During Egypt’s 2011 revolution, a group of rioters attacked the Israeli mission to Egypt and destroyed the building that housed it; thereafter the embassy’s staff returned to Israel. Although order, and normal relations with Jerusalem, have long since been restored, Israel hasn’t acquired a new embassy and its reduced diplomatic staff in Egypt has been returning home every weekend. The Foreign Ministry recently ordered the staff to stay in Cairo for the weekend—a decision that Izhak Levanon, the former ambassador to Egypt, praises but finds insufficient:
It isn’t viable to lean the countries’ relations on one leg (security-intelligence); the [diplomatic and political leg is also] needed to ensure stability. The current Egyptian regime, headed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, doesn’t hide its good relations with Israel and is fostering a positive atmosphere. This provides a window of opportunity to implement full-fledged, proper diplomatic relations. The Egyptian parliament’s decision to extend Sisi’s term in office for many more years opens the window even further, giving the two countries time to stabilize their relationship on more than just the one leg.
To restore diplomatic relations to pre-2011 normalcy, Israel must quickly find a new building for its embassy and staff, including a consular-services department working to encourage mutual tourism and promote Israeli interests in Egypt—precisely as the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv operates. . . . In the stormy Middle East, close relations between Israel and Egypt are vitally important.
The Foreign Ministry, to be sure, has to contend with complex challenges across the globe, but Israel’s relations with Egypt need to be prioritized. We must not miss this window of opportunity or squander the current regional climate to re-establish the Israeli presence in Cairo as it was before 2011. The Israeli-Egypt peace accord includes agreement on fully operational embassies. [Israel] must move forward with determination to bring this to fruition.