By Colonel (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman*
An Israeli general has said that Egypt’s public support for the normalisation agreements with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan are one of the distinguishing features and benefits of Israel’s partnership with its neighbour in the eastern Mediterranean, Arabi21 has reported.
“Cairo warmly welcomed these agreements, of which a network of complicated power relations have emerged, and prevented any discussion at the Arab League which the Palestinians had demanded,” explained Eran Lerman. “All of this is very different from Egyptian conduct in the past.”
The Vice President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) added in a lengthy article that the Egyptian position should be seen as one of the important rewards that Israel gets because of its commitment to the new power relations in the Mediterranean. “This is expressed as explicit support for Greece and Egypt against Turkey on the demarcation of maritime borders and the implicit conflict emanating from this for the future of Libya.”
Lerman was in the Israeli army for 20 years. The current position, he said, is an important part of the evolving partnership between Israel, Egypt, the UAE and France.
Israel has apparently signed a cooperation memorandum with Greece, Cyprus, the UAE and Bahrain, and participated in a tripartite meeting with the Cypriots and Greeks. “Such developments are paving the way for a new regional alliance of great importance, especially for Egypt and Israel, because it is necessary for Israel to maintain close cooperation with countries of the Mediterranean in this age of uncertainty.” There are indications, he claimed, that the US and Europe are “running out of patience” with Turkish President Recep Tayyeb Erdogan.
“Egypt and Israel are annoyed by Erdogan’s ambition to establish a neo-Ottoman era, which is increasingly dangerous The Egyptian regime’s pro-Israel stance coincides with persistent anti-Israel positions among Egyptian citizens, especially the intellectual and cultural elite. However, other political and ideological priorities, and geostrategic and economic considerations, have led to a major shift in Egypt’s stances towards Israel.”
The former general suggested that the maritime agreement signed by Turkey and the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord in Libya could prevent Egypt from accessing European markets. “In this case, Egypt’s interests intersect those of Israel and Cyprus… Hence, Egypt needs to cooperate with Israel to face the Turkish challenge.”
Lerman also revealed that Cairo and Tel Aviv have worked closely together for several years to eliminate the threat of pro-Daesh elements in the Sinai Peninsula. “Israeli support for Egypt’s positions in Washington is also important to Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, because he considers his strategic relations with the US as vital and indispensable for the Egyptian leadership and army, despite Egypt’s good relations with China and Russia. Thus, Al-Sisi’s position will be reinforced in Washington if he presents himself as an ally of Israel.”
*Colonel (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman is Vice President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security was deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. He held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years. He also served for eight years as director of the Israel and Middle East office of the American Jewish Committee. He teaches in the Middle East studies program at Shalem College in Jerusalem, and in post-graduate programs at Tel Aviv University and the National Defense College. He is an expert on Israel’s foreign relations, and on the Middle East. A third-generation Sabra, he holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, and a mid-career MPA from Harvard University.