Daily Israel Report

Israel Pursuing Talks With Egyptian Islamists

As Islamists sweep the polls in Egypt officials in Jerusalem are working to lay the groundwork for diplomatic contacts.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 1/5/2012, 2:15 AM

Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood

Israel will attempt to pursue a dialogue with Islamic factions in Egypt.

According to the Hebrew-language Maariv, Israel's Foreign Ministry has instructed Ambassador Jacob Amity to seek talks with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi parties.

The initiative, proposed by former Ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon, was previously rejected by the Foreign Ministry. However, the Islamists' strong showing in Egypt's elections has apparently forced senior officials to reconsider.

The Muslim Brotherhood is set to win a landslide victory in Egypt's first free parliament in decades. The more hard-line Islamist al-Nour Party has come second in the voting so far.

The strong polling of the Brotherhood and al-Nour, which promotes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, has raised the prospect of a chamber dominated by Islamists. It has also raised concerns about Cairo's ties to Washington and peace with Israel.

Some analysts believe, however, that the Muslim Brotherhood could seek to build a coalition with secular groups.

Such a move would reassure Washington, which has frozen billions in promised aid contingent on Cairo transitioning to a civilian government that protects human rights and upholds the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Accords.

While both the Brotherhood and al-Nour have advocated the imposition of Sharia law and hinted at abrogating or altering Egypt's accord with Israel. But both parties have proven pragmatic when economic matters are considered.

Egypt is desperately in need of funds as its economy spirals and the country hemorrhages cash. Cairo has burned through over half of its foreign currency reserves in the past year and has shown a net loss of 9 billion. Unless the Islamists can set the economy right they will be saddled with the nightmare of national insolvency.

In such an environment Washington's desire for a status quo with Israel and a West-leaning government in Cairo is likely to prove decisive with the Brotherhood and al-Nour despite their public position on talks with Israel and altering the treaty.

The staggered lowe- house election concludes with a run-off vote on Jan. 10 and 11, with final results expected on Jan. 13. Voting for the upper house will be held in January and February.