A former Israeli diplomat in Cairo addresses the Egyptian president in this open letter.
Mr. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi,
As the leader of the Egyptian nation, leading it in spite of all difficulties, I salute your courage. You have “inherited” a complex situation: a challenging economy, illiteracy of over 40% and record-breaking tensions between the Coptic minority and Muslim extremists.
Taking all of this into consideration, an analysis of your actions over the past few months has shown you to be a wise leader: one who possesses discretion, one who leads Egypt in a way only rare leaders do — bravely.
You have restored Egypt to its natural place as the leader of the Arab world. You have strengthened Egypt’s ties with the Saudi kingdom, simultaneously maintaining the financial backing this connection provides to Egypt. During the last military campaign in Israel you handled Hamas firmly while leaving a window open for the Palestinian leadership Egypt considers to be legitimate (under Mahmoud Abbas) to take his place.
YOU HAVE MADE it your mission to bring Copts and Muslims together. A welcome step in this direction was the investment of millions in preserving and reopening Egypt’s most important church, Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Orthodox Church, also known as the “Hanging church” — an action, that unbelievably, went almost unreported in the international media.
You have waved the flag of eradication of the violence against women that has been plaguing Egypt lately and lead by example, visiting women hurt by sexual harassment.
“You have restored Egypt to its natural place as the leader of the Arab world”
You have not shied away from the intolerable economic situation: Instead, you have been studying, planning, building and executing visionary plans to improve the situation, all the while wisely explaining to your people; trying to adjust their expectations to the complex reality in which you are not a magician and your government does not perform miracles.
I have listened very carefully to your last speech, Mr. President, presented in the international summit that was held in Cairo and focused on rebuilding Gaza. I heard three main things:
Firstly, there cannot be a regional agreement without a parallel bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreement. With this assertion, you have squashed any attempt to bypass the Israeli-Palestinian peace process while leaving room for regional collaboration that includes Israel.
Secondly, for the first time since the late president Anwar Sadat, the leader of the Egyptian Republic addressed the people of Israel; you have looked the Israeli public in the eye and spoke of the importance of ending the conflict and of establishing a two-state solution.
This was actually noted by the newspapers in Egypt, not with scorn or criticism, but with a fair amount of admiration. Between the lines, you have argued that in spite of the threats — familiar to you from a life-long military service to your country — the only way to achieve true security for our children is to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to its resolution in a manner that would include the rest of the countries in the Middle East who aspire to stability. This would help us to centrally engage, align and deal with dangers such as ISIS, the extremists’ surge in Turkey, the breakdown of Libya and its fall into the hands of radical elements, the deterioration in Syria and other issues challenging regional stability.
Your opinion matters to the Israeli public, Mr. President — we saw how you stood by Israel’s side during the “Tzuk Eitan” campaign. Even if your words were spoken not out of love for Israel, but rather out of the necessity to protect vital Egyptian interests — you have won the support of the Israeli people.
Like the people of Egypt, who do not forget those who killed their soldiers in cold blood while planning to overthrow the central government of Egypt using terror cells deep in the Sinai Peninsula, we do not forget those who stood by us in our time of need.
The third thing I heard, were the words not spoken by you. You refused to give Hamas center stage; you reaffirmed the importance of the Palestinian authority and its appointed leader, as the only leader for the Palestinian people and stressed the role such a leader has to take in the aftermath of the Gaza campaign.
AND FINALLY, at the same time, Mr. President, you continue to consistently promote large economic collaborations in the international arena, including with Israel. These collaborations are not kept secret and spoken about in private, like your predecessors did. Instead, they are open to the public and supported by members of your government.
I am under no illusions that all of this is said and done owing to a particular affection for my people. I fully understand that your actions — all of them — are the actions of a person who loves his country deeply. Coming up in the ranks of the Egyptian army, you know that the continued stability and prosperity of your homeland, Egypt, is closely linked to Israel’s security and that a regional stability is the only platform that will ensure our children’s safety.
This is why, as a former member of the Israeli foreign ministry service, and having lived in Egypt for a few years in the past, but mostly, as an Israeli citizen, I wish to show my support and to pray to preserve and strengthen the relations between our countries and our people.
Originally published in Hebrew on Ynet 19.10.14. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of Your Middle East.