Separately, the Egyptian Embassy has notified the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem that Reda and his wife will not attend the opening of a new exhibit on Sunday evening called "Echoes of Egypt," a museum spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday.
The exhibit includes photographs, lithographs and prints from 19th-century Egypt, as well as maps that date back to the 16th century. "They declined the invitation," said Amanda Weiss, managing director of the Bible Lands Museum. She could not say why.
Danny Kyram, a retired Foreign Ministry official who collected some of the artwork for the exhibit, said he was not surprised that Egyptian officials were not planning to attend. "I don't see that the relationship as so warm that they want to share cultural activities," he said.
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