As Egypt celebrates October War anniversary, Cairo-Tel Aviv ties in focus

Sisi with Netanyahu in New York

After Egypt marked the 44th anniversary of the start of the October War that led to the Camp Da­vid Accords and peace between Cairo and Tel Aviv, ana­lysts looked to the future of Egyp­tian-Israeli ties.
“There is marked transforma­tion in ties between the two coun­tries,” said Tharwat el-Nosieri, a retired army general who served as a lieutenant-colonel during the war. “This transformation serves the se­curity interests of both Egypt and Israel and reflects on general condi­tions in the region.”
Following a humiliating defeat in the Six-Day War (1967) — known in Egypt as al-Naksah or “the Set­back” — the three-week war in Oc­tober 1973 is a point of great pride for most Egyptians. Named for the day the war started, 6th of October city is a populous suburb of Cairo.
After the war, Egypt became the first Arab country to officially recog­nise Israel, with Anwar Sadat sign­ing the Egypt-Israel peace treaty in 1979. Although relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv remained remote over the ensuing decades, amid popular Egyptian suspicion and dis­content towards Israel, there have been signs that Egyptian-Israeli ties are warming.
“One of the reasons this is hap­pening is that as a former army of­ficer, Egyptian President [Abdel Fattah al-Sisi] knows that war is only about death and destruction,” said Magdi Shehata, who com­manded an Egyptian battalion dur­ing the October War.
“This is why Sisi is very keen to create a different future for every­body in this region, one free from the conflicts, bitterness and blood­shed of the past,” he said.
Sisi has brought rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to the ne­gotiating table amid hopes that in­ter-Palestinian reconciliation could reinvigorate the stalled Palestinian- Israeli peace process.
“I tell the Palestinian people it’s extremely important… to overcome the differences and not to lose op­portunities and to be ready to ac­cept co-existence with the other, with Israelis in safety and security,” Sisi said at the UN General Assem­bly in September.
Addressing the Israeli delegation, Sisi said: “We have an excellent ex­perience in Egypt in peace with you [Israel] for longer than 40 years… We can repeat this experience and this excellent step once again.”
Sisi met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netan­yahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the Gener­al Assembly and urged both leaders to restart the peace process.
Analysts said, however, that Sisi’s attempts to resuscitate the Middle East peace process are premature given the many challenges in the way.
“These challenges include Pal­estinian divisions and whether the main parties, namely the Palestin­ians and the Israelis, really want peace,” said Mohamed Kamal, a professor of political science at Cai­ro University. “Egypt can try but, at the end, it will not force the Pal­estinians and the Israelis to make peace if they do not have the will.”
Israel has said it would not ac­knowledge any reconciliation be­tween Hamas and Fatah that did not see Hamas explicitly recognise Israel, disband its military wing and cut ties with Iran — conditions the Islamist militant faction is unlikely to agree to. Officials of the Palestin­ian factions warned that peace talks cannot begin until Israel halts its il­legal settlement building.
Cairo and Tel Aviv, however, ap­pear to share many of the same objectives, not least an interest in countermanding Iranian influence in the region and ensuring calm in the Sinai Peninsula where the Is­lamic State (ISIS) has a toehold.
Egypt and Israel have increased military and security coordination, albeit discretely, including partici­pating in upcoming air force drills in Greece, Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said.
“Whether Israel can have similar­ly good relations with other Islamic countries in the future depends on the extent to which it demonstrates a will to make peace with the Pales­tinians,” Kamal said. “When there is peace, the public anywhere will find no reason to object to good re­lations with Tel Aviv.”
Ahmed Meghid
is an Egyptian reporter based in Cairo.

This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.