Egypt’s “Cold Peace” with Israel Might Be Warming Up

September 15, 2021 | Efraim Inbar
About the author: Efraim Inbar is president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS).

On Monday, Naftali Bennett visited Egypt to meet with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi—the first visit by an Israeli prime minister to the country since 2011. Efraim Inbar comments on the meeting’s significance.

Egypt broke the Arab taboo on relations with Israel when it signed a peace treaty in March 1979. Nevertheless, Egypt has been reluctant to implement “normalization” clauses in the peace treaty, maintaining a “cold peace” with Israel. Cairo has discouraged its citizens from interactions with Israelis. Until recently, when the government’s tone somewhat softened, it hardly changed the curriculum in the Egyptian education system regarding Israel. Government-controlled media has remained hostile and occasionally anti-Semitic. There has been some cooperation between the two countries in agriculture and energy, and for a while, Israeli tourists were welcome in Egypt. But the narrow bilateral ties primarily were conducted via military channels.

The fanfare around the Abraham Accords, as well as the fact that Israel has a new prime minister, probably made it easier for Cairo to invite Bennett. So did the cumulative impact of enhanced covert security cooperation in recent years between Egypt and Israel. The two countries share a burgeoning common strategic agenda. . . . Undoubtedly, Cairo and Jerusalem think alike about the Afghanistan debacle and the regional implications of American retreat from the Middle East: primarily the reinvigoration of Muslim extremists around the world.

To Inbar, the recent meeting may signal a move toward a warmer peace.

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