Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cares more about maintaining good security ties with the Egyptian Army than with re-staffing Israel’s embassy in Cairo which has been empty since the end of 2016, National Security Council officials told a special session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee last month.
Ambassador David Govrin and his team left Cairo eight months ago on security grounds. They have not returned because of Egypt’s failures to ensure adequate security measures for the Israelis.
The meeting of the foreign affairs subcommittee was convened after member of the Knesset Ksenia Svetlova sent a letter to Avi Dichter and Robert Ilatov, respectively heads of the committee and the subcommittee, outlined her concerns about the scaling back of relations between Egypt and Israel to contacts between a small number of army officers on both sides, and conversations by the prime minister’s special envoy, Isaac Molho, with Egyptian officials.
“Many interpret the absence of an Israeli ambassador in Egypt as de facto giving up on having an embassy in Cairo,” Svatlova wrote. “The inability to promote business and diplomatic relations leaves that arena empty. In the absence of a resident ambassador, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs cut out, how can we reverse things?”
The meeting was attended by representatives of the National Security Council, the army’s planning division and the economy and foreign affairs ministries.
Three sources, who attended the meeting, reported to Haaretz that the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasised that the eight-month absence of embassy staff in Cairo made maintaining relations with Egypt extremely difficult. The ministry’s contacts with the Egyptian government have been confined to conversations with the Egyptian ambassador in Tel Aviv and his team.
Officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said also that they feel a marked decrease in the extent of relations with Egypt, except for security issues. But Israeli-Egyptian relations must not rely solely on security, they stressed.