Restoring the Bond Between Israel and Egypt

Thursday, February 25, 2016 - 4:44pm

Egypt once again has a working  Ambassador posted in Israel, and in the daily crush of news out of the region, this important development has flown under the radar. Make no mistake: it’s a big deal.

Hazem Khairat met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem this week, officially making him Cairo’s first emissary to Israel since 2012.

Khairat’s arrival was touted by both governments as a sign of warming relations between the two nations, which became strained under the rule of former Egyptian President and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted in 2013. Ambassador Khairat expressed hope that the two countries’ relationship could be “constructive” towards bringing peace to the region.

The American Jewish Congress has long been involved in the Egyptian-Israeli relationship. AJCongress President Jack Rosen has visited Egypt numerous times in recent years, working to build bridges not only between Egypt and Israel, but emphasizing the importance of Egypt nurturing historic ties with what today is a greatly diminished Jewish community.

Further, there is no shortage of issues Egypt and Israel must work on together, from security and terror threats by Hamas and ISIS, to energy and other trade relations. The momentous Camp David peace agreement is one month short of its 37th anniversary, and it’s past time to move beyond the “cold peace” that has characterized relations. The fact that Egypt and Israel have not fired a shot at each other in generations is cause for celebration, but friendship between the people of each country could generate enormous benefits. 

Khairat’s presence in Jerusalem is a welcome sign of progress. We hope that as stability grows in Egypt, Cairo will continue to reopen diplomatic channels throughout the Middle Eastern and reassume its leadership role.

Israel, of course, also has a vital role to play, with new opportunities to reach out to neighbors prepared to view the Jewish state with fresh eyes. The shared challenge of responding to the hegemonic ambitions of Iran provides Israel and many Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, a chance to work together as never before. 

Let’s hope that Ambassador Khairat’s efforts will bear fruit for both countries, and that in the not-too-distant-future other regional ambassadors to Israel will become the norm rather than the exception.