In an unusual display of understanding from a senior Arab official, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday reportedly told a group of high school students in Cairo that Israel’s policies toward Palestinians do not constitute terrorism and that given Israel’s history, it has strong concerns regarding its security.
“You can look at [the question of Israeli ‘terrorism’] from the perspective of a regime of force, but [looked at from a more traditional understanding of terrorism,] there is no evidence showing a link between Israel and armed terrorist groups,” Shoukry told students visiting the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Cairo, according to a report on the Ynet news website.
“There is no conclusive [proof] leading to that conclusion,” he said.
Shoukry’s remarks came in response to a student who asked the foreign minister why Israel and the United States were not considered terror organizations by the international community despite their ongoing military operations in the region.
According to one report from the meeting, by the Qatar-affiliated London-based Al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper, the student asked if Israel’s killing of Palestinian children could be considered terror.
However the question was phrased, Shoukry noted Israel’s security concerns were rooted in its history.
“Certainly Israel has, in accordance with its own history, a society in which the security element is very strong.
“From Israel’s perspective, since 1948, that society has faced many challenges that have instilled in it its national security doctrine, its control of land and border crossings,” he said.
In July, Shoukry made a rare visit to Jerusalem — the first by an Egyptian foreign minister since 2007 — to promote President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s proposal to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
According to a Channel 2 report at the time, Shoukry’s surprise visit was also aimed at arranging a first meeting between Sissi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming months.
His visit, the TV report said, was coordinated between Egypt and Saudi Arabia, whose Arab Peace Initiative is backed by Sissi and much of the Arab world as the basis of any regional peace effort. Netanyahu has rejected that initiative in its current form, but said earlier this year that it “contains positive elements that could help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians.”
Last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also indicated his willingness to participate in a trilateral Israeli-Egyptian-Palestinian peace summit in Cairo.
Shoukry’s comments on the Jewish state Sunday came as an Israeli delegation reportedly arrived in Cairo for meetings with their Egyptian counterparts to discuss the renewed peace efforts.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.