Forty years since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Jerusalem and 38 years since the signing of the peace treaty between the two former enemies, Egypt’s Ambassador to Israel said that the peace between the two countries is stable, strong and will continue to remain such.
“The channels of communication between both countries are open and there is ongoing constructive dialogue to achieve our mutual goals in achieving stability and prosperity in the region and defeating terrorism,” said Ambassador Hazem Khairat at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv marking the occasion.
Khairat said that Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem “not only paved the way for four decades of bilateral peace but also initiated the entire peace process to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
“Forty years ago no-one thought Egypt and Israel could reach peace but we did,” Khairat said, adding that “our peace is just like a leaf of tree that needs to be taken care of in order to grow and flourish.”
Addressing the current situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Khairat said that a two-state solution was “the only possible way forward” and warned against continued settlement growth.
“A viable Palestinian State cannot happen with continue with settlement expansion,” he said, adding that the continued building of settlements “threatens Israel’s security as desperation and extremism is only fueled when this happens. The absence of hope increases tensions and could lead to violence which would only benefit the extremists on both sides.”
Khairat said that Cairo is ready to continue in its role to help the two sides reach the necessary compromise but the role of the international community, especially the United States, is indispensable.
“We look forward to continue to work with our allies, especially the United States under President Donald Trump, because once there is peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians there will be regional security.”
Also speaking at the event, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, David Govrin said that “Sadat’s visit to Israel was the beginning of a long road of peace between the two countries.”
But Govrin was critical of Egypt, noting that no Egyptian leader has come to Israel since Sadat’s visit, except for former President Hosni Mubarak who came for the funeral for Yitzhak Rabin but had made it clear that he was only coming for the funeral and not an official visit.
Nevertheless the Ambassador admitted that there are “close ties” between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi which are “based on trust and mutual respect.”
The joint effort to combat terrorism such as the Islamic State in Sinai has brought about “unprecedented levels of collaboration,” he said adding that “it is obvious that the two countries need to work together regarding security in the Sinai Peninsula.”
But he warned that if the ties between the countries remain predominantly based on the military over time, peace between the two could erode.
“The relations between Israel and Egypt rely to too great an extent on the military leg. Peace needs to stand on two legs, the military and financial for the civilians if it to forge deep and true roots. It is only with a combination of the two that will ensure long-term cooperation between the countries.”
Govrin said that the view of peace between the two countries is completely different than how it is seen in Israel, saying that for Israel the objective of signing a peace treaty with Cairo was normalization (culture, financial, tourism) while for the Egyptians was to put an end to war.
While we are getting closer and closer we are still not there yet, the Ambassador said, referring to a performance he attended a few months back at Egypt’s national theater, where after the theater’s director was slammed in Egyptian media for not stopping the performance and throwing him out of the show.
But, there is hope in the young generation which has grown up without any wars fought between the two countries.
“The young generation has not experienced war with Israel and is exposed to a whole new world of communication with modern media outlets. The Arab Spring also changed the national agenda in Egypt and the Palestinian issue was pushed the side,” he said.
The ambassador told the audience that a few months ago he went to the new Alexandria library which houses the Sadat Museum. Calling the visit to the museum “very moving” Govrin said that he saw students there who were learning about the peace treaty signed with Israel.
“War can be avoided but peace cannot be avoided.”
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