Israeli-Egyptian relations ‘at turning point’

Tel Aviv will continue to abide by its peace treaty with Egypt despite the attack on its embassy in Cairo, Israel's Prime Minister said on Tuesday. In Egypt, however, anger is growing against Israel and its policies.

­Binyamin Netanyahu was speaking in the wake of the assault on its embassy which led to the deaths of three people in clashes with security forces on Friday. Angry crowds stormed the compound to protest at the killing of five Egyptian police officers by Israeli troops in a border clash last month.

However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sped up the work on the fence which Israel is building on its border with Egypt, Agence France-Presse reports on Tuesday. 

Now it is expected to be completed by next September. Tel Aviv began constructing the fence late last year to stop the influx of illegal migrants.

The deteriorating relations between the two countries may lead to a reconsideration of existing agreements on Egyptian gas supplies to Israel, Azerbaijani media quoted the head of the Egyptian Al Ahram Research Center, Yusri Ezbavi, as saying.

Israel is now looking for alternatives, Ezbavi claimed, Azerbaijan among them.

Meanwhile, Ankara has warned Israel it faces growing regional isolation.

"The conditions we have set are still in effect, and must be met in order for Turkish-Israeli relations to return to normal,” the Associated Press quoted Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as saying before an Arab League gathering Tuesday in Egypt.  “So long as Israel does not apologize, so long as they do not pay reparations to the victims' families, so long as they do not lift their naval blockade of Gaza, Turkish-Israeli relations will not return to normal."

Dr Jamal Sultan from the Al-Ahram Center of Political and Strategic Studies told RT that expectations of peace and reconciliation which peaked in the 1990s have gone awry.

“Now the region is at a turning point – the people have a bigger say in politics and the making of foreign policy. What we see now is a kind of a surge in angry feelings against Israel because of its continuous policy of ignoring Palestinian rights,” said Sultan. “And it is also ideological changes and certain ideological movements that are not friendly towards Israel in general and the Israeli occupation of Arab and Palestinian territories in particular. This is a moment of reconfiguration of forces in the Middle East,” he added.

According to Sultan, the clashes outside the Israeli embassy could prove to be a turning point in the trajectory of the Egyptian revolution.

“There has been a change in public attitude and the emphasis has been shifted to the restoration of law and order. The Military Council took advantage of the situation to reinforce its power in Egypt. Now the military is applying a kind of iron fist with Egyptian politics with the significant support of the public,” Sultan stated.

The peace treaty between the two countries is extremely important for both parties, he concluded.

­Yavuz Baydar, a political columnist for the Istanbul-based Today’s Zaman newspaper, argued that Israel is acting irrationally toward its neighbors. 

“It has been unwilling to analyze correctly what has taken place, particularly in Egypt,”  he told RT. “Israel is now getting away from the notion that it needs rational democratic allies in the region, and this isolation is taking place because the Israeli coalition, Israeli decision makers on the political level, are choosing to bully those close allies by refusing to apologize to Turkey for what has taken place. [They are] hoping to get away with what has been done. “

“It certainly puts forward a new Israeli image in the people’s eyes that the country will continue its old-fashioned policies, while the world around them… is really changing,” he added. “Israel has failed to understand that the democratization and pluralism in the Arab world will, in the long run, be helpful in creating channels to find solutions more easily.”

­Ufuk Ulutash, a fellow at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, says Erdogan’s words indicate that Turkey and Egypt are in the process of creating a mutual understanding on regional issues.

“And Israel, for sure, is one part of the mutual understanding,” he told RT. “Turkey has been criticizing the regional system for some time now, and it said a change is needed in a domestic and foreign sense, as there has been a gap between ordinary people and the government.”

He also added that at this point, Egypt and Turkey do not want to get rid of their relations with Israel.

“They want to drag Israel into international law,” Ulutash said.