In a personal communication sent last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Mohammed Morsi, who was sworn in Saturday as Egypt’s president, to honor his country’s contractual obligations to Israel.
A senior Israeli official said that in the letter Netanyahu congratulated Morsi on his election, offered to cooperate with the new government in Cairo and expressed his hope that both parties would observe the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. He emphasized that honoring the agreement is in the interest of both countries as it plays a decisive role in maintaining stability and security in the region. Netanyahu also wished Morsi personally, as well as the Egyptian people, luck in their new future and their journey toward democracy.
According to the official, after consulting with Washington, senior officials in Jerusalem decided to hold off on arranging a telephone tete-a-tete between Netanyahu and Morsi, at least for now. The written missive was delivered to Morsi through the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.
In addition to dispatching the letter, Netanyahu also sent Isaac Molho, his special envoy to the peace process with the Palestinians, to the Egyptian capital. Molho met with the head of Egyptian Military Intelligence, Murad Mowafy, and other high-ranking security officials, but it is not certain that he met with aides to Morsi.
On several occasions since he was declared the winner of the presidential election last week, Morsi and his associates have stressed their commitment to Egypt’s international agreements, including the peace agreement with Israel. Morsi reiterated this message in his inauguration address Saturday, but he also pledged support for the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians.
“We carry a message of peace to the world,” Morsi said, adding, in a thinly veiled reference to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, “We emphasize the state of Egypt’s commitment to international treaties and agreements.” He went on to say, “I announce from here that Egypt, its people and presidential institution, stand with the Palestinian people until they regain all their rights” and sovereignty over their land.
Officials in Jerusalem believe that Morsi is unlikely to disturb his country’s relationship with Israel, and will leave the issue in the hands of the army, the general intelligence service and his future defense minister, who presumably will not be from his own Muslim Brotherhood.
“At present there is no cause for concern in the change of government in Egypt,” Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon told Haaretz on Saturday. “Anyone who misses [the deposed Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak has forgotten that he did not visit Israel even once,” adding, “The messages coming from Cairo with Morsi’s swearing in are reassuring messages. Israel does not interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs, and from our perspective Morsi is the president of all of Egypt and we want to work with him,” Ayalon said.
Morsi promised a “new Egypt” as he was inaugurated as the Arab world’s first freely elected Islamist president, becoming Egypt’s fifth head of state since the overthrow of the monarchy some 60 years ago.
He took the oath before the Supreme Constitutional Court in its Nile-side seat, built to resemble an ancient Egyptian temple.
“We aspire to a better tomorrow, a new Egypt and a second republic,” Morsi told the judges of the court after taking the oath in a solemn ceremony, shown live on state television.
“Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundation of a new life − absolute freedom, a genuine democracy and stability,” said Morsi, a 60-year-old U.S.-trained engineer.
Relations between Israel and Egypt have been particularly tense since last year’s popular overthrow of Mubarak, who had forged close ties with Israel during his 29-year rule.
Last Sunday, Egypt’s state election committee declared Morsi the winner of a runoff presidential election with 51.7 percent, defeating former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
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