US/World News

Israel’s growing relationship with Egypt suggests brighter future for both

(JNS) Israel and Egypt have agreed on a new plan to advance ties and now appear to be engaged in the process of migrating from a cold peace to lukewarm. Serious discussions are currently underway between Israel, Egypt and the European Commission over how to export Eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe. At the same time, Israel and Egypt are also working to improve economic ties, with plans to increase bilateral annual trade to $700 million within three years. In addition, efforts are being made to expand the Nitzana Border Crossing where commercial trade between the two countries is handled.

According to Eran Lerman, vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, Israel is indeed heading towards better relations with Egypt. Lerman pointed to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s gesture when he went out of his way to personally greet Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar at a conference in Cairo in February. In addition, according to Lerman, Israel is working to export gas via Egypt in the midst of the Ukraine energy crunch, and Israel continues to assist Egypt in fighting ISIS. As a further sign of warming relations between the countries, for the first time in 40 years, the Jewish-Arab Firqat Alnoor orchestra traveled in early May to Egypt to perform on Israel’s Independence Day.

While Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with the Jewish state back in 1979, it was little more than a cold peace. But the Abraham Accords signed in 2020 with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, coupled with talks taking place today between Israel and Saudi Arabia, have awakened Egypt’s leaders to the possibility that they are being left behind in a dynamic and progressing Middle East.

Ofir Winter, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, told JNS “the Israeli government plan to advance economic relations with Egypt, which was approved on May 29, could become an important milestone.” The plan is reflected, among other developments, in the current negotiations on an agreement with the European Union to export Israeli gas to Europe via Egypt; recent discussions on the expansion of the Qualifying Industrial Zone; the opening of direct flights between Tel Aviv and Sharm el-Sheikh in April; and reciprocal visits by ministers and delegations of businessmen from both countries.

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