Israel Envoy Seeks Talks With Islamist Groups in Egypt

Senior diplomatic official tells Haaretz, ambassador must talk to 'anyone who wants to and agrees to talk to him, even if those contacts are not made public.'

Israel's new ambassador in Cairo, Yaakov Amitai, will attempt to open communication channels with Islamic officials in Egypt, including representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and the radical Salafi movement's Al-Nour Party, according to a senior diplomatic official in Jerusalem.

The official told Haaretz that, as ambassador, Amitai must make contact with all relevant entities in positions of power, and talk to "anyone who wants to and agrees to talk to him, even if those contacts are not made public."

Israeli embassy, Cairo - 9.9.11 - Reuters

The source said Israel must engage in dialogue with Islamic representatives in the relatively friendly Arab countries, including representatives of the fundamentalist Salafi parties such as Al-Nour - if they agree to talk.

"We should make every effort to explain that we are not the enemies of the Egyptian people or enemies of the Palestinians," the official said, adding, "The Palestinians cannot continue to hold the Arab world by the tail."

Nonetheless, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement are expected to rule out any dialogue with the Israeli government or its emissaries.

In an interview with Egyptian journalists, Amitai - who only assumed his position in Cairo six days ago - was asked if he was concerned about the political rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.

He replied that he did not wish to get involved in Egypt's internal affairs and needed to study the situation further.

Until now, the Israeli government has not attempted to open official contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Jerusalem official's comments are unusual in light of the Brotherhood's failure to recognize Israel.

However, representatives of the Islamic movement have told American diplomats that the group did not intend to seek the revocation of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel.