Responding to conciliatory statements by former Israeli defense minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, officials in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said Thursday that a future president would meet with the Israeli ambassador in Cairo “according to protocol.”
Ben-Eliezer, a close friend of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, told Israel Radio Monday that Israel must enter dialogue with whichever president wins the Egyptian elections, secular or Islamist. The former minister’s statements were received with a measure of skepticism by some members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mahmoud Khalil, a member of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party, called Ben-Eliezer’s statements a “trial balloon,” lacking credibility.
“If he had one ounce of credibility he would implement his words with Hamas, which is a similar political faction,” Khalil told Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera. “Hamas came to power in free elections as the choice of the Palestinian people.”
But other Brotherhood leaders, although reserved, did not rule out the prospect of an official meeting between a Brotherhood president and an Israeli representative.
“We are not scared of the president meeting anyone, as long as these meetings are governed by rules,” said Brotherhood official Muhammad Jamal Hishmat. “He [the president] will act according to protocol in a way that will serve Egyptian interests. What is important is not the meetings, but what comes of them.”
Still, Qutb Al-Arabi, a member of the Morsi presidential campaign, said meetings between Egyptians and Israelis don’t necessarily have to take place at the highest level.
“Diplomatic protocol does not oblige the president to meet a certain man. [The Israeli ambassador] could meet with the foreign minister or one of his aides, and Egypt would still be fulfilling its obligations.”