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Gantz acknowledges strained relations with Egypt over Gaza offensive

August 22, 2022 at 12:30 pm

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Jerusalem on 8 April 2022 [GPO/Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz has acknowledged that relations between the occupation state and Egypt are strained against the backdrop of the recent Israeli military offensive in Gaza.

“I definitely think there have been days of tensions stemming from the end of Operation Breaking Dawn,” Gantz told Kan Bet radio. “Relations between friends have up and downs… without going into some specific incident or another, we will know how to stabilise the relations. It is their interest and ours. We don’t need to take every crisis and turn into the single most important thing. I hope it will blow over in the next few days.”

According to the Israel Broadcasting Corporation, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal spy agency, Ronen Bar, left for Egypt on Sunday to discuss the crisis with the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence, Major General Abbas Kamel.

In recent days, Israeli and international reports have spoken of a political crisis between Egypt and Israel, due to the occupation state ignoring Cairo’s demands to reduce tension in the occupied West Bank. Tension has increased in the wake of the military escalation in the Gaza Strip in the first week of August. There was no official comment from the Egyptians about this crisis or the visit of the Shin Bet head.

Egypt mediated a ceasefire between Israel and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip which came into effect on 7 August after three days of a military bombardment during which the Israeli army killed 49 people and wounded 360 others, including women and children. The Israeli army then carried out a series of operations to arrest Palestinians in the cities of Jenin, Nablus and Tubas, during which a number of Palestinians were also killed.

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According to Islamic Jihad, Egypt committed itself to work towards the release of two Palestinian prisoners, hunger striker Khalil Awawdeh and Bassam Al-Saadi as part of the truce agreement. However, Israel has refused to release them.

In a wide-ranging interview, Gantz also said that Israel is against the nuclear agreement between the international powers and Iran. He claimed that it is a bad agreement in terms of several areas related to Iran’s enrichment capacity and the development of its nuclear capabilities and weapons systems.

The Israeli official pointed out that he discussed the issue with US President Joe Biden during his visit to the region last month, and that Biden was very attentive, but only reiterated his commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Gantz noted that he is unsure that the agreement in its current form serves what Biden said.

In terms of relations with the Palestinians, the former chief of staff called for opposition to the establishment of a single, bi-national state, wherein Jews and Arabs could live together. He told the radio station that it is essential to prevent the creation of such a state.

“Those who, from a clear left-wing position, consider ‘two states for two peoples’ as a solution are living in an illusion,” he explained. “And those who, in a radical right-wing position, think of a state without Arabs in the West Bank, are living in a greater illusion.”