Report: Israeli ambassador was advised to stay home on eve of Cairo embassy attack
Senior Egyptian source says despite warning, Israeli government insisted on sending the ambassador back to Cairo as soon as possible.
On the eve of the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, Egypt asked Israel to keep its ambassador at home on "a long vacation," according to a report Sunday on the website of the Egyptian daily, Al-Ahram. The report quotes a senior Egyptian source as saying that the request came in order to avoid a situation of further tension and escalation, amid fears that the Egyptian mob may seek to attack the embassy.
The senior Egyptian source said, however, that the Israeli government insisted on sending the ambassador back to Cairo as soon as possible. "Afterwards, we were forced to turn to the Americans in order to rescue the ambassador from Cairo," the source commented.
It was also reported that Egypt promised the U.S. administration and Israel that it would adopt tough security measures in order to ensure that actions of the kind that occurred on Friday would not be repeated. The daily reported on Synday that two senior Israeli officials had arrived in Cairo to discuss the required security measures that would facilitate the reopening of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. One of the possibilities being considered is the relocation of the embassy to a different building.
Al-Ahram did not offer any details as to the identities of the two Israeli officials.
Meanwhile, the head of Egypt's Supreme Military Council, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who was scheduled to testify on Sunday in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak, along with Chief of Staff Sami Annan, canceled his appearance before the court. Egyptian authorities said that the cancellation had stemmed from the security situation in the country.
It appears that even though Tantawi ignored the efforts of senior Israeli officials to contact him on Friday, the security relations between the two countries are still in place - mostly through the Mossad and Egyptian intelligence, which are in regular contact.
The Egyptian intelligence officers are part of the team that was put together by Egyptian intelligence chief Murad Muwafi and were in touch with their Israeli counterparts during Friday's events. Muwafi's officers are also behind the talks with Hamas on the Gilad Shalit deal.
However, at this stage, it will be difficult for Egyptian intelligence to advance a deal that would see Shalit released, even though the original plan was for senior Israeli and Hamas officials to travel to Cairo in an effort to move forward in the talks.
Tantawi and his supporters in the military junta running the country continue to walk a very fine line on the issue of relations with Israel. This includes other senior Egyptian figures with ties to Israel, like former Egyptian ambassador to Israel Muhammed Basioni, who said Sunday that he could understand the mob's behavior at the Israeli Embassy on the emotional level but not from a rational point of view.
Anti-Israeli declarations are a daily occurrence in the Egyptian media and among the various candidates for the Egyptian presidency. Joining the attacks on Israel on Sunday was Ayman Nur, one of the former leaders of the Egyptian opposition and head of the Al'Ad party, which had been supported by Washington and aides of Barack Obama. On Sunday, however, it was also evident that the regime is trying to calm the atmosphere.
According to various reports, the Egyptian police arrested more than 100 people suspected of participating in the rioting on Friday night at the embassy. It is also evident that the leadership in Egypt is now less hesitant about targeting the unruly mob.
Even though statements continue to express understanding in view of "Israel's actions," but in most reports there are clear condemnations of the breach of the embassy and statements that the incident constitutes a blow to Egyptian interests.
A senior Egyptian official was quoted Sunday as claiming that "foreign sources are behind the efforts to escalate the situation" - a hint aimed at Iranian involvement in stirring up the riots in Egypt.
Most of the central political players in Egypt condemned the attack on the embassy building, except for the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Muslim Brotherhood, the storming of the embassy constituted a legitimate response to the hesitant actions taken by the Egyptian regime toward Israel following the deaths of five Egyptian soldiers during the border incident that followed the terrorist attack north of Eilat nearly four weeks ago. A sixth Egyptian soldier succumbed to his injuries Sunday.