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Middle EastPoliticsAnalyses

When Israel Hails Sisi!

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It was remarkable that the Egyptian ambassador in Israel, Khaled Azmi, celebrated Egypt’s national day at his home in Tel Aviv amid substantial Israeli and foreign presence, exceeding 150 guests from various political and media orientations.

Israeli political and media circles that attended the ceremony reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly hailed General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, revealing the nature of the friendly and deep relationship between the two leaders.

It is no longer a secret that friendship between Netanyahu and Sisi has remarkably developed since the latter took power in Egypt six years ago, where the Israelis have never heard a single word of criticism from the Egyptian regime so far.

Moreover, Netanyahu has always described Sisi as “my good friend”, a private and emotion-filled expression that attests to a relationship that transcends business affairs. They both talk over phone on a constant basis, and it is suggested that they have met more than it has been declared in light of their exceptional relations.

Israelis openly say that there is a number of common traits that Netanyahu and Sisi share, most notably that both men live a sense of existential threat, face armed groups and belong to the conservative side of the political map. Also, one of their common characteristics is the fact that they consider media as a nuisance to them.

Despite all these Israeli accolades of Sisi, yet they have had no echo in the Egyptian press due to the regime’s full security control on media; and accordingly, Egyptians do not know what Netanyahu thinks about Sisi. Even one of the Israelis added: “We also do not know exactly what Sisi is thinking about Netanyahu, and how he feels about Israel, whether it is a true friend, or just a business partner.

The relation between Netanyahu and Sisi is considered a good development from the Israeli point of view, as long as it serves as a means to strengthen communication between them, not as an end in itself.

The Egyptian Embassy’s celebration of the country’s national day in Tel Aviv coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Camp David Accords, which was commemorated in Israel through discussions, lectures, conferences and meetings because of its significance.

Camp David is the most important agreement between Egypt and Israel. Today, the two countries have celebrated 40 years of peace in exchange for thirty years of war and hostility, during which they had fought five wars, which has apparently given the Accord a strong power and turned it into a strategic treasure for both parties, especially that it has survived regional tremors, as well as revolutions and coups experienced by Egypt.

The Israelis believe that the Camp David Accord laid the essential foundations for normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel in all fields that can be seen as a role model for future agreements with other Arab countries in the region. It is noteworthy that most of the terms of the Camp David Accord have not been implemented on the ground, which is disappointing to Israel.

Egyptian-Israeli trade relations are low, and cultural relations are almost non-existent, and movement of tourists on both sides is very poor. Israelis complain that Egyptian media are still hostile to them, there is no academic cooperation between universities of both countries, and Egyptian school textbooks continue to depict Israel with negative connotations.

However, there are positive aspects in relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv, such as the Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) trade agreement signed in 2009 between the United States, Israel and Egypt that allows Egyptian factories to export products to the United States without taxes and partially opens trade with Israel. The agreement allows thousands of Egyptian workers and about 680 Egyptian factories to join it, achieving financial income in millions of dollars to the Egyptian treasury.

Although the Israelis believe that economic interests between Egypt and Israel may be no less important than political considerations, especially that an agreement was signed to export Israeli gas to Egypt for ten years, however, the security relations between Tel Aviv and Cairo have not reached such a level of depth, coordination and exchange of information as it is today.

In recent years, we have seen that the Camp David Accord’s military annex was changed with Israel’s consent, whereby 20,000 Egyptian troops entered the Sinai Peninsula near the Israeli border to fight the armed groups, which indicates that the military and intelligence relations between Egypt and Israel have not seen such progress since signing the peace agreement between the two parties four decades ago.

Meanwhile, the Israelis count heavily on the tracks that Sisi is working on in addressing the Palestinian-Israeli issue, most notably:

The first track is the internal Palestinian reconciliation. Sisi wants to see the Palestinian Authority returning to the Gaza Strip because he does not want Gaza to remain in the hands of Hamas which he believes is linked with the Muslim Brotherhood that he hates most.

The second track is the calm, cease-fire and political arrangements between Israel and Gaza, making Sisi more attentive to fighting the armed groups in the Sinai.

The third track is the radical solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. After Sisi ends these two tracks, he will immediately move towards a radical solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, whether through a two-state solution or the US ‘deal of the century’, in light of the policy of US President Donald Trump towards Sisi, unlike his predecessor’s policy, by ignoring the human rights violations in Egypt in favor of including Sisi within the US policy in the region.

At the same time, despite the arrival of hundreds of Israeli guests to the home of the Egyptian ambassador, including President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but despite this positive atmosphere, there are increasing Israeli calls in the diplomatic circles to stop what is considered a continued state of neglect of the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, alleging that the latter is not implementing its obligations under the Camp David Accord of 1979.

There is a number of reasons for these Israeli reservations about the Egyptian behavior towards Camp David, including the policy of former President Hosni Mubarak, who wanted to return to the Arab embrace after the expulsion of his country from the Arab League because of the peace agreement with Israel and the Egyptian desire to show solidarity with the Arab parties that were at war with Israel .

However, this situation does not raise any criticism between Cairo and Tel Aviv, given that it has existed for forty years. In spite of the fact that the military and security relations between them are stronger than ever before, both countries have an interest in fighting the armed Islamic groups. Also, Israel Is interested in benefiting from Egypt’s relations in the Palestinian arena to achieve a settlement or a truce with Hamas in Gaza, which are essential benefits in the relations between the two countries on the external level.

At the same time, the impact of the peace agreement on the relations between the two countries is almost non-existent. Since the Israeli ambassador was forced to leave the Cairo embassy eight years ago in the early days of the January 2011 revolution, Israel has no permanent headquarters in Egypt. At the end of July, the current Israeli ambassador David Govrin returns to Israel, without appointment of a new ambassador. Also, trade, cultural and economic relations are also not existing in contradiction to the provisions of the peace agreement.

The Israelis are not pleased with the benefits and achievements they have got from the Camp David Accords with Egypt. Moreover, they claim that there is no balance in the relations between the two sides, with respect to the benefits of the peace agreement, although Tel Aviv believes its peace with Egypt is a stable strategic treasure. Since both sides appear concerned with maintaining the peace agreement between them, so it is time to work for strengthening it and implement all its provisions.

Despite the Israeli criticism of the Egyptian regime in this respect, however, they are confident that Sisi will certainly do something to boost their bilateral relations, such as formation of joint teams to examine implementation of the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement and pumping more blood in it, in light of the rapid fluctuations experienced by the region, and the Israeli desire to preserve relations with its closest ally in Cairo!

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