Morsi says he won’t visit or warm ties with Israel

Egyptian leader dismisses talk of increased cooperation with Jerusalem, noting, ‘Even enemy states coordinate on security matters’

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi (photo credit: AP/Maya Alleruzzo/File)
Ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi (photo credit: AP/Maya Alleruzzo/File)

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said he wouldn’t visit Israel, nor would he host an Israeli leader in Egypt, before peace is achieved between Israel and the Palestinians.

In a lengthy two-hour interview with the Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera on Saturday, Morsi stressed Egypt’s commitment to the peace accords signed with Israel in 1979 as an expression of “the free will of the Egyptians,” but added that true peace couldn’t exist as long as Palestinians were denied their rights.

“The peace treaty [with Israel] clearly states: ‘just and comprehensive peace for the nations of the region.’ I refer to the Palestinian people. Where is just and comprehensive peace for the Palestinian people?”

Relations between Israel and Egypt sharply deteriorated in the wake of the popular Egyptian uprising of January 2011. Egyptian demonstrators stormed and ransacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo in September 2011, and the embassy has yet to be reopened. The appointment of a new Egyptian ambassador to Israel last October unleashed a flurry of condemnation against Morsi’s administration.

Asked about the prospect of normalization with Israel, Morsi said he could not foresee such a possibility materializing in the future.

“We must always talk about reality, not imagine future things which are impossible as we observe reality,” he said. “There are attempts [by Israel] to change the landscape, aggression, marginalization, and decades-long expansion. This must stop by international pressure, and Egypt will be at the heart of this [effort]. Can anyone imagine peace or stability in the Middle East without Egypt?”

Morsi dismissed recent comments by Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz to the effect that security coordination with Egypt was much better today than it was in the past. He added, however, that if such improvement did indeed exist it was the result of a more self-confident Egypt.

“The security coordination has been going on for 30 years, it’s not new. Even enemy states coordinate on security matters to achieve stability along the border,” he said. “However, why do they claim that relations are better than in the past? Because there is a balance in decision-making. No one imposes their will on us.”

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