‘Animosity and antagonism between Egypt and Israel’ is in the past, Egyptian foreign minister says

Despite criticisms of the Israeli response to Hamas and comments equivocating it with the Hamas attack, Egypt’s foreign minister said that there is no question about the future of the relationship between Egypt and Israel

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

Julian Haber | Aspen Security Forum

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks at the Aspen Security Forum on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Thursday that the relationship between Israel and Egypt remains solid and unquestioned, even as he criticized Israel’s military response to Hamas inside Gaza and seemed to draw equivalencies between Israel and Hamas.

“I think the issue of animosity and antagonism between Egypt and Israel is totally an issue behind us,” Shoukry said, entirely ruling out the possibility of cutting ties or renewed violence between Israel and Egypt. “We don’t agree on all issues, but that doesn’t in any way jeopardize what is a very stable foundation.”

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, D.C., Shoukry made clear that he condemned the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, but also called the Israeli counteroffensive into Gaza “equally dangerous to the peace and security in the region,” suggesting that both represented attacks on civilians.

Unlike other Arab leaders, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Shoukry rejected Hamas as a legitimate political authority in Gaza and said that it had never been one. He said that Hamas had deposed the Palestinian Authority and gained power in Gaza “outside of the realm of legitimacy” and that it only maintained power in Gaza through force of arms.

U.S. and other western officials have been pushing for Arab states to be heavily involved in the post-war reconstruction of Gaza and in helping to establish post-war governance in the territory. But Shoukry said that it wouldn’t be appropriate to consider the post-war situation until after a permanent ceasefire is reached, calling it a “deflection of what’s happening today.”

He added that it will be up to the Palestinian people to determine the governance of Gaza in the future. He also suggested that the U.S. and the international community need to apply real pressure to push toward a two-state solution, beyond “lip service.”

Shoukry predicted that the Israel-Hamas conflict will only “temporarily” dampen progress toward normalization and a brighter future for the region.

But, he continued, “There is a recognition within the region that the only way forward for all of us is through normalization, through integration, through cooperation, and to end the conflict. There is so much potential in a healthy, productive relationship.”

Shoukry deflected accusations that Egypt had played a part in obstructing the flow of aid into Gaza or had closed down the Rafah crossing between the Sinai and Gaza, claiming that his country has “in no way restricted” the flow of aid into the territory. 

He placed the blame on Israeli reluctance and inspection mechanisms, as well as mentioned repeated bombings of the Rafah crossing, without specifically naming the party responsible.

Shoukry categorically rejected the idea of allowing civilians in Gaza to temporarily shelter in Egypt until the end of the war, framing the idea as an attempt to punish Palestinian civilians, rather than protecting them.

“Wouldn’t you think that escaping this conflict would be by advocating a cessation of hostilities rather than by displacing people outside of their homes, outside of their territories?” Shoukry said. “Displacement is not a recognized form of dealing with any conflict situation. There’s no reason why the Palestinians should leave their territory. Palestinian citizens were not responsible for what happened on Oct. 7 and should not be penalized.”

Shoukry also said the U.S.’s refusal to push Israel to agree to a ceasefire “raises questions of credibility and double standards.” 

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