Egypt’s President al-Sisi yesterday confirmed that he has appointed the country’s first ambassador to Israel since 2012, underscoring recent warm ties between the two countries.
Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979 and formalised diplomatic relations a year later. The peace agreement has held firm since then, although relations have at times been little more than cordial. Egypt’s ambassador in Tel Aviv was recalled in 2012 during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defence in Gaza and has not since returned. However, since President al-Sisi came to power in 2013, relations between the two countries have warmed, with significant cooperation over the common threat of Islamist terror in the Sinai Peninsula and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel and Egypt are thought to have worked closely together during last summer to bring an end to Operation Protective Edge.
Al-Sisi yesterday announced a number of diplomatic appointments, including that of Hazem Khairat to Israel. Khairat has previously served as Egypt’s representative at the Arab League and ambassador to Syria and Chile. A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry commented, “The Foreign Ministry welcomes the appointment.” Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “I welcome the Egyptian government’s decision to send an ambassador to Israel. It strengthens the ties between our countries. It strengthens peace.” He added, “This is an important piece of news. We appreciate it.”
Haim Koren was appointed as Israel’s Ambassador to Egypt in September 2014. However, diplomatic staff have been operating from an unofficial location, as the embassy itself was ransacked by a mob in 2011. Koren last week became the first Israeli envoy in Egypt to send official greetings for Ramadan. According to Army Radio, Koren posted a clip in which he said, “On my behalf and that of the people of Israel ahead of the blessed month of Ramadan, we wish the Egyptian people a ‘Ramadan Kareem.’”