Egypt ex-envoy: Don't cancel peace treaty with Israel

Mohamed Basuny, Cairo’s envoy to Israel for 13 years, says deal has reaped untold benefits for both nations.

egypt (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The man who served as Egypt’s ambassador to Israel for over a decade was reported as saying Thursday that the peace treaty between the two countries has brought untold benefits to both Egyptians and Israelis and must under no circumstances be annulled.
In an interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Mohamed Bassiouni said the 1979 peace treaty not only returned the Sinai Peninsula from Israel, but cut Egypt’s military spending, increased foreign investment and enhanced the country’s ties with the West.
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“Bilateral relations between Egypt and Israel are different from any other bilateral ties because of two interconnected issues,” said Bassiouni, Egypt’s envoy in Tel Aviv from 1988 to 2001.
“First is the march to peace – we must maintain good relations with Tel Aviv and strong lines of communication first and foremost to serve the Arabs, especially given the ongoing occupation of Arab lands and the many difficult issues that remain outstanding.
“The second is relations with the United States – relations that must pass through Israel. Fundamental to our relationship with Israel is the national interest and security of Egypt.”
Bassiouni said that in his 13 years in Israel he had never once considered stepping down.
“I fought as a soldier in two wars and participated in the planning of the [1973] October War,” he said. “When [Mubarak] asked me to go to Tel Aviv, I considered it a war of another kind – of political ideas, not of arms.
“The treaty has achieved significant gains for us,” he added.
“First: the liberation of Egyptian land. Second: the evacuation of settlements in the Sinai – the most important issue of any.
Third: the recovery of oil fields. Fourth: the regularization of navigation in the Suez Canal. Fifth: cutting the military budget. And sixth: increased foreign investment in Egypt,” he said.
“It’s win-win – we both gain from the treaty. Politics is a game of wits – it must be beneficial to all parties. I’m totally opposed to abolishing the treaty,” Bassiouni said.
In Israel, meanwhile, at least one lawmaker responded to Wednesday’s apparent attack on the Sinai pipeline that transmits natural gas to Israel by calling for Jerusalem to rethink the treaty.
National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari wrote a letter Wednesday to Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, urging the government to convene an urgent discussion on Israel’s peace treaties with its neighbors.
“Mubarak’s ouster from the Egyptian leadership revealed the hostility towards Israel of the Egyptian people, most of whom hope to see the treaty annulled,” Ben-Ari wrote.
A Pew Research Center poll released Monday showed more than half of Egyptians favor overturning the 1979 peace agreement.
“By a margin of 54 percent to 36%, Egyptians say their country should annul the treaty with Israel,” the survey by the Washington- based group said.
Views on retaining peace with Israel varied according to income and education. Six in 10 Egyptians with lower incomes supported overturning the agreement, while 45% of high-income Egyptians agreed.
Fifty-nine percent of those with primary education or less favored annulling the treaty, while 40% with a college education or more felt the same way.