Egyptian Playwright Urges Countrymen: Israel is Not an Enemy

Days before his death, renowned playwright and political critic Ali Salem calls to embrace peace with Israel, 'the ancient Hebrew people.'

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Ari Soffer,

Egyptians burn Israeli flag in Cairo
Egyptians burn Israeli flag in Cairo
Reuters

Despite the 1979 peace accord between the two countries, and a long history of security and intelligence coordination since then, many Egyptians still view Israel as an enemy state.

But attitudes are changing somewhat, if at a snail's pace, as Egypt continues to find common cause with its Jewish neighbor in its struggle against Islamist terrorism - including the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Hamas, which Cairo blames for helping foment the jihadist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.

In a recent interview just days before his death, legendary Egyptian playwright, author and political critic Ali Salem urged his countrymen "not to be ashamed" of their peace treaty with Israel, and to accept the fact that the Jewish state is not their enemy.

Speaking to Egypt's ON TV on September 20, and echoing recent statements by other public figures, Salem emphasized that Egyptians need not consider Israelis as their "friends" to realize the importance of a strategic alliance.

"It is all about interests," he told his interviewer, in comments translated by MEMRI. 

"Israel is not an enemy state," he continued, noting that it was simply not in Israel's interest to sow strife in Egypt. "Israel would not allow a neighboring country to be torn to pieces, to become all screwed up and to be ruled by gangs and by ISIS.

"A strong Egypt is in Israel's best interest."

When his interviewer objected by suggesting Israel was responsible for turmoil in Syria, Ali Salem interjected: "What did Israel do to the Syrians? The regime did it all.

"The only Syrians who can get a full eight hours sleep every night are the ones living in the (Israeli) Golan Heights," he added, pointing to the "irony" that the only Syrians who are relatively safe from the civil war are those living under Israeli control.

The playwright also had a more nostalgic view of "the Hebrew people."

"The Egyptians and the Hebrews are the most ancient peoples on earth and the relationship between them is real," he insisted. 

"I hope the political leadership in Egypt will not be ashamed of the peace accords... Israel does not pose a threat to the national security of Egypt on any level.