Egyptian FM: Israeli Policies Aren’t Terrorism; Security Concerns Rooted in History

Weeks after returning home from a surprise visit to Jerusalem, Egypt’s foreign minister defended Israel from accusations of terrorism before a group of high school students who visited his Cairo office on Sunday.

After one of the students asked Sameh Shoukry to explain why Israel and the United States are not considered terrorist organizations by the Egyptian government, the minister responded, “You can look at [the question of Israeli ‘terrorism’] from the perspective of a regime of force, but [looked at from a more traditional understanding of terrorism,] there is no evidence showing a link between Israel and armed terrorist groups.”

“There is no conclusive [proof] leading to that conclusion,” he added.

When asked if military operations that result in the death of Palestinian children constituted terrorism, Shoukry told the students that Israel’s security concerns stemmed from its history. “Certainly Israel has, in accordance with its own history, a society in which the security element is very strong,” he said. “From Israel’s perspective, since 1948, that society has faced many challenges that have instilled in it its national security doctrine, its control of land and border crossings.”

Shoukry visited Jerusalem last month to offer his government’s assistance in restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The visit marked the first time an Egyptian foreign minister visited Israel since 2007, and highlighted the closer ties forged between Cairo and Jerusalem under the administration of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Also last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin attended a reception at Egypt’s embassy in Tel Aviv in honor of Egypt’s National Day.

A statement from Egypt’s foreign ministry released after Shoukry’s remarks were publicized claimed they were “distorted.” A Hamas spokesperson in Qatar called the minister “blind” on Twitter.

However, there are more indications that Israel and its Sunni neighbors are growing closer. Dore Gold, the director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, observed earlier this month that “the Sunni Arab states increasingly see the Middle East through the same prism as Israel.” Ayoob Kara, a Druze member of the ruling Likud party and Israel’s deputy minister of regional cooperation, complemented Gold’s observation, noting that “our relations with our neighbors are the best they’ve ever been.” Kara added that much of Israel’s cooperation with the Arab world remains covert.

[Photo: Hadas Parush / Flash90 ]