Crisis in Cairo: interview with veteran Israeli MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer

The dramatic recent events in Cairo have profound implications for Egypt-Israel relations. To discuss these issues, BICOM secured an exclusive interview with veteran Knesset member and former Israeli defence minister Binyamin ‘Fouad’ Ben-Eliezer, one of the leading voices for Egypt-Israel relations in Israel.

Ben-Eliezer said, ‘The dream to keep Egypt as the main partner for peace in the Middle East and the main country that will… not only widen the peace to other countries but to guarantee the stability in that area… [is] gone.’

On the Sinai Peninsula and its use as a base for terrorists to attack Israel, Ben-Eliezer said, ‘This is going to be one of the terror theatres and missile theatres… and rather than what’s happening in Gaza where we can respond, here we cannot do that because we are talking about a country.’

On the forthcoming Egyptian elections, he expressed his concern that a sizeable proportion of the seats would go to Islamist parties ‘who believe that the sooner they cut the peace treaty with Israel is the better for everyone.’

On the future for Israel-Egypt relations, he said, ‘I am worried, I think that Israel in the long run should take into consideration that maybe we are going to face a conflict in the future… [a] conflict of interests, and this can start with that and can end with war. I hope that this will not happen.’ He added, ‘We have to work very hard to try and to convince the Egyptians, the new leadership, that we are willing to have a peace with them, we are willing to cooperate… we are willing to see Egypt as the main leader in the area but as a positive one, a constructive one.’ He said Israel should be ready to consider amendments to the 1979 peace treaty.

He stressed that for Europe and the United States to ‘save this part of the world means that they have to come and to invest here… to let people find a piece of bread, to try to help the leaders to help the population find jobs and work.’

He also stressed the importance of restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, saying, ‘The only way to isolate Israel out of this conflict, which is an internal one, which belongs to their society, is to begin with the negotiations and to try and find a solution to the Palestinians…. Otherwise all the time they will blame Israel.’

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