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Micah D. Halpern Headshot

Egypt and Israel Are Linked

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The equation is clear and simple to understand. The security of Egypt has an effect on the security of Israel. And the security of both Egypt and Israel has a huge impact of the stability of the entire Middle East region.

I will say it, you can say it, but seldom does the leader of an Arab country come out and flatly say it, too. Arab leaders want to be popular leaders and to do that they must spew forth rabid anti-Israel sentiment or live in fear of being perceived as pro-Zionist or lovers of the West.

And yet, in an extensive, taped, interview conducted during the campaign for the presidency- which he won, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, was broadcast on three Egyptian satellite stations talking about Egypt, Israel and security. Al Sisi, from the liberal Popular Current Party, explained his point of view on the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel.

Al Sisi went into great detail about the role of Egyptian forces in the Sinai. According to the Camp David Peace Accords, Egypt may not have a military presence in the Sinai Desert. But because of the widespread and ever growing terror networks now operating in the Sinai, Israel and Egypt have agreed that the Egyptian military should be permitted to operate there. Actually, they have agreed that the Egyptian military must operate in the Sinai.

Al Sisi explained that the informal change to the Accords is in everyone's best interest. It is clearly in the best interests of both Egypt and Israel to stem the terror. And, he said, if they need to implement an official change to the treaty, that is what they will do.

And despite having said all that, he was elected with an overwhelming majority of the vote. The election was an essential touchstone that will move Egypt back to a path of stability, security and economic prosperity. Al Sisi has said that it will take at least a year to turn back and correct all the damage that was done in Egypt. And part of his Egyptian improvement plan, a rather large part of it, requires investing in and maintaining good relations with Israel and the U.S. But that must be behind closed curtains.

In the 2012 election Egyptians elected Mohammed Morsi, a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood to be their president. It was a stake in the heart of international diplomacy and relations with the West, especially with Israel and the United States. At the time al Sisi was the minister of defense and head of the army. During Morsi's tenure and after his ousting military interaction between Egypt and Israel and cooperation and communication reached new and better levels. Never before has there been such security cooperation between these two countries. That is why there is no need to officially amend the Camp David treaty. Both sides agree, both sides are communicating well and both sides are sharing information. And yes, al Sisi is correct -- it is in the mutual self interest of Egypt and Israel to cooperate and fight terror in the Sinai. Egypt and Israel have certainly come a long way from the years when they were sworn, bitter, warring enemies.

The candidate who opposed al Sisi in the election, Hamdeen Sabahi, is a secularist socialist candidate. He was a journalist and poet and under the reigns of Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak he was arrested 17 times. Sabahi also ran in the 2012 election and then he took third place. In this election, given that there were only two candidates to choose from, he did better and came in second.

It is not accidental that one of the platforms Sabahi ran on was opening up the Camp David Accords and having the people vote on them. Sabahi said that the people can choose to discard them or amend them or keep them as they are. While that may sound as if the candidate was actually more laissez faire than secularist and socialist, he had his own agenda. In truth, Sabahi was convinced that the Egyptians, en masse, saw the Camp David Accords as an oppressive agreement forced up them by the United States. Obviously, he misjudged the constituency.

Al Sisi wants to make certain that the relationship with Israel continues. He does not care if the Accords are amended or left as they are. For him it is essential that the dialogue continues militarily, commercially and diplomatically.

But there is a catch. While running for the presidency al Sisi was able to talk about the issues of peace and security with Israel publicly. Now that he has assumed the position, all conversations, communication and meetings between his office and his counterparts in Israel and the Western world must be handled delicately, quietly and even secretly.

It's not just diplomacy. It's diplomacy, Middle East style.