Israeli Ambassador Returns to Egypt After 8-month Absence

Cairo airport officials say that the Israeli diplomatic staff, which left amidst security concerns, has returned. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has refused to comment

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in 2011
Protesters outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in 2011Credit: Panet
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel's ambassador to Egypt has returned to his post, eight months after he and his small staff returned home because of unspecified security threats, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday. The Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to comment.

Citing Cairo airport officials, the news agency reported that the ambassador, David Govrin, flew back to Cairo on Tuesday with eight staff members. The airport officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, AP said.

Since the embassy was stormed by demonstrators in 2011, the Israeli presence there was reduced until its eventual evacuation in December. Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979 that included the exchange of ambassadors, but Israel's was recalled for security-related reasons that apparently included fear of an attack. Efforts to restaff the embassy were delayed in part due to Egyptian officials delaying the implementation of Israel's recommended security measures.

Israeli Ambassador to Egypt David Govrin. Credit: Foreign Ministry

In a special session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last month, National Security Council officials from the Prime Minister's Office said that maintaining good security ties with Egypt was more important to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than restaffing the embassy in Cairo than to re-staffing the embassy. The army and the Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the fact that diplomatic relations with Egypt had significantly deteriorated since the staff had left the embassy. A few days later a delegation from Israel met with senior Egyptian officials to discuss security arrangements to reopen the embassy.

Prior to their departure in mid-December, the ambassador and his staff routinely flew home on Thursday and returned to their post on Sunday. They regularly worked from the ambassador's residence. Over the past four years, Israel has been in unsuccessful talks with Egypt to move its embassy to a different location.

Ksenia Svetlova, a lawmaker from the Zionist Union party and a member of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, welcomed the move. "The security relations that exist between [Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah] al-Sissi's administration are important," she said, "but they aren't enough. Diplomatic relations between countries also carry a lot of weight.

"Soon, we'll mark 40 years since [then-Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat's visit to Israel, and in this context we must exhaust the ways to implement [then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin and his vision to improve the actual relations between the countries." Svetlova added, "I hope that returning the ambassador will open a window to expand relations between the countries in other areas such as commerce and academia, which in recent years have almost completely disappeared."

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