´Amid Libya tumult, Israelis mustn’t lose sight of Egypt´ (JERUSALEM POST) By OREN KESSLER 03/01/11)
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Amid the ongoing strife in Libya, Israelis must not lose sight of the
importance of neighboring Egypt, a former Foreign Ministry director-
general told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Alon Liel – who also served as ambassador to Turkey and led
unofficial Israeli-Syrian talks between 2004 and 2006 – warned that
the successor to the Hosni Mubarak regime could well be expected to
follow Ankara’s lead and pull its own envoy to Israel.
“I don’t think the events in Libya or Tunisia will affect Israel in
any meaningful way,” Liel told the Post by phone. “Libya and Tunisia
were in the outer circle when it came to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. Egypt is a very different story.”
Liel, now chairman of the Israel-Syria Peace Society, said the
continued adherence to the 1979 Israel-Egyptian peace treaty is of
far greater significance to Israel than the fate of Libyan strongman
Muammar Gaddafi. “The question of whether this agreement will survive
and diplomatic relations remain intact are critical, critical
questions for Israel’s standing in the region,” he said.
Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League, announced on Sunday
that he intends to run for Egyptian president. In Liel’s view, a
Moussa presidency would bode ill for the Jewish state.
“I met him personally, and his attitude to Israel over the past two
decades has been very hostile, very different from Mubarak’s,” Liel
Of Moussa, he said, “I don’t think he will renounce the agreement
between the two countries as null and void; I don’t even think he
will break diplomatic relations.
But I’m almost sure he will pull the Egyptian ambassador out, and he
will be very, very critical in his statements.”
The former envoy to Turkey predicted a downgrade in relations similar
to one Turkey has implemented since the 2003 election of Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “If Amr Moussa is the next president
of Egypt, I think we’re headed toward a kind of Turkish-Israeli
Turkey pulled its ambassador in Tel Aviv after May’s Mavi Marmara
incident in which nine Turkish citizens were killed by IDF fire on a
“Turkey doesn’t have an ambassador here, and it doesn’t intend to
send an ambassador.
Also, they won’t allow us to send a new ambassador.
So Turkey in fact downgraded the level of representation between the
Jordan, by the way, did the same thing – in the last six months you
don’t have the Jordanian ambassador anymore,” he said.
Following Turkey’s removal of its envoy, Jordanian Ambassador Ali al-
Ayed was quietly removed from the embassy in Ramat Gan and returned
to Jordan to serve as minister for media affairs and communication.
Liel said a caretaker ambassador had taken al-Ayed’s place.
“So the only ambassador from a Muslim country in Israel is the
Egyptian ambassador,” he said. “After we see the new or newly elected
Egyptian government, I don’t believe they will leave the Egyptian
ambassador here as the only Muslim ambassador.”
With diplomacy stalled on both the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-
Syrian tracks, Liel said, the mood in the region is more hostile to
Israel than at any time in recent memory.
“What we used to call the moderate camp – by which we mean accepting
of Israel and ready to live in peace with it – is shrinking.
“So I see what happened in Egypt as a double blow. One, on security
issues, because we have nothing really meaningful economically or
culturally,” he said. “The level of coordination on Palestinian
issues was very high. But on top of that, it’s a blow on the regional
level. I think that what happened to Egypt, and the fact that Egypt
will have to focus on internal affairs, is causing a situation in
which Turkey is becoming the leader of the region. I don’t think it’s
Iran, I think it’s Turkey. And Turkey has the ability to cause us a
lot of problems if we don’t have a breakthrough with the peace
process, either with the Palestinians or the Syrians.”
Liel said that prospects for Israeli-Egyptian relations could be
brighter if Israel can find a way to kick-start the peace
process. “Recently there have been more and more rumors that Syria is
indicating it wants to resume talks,” he said. “I don’t think the
hostility or hatred toward Israel will remain as is if the impression
in the Middle East is that Israel is being engaged in serious talks
with the Palestinians, or the Syrians, or both.” (© 1995 - 2011 The
Jerusalem Post. 03/01/11)
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