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November 21, 2016 2:32 pm

Political Analysts: Egypt-Israel Relations at ‘Highest Level in History’

avatar by Ruthie Blum

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (left) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Photo: Screenshot.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (left) with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in July. Photo: Screenshot.

Egyptian-Israeli relations are at their “highest level in history,” a Jerusalem-based senior analyst for an international research organization told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

Nathan Thrall, from the International Crisis Group, was speaking to the Doha-based network on the 39th anniversary of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem — where he addressed the Knesset — a move that led to the signing of the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.

According to Al Jazeera, Thrall’s assessment appears to be correct, judging by recent developments.

Among those cited were:

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1) This year’s visit by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As was reported in The Algemeiner, during the visit — the first made by an Egyptian foreign minister in nearly a decade — the two watched the European soccer finals on TV together.

2) The reinstatement by Egypt of an ambassador to Israel, after a four-year schism, following the decision made by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s predecessor — the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi — to recall the envoy, in protest against an Israeli strike on a terrorist target in Gaza.

3)  The reopening last year of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, four years after violent protests erupted on the premises.

4) Egypt’s vote last year in favor of Israel’s becoming a member of a UN committee — the first time in the history of the Jewish state.

These and other examples — Cairo-based political analyst Mohamed Soliman told Al Jazeera — illustrated a “full partnership, unbreakable alliance and diplomatic completion” between the two countries.

Soliman pointed, as well, to Israel’s allowing Egypt to deploy militarily in areas of the Sinai Peninsula beyond the scope of requirement in the Camp David Accords, to help fight Hamas and ISIS terrorists. This, he said, demonstrated a “flexibility and coordination between Egypt and Israel [that came] early in Sisi’s tenure.”

Another analyst, the deputy director of the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, Oren Kessler, told Al Jazeera:

Egypt and Israel view the tunnel economy between the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza as a clear and present danger. Cairo knows that the tunnel economy enriches smugglers on the Sinai side — many of whom have ties to the local Islamic State branch — while Israel is well aware that it bolsters and arms Hamas in Gaza. Egypt has taken an uncompromising approach to destroying the tunnels, and has worked with Israel to do so.

Waleed al-Modallal, head of the political science department at the Islamic University in Gaza, concurred, saying that “the resistance movement,” particularly Hamas, has the most to lose from this strengthening alliance.

“Egypt has failed at moving the Palestinian cause along at international forums,” he told Al Jazeera. “Given its declining status on the regional front and its preoccupation with internal issues, Egypt is not a candidate to play the role of solving the Palestinian cause.”

Kessler said that though the president of the Palestinian Authority is not pleased when anything goes Israel’s way, “Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah movement likely take quiet satisfaction in the fact that both countries take a hard line against Fatah’s arch-rival Hamas.”

He also said he believes that enhanced Egyptian-Israeli ties are “being received with quiet approval by traditional US allies in the region, such as the monarchies of the Gulf states and Jordan, which see those relations as useful in confronting shared adversaries.”

“More broadly,” Kessler said, “those ties help shore up the camp of those relatively pro-Western regimes against the ‘resistance’ camp led by Iran and its proxies, including the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.”

Modallal did not disagree with the analysis, but bemoaned its significance.

“Israel’s success in creating an ‘axis of relatively moderate states’ allows it to suffocate Iran by creating a basis for regional cooperation against it,” he said. “This would fuel the conflict between the Arabs and Iran, in a way that would lead to the destruction of Israel’s two foes at the same time.”

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