Israel thrashes Egyptian double dealing diplomacy

Most people remember shifty French diplomacy in 2003. But then the French conceived the art of knavish diplomacy. On the one hand France refused to back any American led attack on Iraq. On the other hand France deployed substantial air forces to the American led operation in Afghanistan. Not to mention the US Air Force who airlifted French forces into Africa at the same time as the onset of the Iraq war.

So maybe this is where Egypt learned to play the same game with Israel. Recently on 9 September, the Israeli Embassy reopened in Cairo. The glee among Israeli diplomats was hard to hide. A new era had apparently dawned in relations with Egypt. Yet at the same time Egypt was leading a resolution in the International Atomic Energy Agency to force Israel to open its nuclear facilities to international inspectors. The resolution was defeated 61-43 with 33 abstentions.

Israel and Egypt have had this love-hate relationship since Abraham took two women to bear his sons. One of whom was an Egyptian whose son Ishmael has inspired the entire region to turn against the very existence of the descendants of the other son Isaac, the Jewish state Israel. When Israel was in famine the tribes went to Egypt. I have always wondered why considering that the land north and north-east of Israel, today Lebanon and Syria, seems to be more fertile and a shorter distance than crossing the Sinai to Egypt. Of course the ten plagues and losing the Jewish slaves that designed and built the pyramids is something that Egypt will never forget. Not to mention the 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars in which Egypt did not achieve any military victories, and twice lost the entire Sinai Peninsula.

So it is not surprising that Egypt has presented two faces, or double-dealt, against Israel in the month of September 2015. The love-hate relationship continues unabated. Or maybe it is just an indication that the Egyptian government is so fragmented that the left hand and right hand don’t know what each other are doing. I suggest that both have an element of truth. Between the two acts of Egyptian diplomacy for and against Israel, on 12 September, the Egyptian Prime Minister and his cabinet resigned amid a corruption investigation that also led to the arrest of the agriculture minister. If only Joseph was still around this would not have happened, but then there are so few Jews left in Egypt.

Egypt however is not the only one that needs to be considered in this game of diplomacy. It takes two to tango and here Israel has thrashed Egypt, not once but twice over the last 10 days. In the words of the Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold when re-opening the embassy: Israel and Egypt are working together for the stability and prosperity of the Middle East where Egypt will always be the largest and most important state in the region (Umm Al-Dunya). Egypt took the complement and went to the IAEA where Israel managed to convince the majority of its members that Egypt was aiming to hurt the credibility of the organisation by politicizing it and reducing its valuable resources. Kiss one cheek and slap the other seems to be Jerusalem’s new strategy vis-à-vis Egypt and it has worked.

Herein is the weakness of Israel’s diplomacy. The same strategy doesn’t work elsewhere. The Palestinians can now raise their flag at the United Nations and it appears as if Iran will legally become a nuclear threshold state. The open ended question is just how can Israeli diplomacy kiss the Iranian and Palestinian cheeks, since it is clearly capable and has slapped their other? If only Isaac had had an Iranian mistress and Jacob a Palestinian, then maybe this would work, but then again we might have another two religions to contend with.

French diplomats demur that they faced a similar dilemma after World War II so they supplemented their diplomacy with nuclear weapons and a strategy of dissuasion. Good luck Bibi !!!

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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