Published On: Tue, Jul 12th, 2016

The Egyptian FM’s visit to Israel Surprises many in Cairo

Netanyahu's meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry caused surprise and fury amongst Egyptians; Visit was officially to discuss al-Sisi's peace initiative, but some Egyptians want to know why Netanyahu visited African Nile countries.

Netanyahu,   right,   and Shoukry meet in Jerusalem (Photo Alex Kolomoisky)

Egyptian media was surprised to hear about the rare visit by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Israel on Sunday after an Egyptian foreign minister hasn’t visited Israel in nine years.

Despite the shock, it’s important to note the substantial security cooperation which has been slowly been exposed over the last several months.

Hazem Khairat, the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, began his job several months ago after years of no Egyptian diplomatic presence in the country. His presence is just one of many changes.

Another example of these changes in relations is when Egyptian Parliamentarian Tawfik Okasha met with the Israeli Ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren. The meeting caused fury in the Egyptian media, and the Egyptian parliament ended up suspending Okasha over the issue.

Then in May came Egyptian President Abdel Fatah a-Sisi’s famous call to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to end their fighting as soon as possible. The Egyptian presidents asked to be broadcasted on Israeli TV, and called on the political parties in Israel to unify in light of Netanyahu trying to form a government. This address paved the way for Shoukry’s visit to Israel.

Responses in Egypt to the foreign minister’s visit in Israel were varied. One of the op-eds which were written following the visit dealt with the connection between Shoukry’s visit and Netanyahu’s Africa trip.

Shoukry’s visit rippled through Egyptian social media, and on Twitter, Egyptians expressed their opinions of the visit using the hashtag #foreign_minister. One Egyptian was optimistic, saying “I hope that ths will benefit our brothers in Palestine and that it won’t only be words.” Another Egyptian woman said “Foreign Minister Samah Shoukry, went to travel openly for the sake of Palestine. He never heard the words of Anwar Sadat 40 years ago. Maybe the situation is different.”

 

Netanyahu and his wife meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Samah Shoukry (Photo Kobi Gideon)

 

Egyptian parliamentarians who are supporters of the a-Sisi also participated in the visit to Israel. One of those was Saad al-Jamal, Chairman of the Arab Affairs Council in the Egyptian Parliament and who is currently serving as head of the largest Egyptian political faction in the parliament. He stressed that the visit is the implementation of a-Sisi’s previous calls to revive the peace process and the two state solution in accordance to the French and Arab initiatives.

According to al-Jamal “the goal of this initiative is to solve the Palestinian issue and the issue of the settlements which are on Palestinian lands. The formula of land for peace, if implemented with honest intentions, will bring calm to the Palestinians.” He added that “serious dialogue will result in the Palestinian resistance factions not being present. Some of them have strayed from their goals and use violence as a tool to tear the different sectors apart.”

 

There is trust building between the countries

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Egyptian National Security Council, Kamal Amr, explained that “Egypt has had a peace treaty with Israel for over 30 years. That means that there has been trust building between the two countries, and this trust has been built over the course of a lot of different events. This visit is natural and in accordance with the treaty which syas that there will be bi-lateral meetings to in the name of diplomatic coordination on many different subjects.

There were also a good number of Egyptian parliamentarians who were against the meeting. One of them is Haisam al-Hariri, who said that it’s possible that this visit is connected to Netanyahu’s recent visit to Africa, and includes a warning to Israel not to get involved in Ethiopia’s project to dam the Nile River, something which has strained Ethiopia-Egypt relations for generations.

Parliamentarian Anisa Hasuna, a member of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the Committee submitted a request to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry for Shoukry to explain the results of his visit in Israel.

Another interesting response to the visit came from Mustafa Bakri, an Egyptian parliamentarian and former TV presenter. He is the one who led the campaign to suspend Tawfik Oshaka after the latter met with the Israeli Prime Minister.

The parliament was surprised by this visit, ” Bakri said.

“The visit was designed to be an update to what was going on in Africa and to follow what’s happening in the occupied territories. This unannounced visit requires the foreign minister to come before parliament and explain the results of his discussions with the Israelis at all levels.”

But the person who expressed the harshest criticism of the visit was the Chairman of the Egyptian Lawyers Association, Samah Ashur, who is against the normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel.

“There is no justification for this visit.” He explained that “this isn’t justified, especially at a time when Israel is trying to destroy Egypt’s water security, especially after he visited with the leaders of the four countries which control the sources of the Nile, and in light of the current (climatic) conditions in the region.”

Ynet News

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