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Normalising ties with Israel still lacks popular support in Egypt, says analyst

February 18, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Israeli PM Yair Lapid (L) meets Egyptian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nabil Habashi (R) in Cairo, Egypt on 9 December 2021. [Shlomi Amsalem / Pool – Anadolu Agency]

As Israel observes the 42nd anniversary of opening its embassy in Egypt today, the first in any Arab country, the last two years have seen many Arab countries lining up to normalise relations with Tel Aviv.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, political analyst Mustafa Al Sawaf said Israel’s opening of its diplomatic mission in Cairo did not extend to people, who still refuse to accept the normalisation of the Israeli occupation of Arab territories.

According to the 2019-2020 survey conducted by the Qatar-based Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies, 13 per cent of Egyptians supported diplomatic recognition of Israel while 85 per cent opposed it.

After years of conflict starting in 1948, Egypt was the first Arab nation to negotiate a peace deal with Israel. The 1967 war had led to the occupation of  Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula – a sparsely populated desert region between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

In October 1973, Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal and regained control. Egypt under Mohamed Anwar Sadat later in 1978 regained full sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula after signing a peace treaty with Israel.

Describing this political process, a disappointment for the Palestinians, Sawaf said it became a kind of ruse for other Arab countries also to follow the process of normalisation.

READ: Egypt condemns displacement of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah

He said except for a tense period under late President Mohamed Morsi from 2012–2013, the relations between the two countries have remained strong.

In a military coup led by the current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, Morsi was deposed in July 2013.

“Morsi’s clear pro-Gaza policy was one of the reasons why Sisi turned against Morsi and isolated him, and he became intensely engaged in a partnership with Israel to narrow the siege on Gaza,” said Sawaf.

He said Egypt is cooperating with Israel in both security and intelligence to stifle resistance in the Gaza Strip, particularly during the escalation of the wars between Israel and Hamas as a major resistance faction in Gaza.

“During all the wars against the Gaza Strip, the regime in Egypt sided with Israel and took an anti-Palestinian resistance stance in Gaza, except the 2012 war that took place during the reign of Morsi, who fully supported Gaza, ” Sawaf explained.

The analyst said that situation worsened further when the Rafah crossing – connecting Gaza with Egypt – was closed following the Israeli aggression as punishment for the Palestinian resistance. He said the crossing was restored only after Hamas leaders threatened to suspend all agreements with the Egyptian side regarding security in Sinai

After Egypt and Jordan, in September 2020, the UAE and Israel signed a US-sponsored deal to normalise their relations. Since then, the two countries exchanged official visits by senior officials and have signed dozens of bilateral agreements in various fields, including investment, banking services and tourism.

Three other Arab states – BahrainMorocco, and Sudan – joined the UAE in the controversial move that came to be known as the Abraham Accords.

The normalisation deals have since drawn widespread condemnations from Palestinians, who say the accords ignore their rights and do not serve the Palestinian cause.