After 3 years, Egypt appoints new ambassador to Israel
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After 3 years, Egypt appoints new ambassador to Israel

Previous envoy was recalled in 2012 in protest of IDF Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza Strip; PM ‘deeply welcomes’ move

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Hazem Khairat (YouTube screenshot)
Hazem Khairat (YouTube screenshot)

Egypt has appointed a new ambassador to Israel, the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said on Sunday, ending more than three years in which the embassy in Tel Aviv has had no top envoy.

It was not clear when Hazem Khairat will take up his post.

“The Foreign Ministry welcomes the appointment,” spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said in a short statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also welcomed the announcement. “This is an important piece of news. We appreciate it,” he said during a meeting with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius in Jerusalem. “It’s something that has been, that is deeply welcomed in Israel and I think it’s very good for cementing the peace that exists between Egypt and Israel.”

Fabius, during a press release after the meeting, also hailed Cairo’s step as “very important and very positive.”

Cairo’s last ambassador to Israel, Atef Salem, arrived in the Jewish state in October 2012. He was recalled soon after in the wake of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.

Ambassador Atef Salem submits his letter of credence to President Shimon Peres in October. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
Ambassador Atef Salem (right) submits his letter of credence to then-president Shimon Peres, October 2012. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Khairat’s last two postings were as Egypt’s former permanent representative to the Arab League, and then as ambassador to Chile.

In September 2014 Israel’s new ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren, presented his credentials to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at his palace in Cairo.

Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren, presents his credentials to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Ssisi in Cairo, September 14, 2014 (photo credit: courtesy)
Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, Haim Koren (left), presents his credentials to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, September 14, 2014. (Courtesy)

The ceremony allowed Koren to begin official contacts with Egyptian government officials in his capacity as Israel’s diplomatic representative.

Official relations between Jerusalem and Cairo have been relatively warm since Sissi took power.

Both Netanyahu and then-president Shimon Peres congratulated Koren after his election victory in May 2014, hailing the importance of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

Last summer, Netanyahu and Sissi were reported to have maintained close ties throughout the 50-day Operation Protective Edge, including frequent and lengthy telephone conversations.

Egyptian protesters demolish a concrete wall protecting the Israeli embassy in Cairo, September 9, 2011 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
Egyptian protesters demolish a concrete wall protecting the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, September 9, 2011. (AP/Amr Nabil)

The Israeli Embassy in Cairo was ransacked by an angry mob in September 2011. It has not been reopened since, but some embassy staff returned to Cairo in 2012 and began working from an unofficial location.

In the unrest that followed the ouster of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, Israel reduced the number of its diplomatic staff posted to Cairo, but it has begun building up its presence in the city more recently in light of the relative calm.

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