New Egyptian ambassador arrives in Tel Aviv, the first since 2012

PM says Hazem Khairat’s posting will help Israel ‘further strengthen relations with important and central Arab country’

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

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

Egypt’s new ambassador to Israel arrived in Tel Aviv Friday, ending a period of over three years in which the embassy had no top envoy.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Hazem Khairat’s arrival.

“I welcome the re-stationing of an Egyptian ambassador to Israel, which will enable us to further strengthen relations with this important and central Arab country,” he said during the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday in Jerusalem..

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon confirmed Khairat’s arrival in a short statement Sunday, adding that the ministry wished him “good luck.”

The Foreign Ministry said it was unclear when Khairat would present his credentials to President Reuven Rivlin, but that it would likely happen soon.

Former foreign minister Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) also hailed Khairat’s arrival.

“The new Egyptian ambassador’s arrival to Israel gives expression to our countries’ peace agreement and to the challenges we share with Egypt,” Livni wrote on Twitter.

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 an Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip, dubbed Operation Pillar of Defense.

Khairat’s last two postings were as Egypt’s former permanent representative to the Arab League, and then as ambassador to Chile. His appointment was announced in June and was warmly received in Jerusalem and elsewhere. “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,” he said at the time.

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 Sissi after his election victory in May 2014, hailing the importance of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

Netanyahu and Sissi were reported to have maintained close ties throughout a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip during the summer of 2014, 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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