Marking 40 years of peace with Egypt, Rivlin urges pact with Palestinians

President tells Cairo’s ambassador he wants to meet his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord held at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks at an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord held at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, June 25, 2019. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday hosted Egypt’s envoy to Israel at an event marking 40 years since the peace treaty between the two countries and urged that the pact serve as an inspiration for reaching a similar agreement with the Palestinians.

He also told Egyptian Ambassador to Israel Khaled Azmi that he would like to meet with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Rivlin and Azmi were joined at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem by Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzahi Hanegbi, according to a statement from the president.

“The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed only six years after a terrible war between our countries in 1973,” Rivlin said. “We could never have imagined that only a few years later our leaders would hug and shake hands. This should serve as an inspiration for our efforts to achieve peace with all of our neighbors, and especially our Palestinian neighbors.

“When courageous leaders are willing to end their conflict, and set out on a new path based on reconciliation and mutual respect, peace can be achieved more quickly than we can imagine,” he said.

Members of the diplomatic corps also attended the event, among them Israeli ambassadors who previously served in Egypt and officials who played key roles in the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord, signed by prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. The pact was brokered by US president Jimmy Carter and formally signed at the White House.

“I want to especially express our appreciation to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, whose commitment to peace, stability and cooperation has ensured that our relationship stays strong,” Rivlin said.

“My friend, the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is the cornerstone of stability in the Middle East,” he said, addressing Azmi. “I hope that President Sissi and I have an opportunity to meet soon, and to mark many decades of mutual, strategic collaboration between our countries.”

Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, US president Jimmy Carter, center, and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin clasp hands on the north lawn of the White House as they sign the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, March 26, 1979. (AP/Bob Daugherty)

Azmi declared that “Middle East peace can best be served by learning from our own past experiences.”

“Our peace treaty has set an important example in how Middle East peace is negotiated, and by what means should Arab and Israeli interests be accounted for in a peace process,” the Egyptian envoy said. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has wasted the resources and disrupted the lives of the people of the Middle East for many decades.

“It is saddening to claim the status quo as the most that we can achieve of the hopes and aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians,” continued Azmi. “The goal we aim to achieve through negotiations between the two parties is one that is based on justice, legitimate rights and mutual willingness to coexist in two neighboring independent states living in peace and security.”

Foreign Minister Katz said, “The challenge before us today is to turn peace between the two countries into a genuine and warm relationship between the citizens of the countries. This is the time for greater cooperation in areas such as modern technology, industry, energy, water, agriculture and other fields.”

Regional Cooperation Minister Hanegbi recalled that as a young “idealistic student leader” he had taken part in protests against the peace treaty because it involved dismantling Israeli settlements built in the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel captured from Egypt in the 1967 Six Day War.

“I am proud of that,” Hanegbi said. “But I am also happy to admit that the peace agreement with Egypt strengthened the State of Israel on every level — political, security and economic — and as a minister of regional cooperation, I see it every day anew.”

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