Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi AFP/File

Egypt rejected an Israeli request to upgrade the relations between the countries, according to a report on Monday in the Ma’ariv daily newspaper.

The report indicated that Israel was interested in expanding the cooperation between the two countries and raising it to a level of ministerial talks between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fatah a-Sisi.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry, reported Ma’ariv, also wanted to hold a dialogue at the director-generals level. Foreign Ministry Director Rafi Barak last month sent Egypt a request to visit Cairo and meet with his Egyptian counterpart.

The Egyptians, however, refused to set a date for the meeting due to the Muslim holiday of Eid el-Adha. Barak’s calls also went unanswered, Ma’riv reported, as Sisi did not respond to several phone calls from Barak. While Sisi is very familiar with Israel's top military brass as well as with Barak himself, he does not want to talk with the Israeli defense minister because of the sensitivity in Egypt with regard to Israel.

Another event indicating the high sensitivity in Egypt toward Israel is the cancellation or postponement of a visit by a high-level Egyptian delegation that was recently scheduled to arrive in Israel.

A foreign diplomat who is involved in the relations between the two countries told Ma'ariv, "The relations are currently on hold. The political situation in Egypt is very sensitive, and they will not agree to any change or upgrade beyond the levels that were customary during the time of Mubarak.”

Despite the fact that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi recently sent a new ambassador to Israel, the staff at the Israeli Embassy in Egypt have been working from a temporary site since protesters broke into the embassy building in Cairo, reported Ma’ariv. A new building to host the Israeli embassy has yet to be located, and the Israeli flag is not flying in Cairo. As well, the report said, the Israeli embassy is working with skeleton staff who stay in Cairo just three days a week, without spouses.

Egypt's president has repeatedly said he would continue to maintain the peace with Israel and uphold international documents signed by prior Cairo administrations, despite opposition from his Muslim Brotherhood backers, who have called for a jihad (holy war) to "liberate" Jerusalem.

An adviser to Morsi recently called to urgently change the peace treaty with Israel.

Last week, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called on President Barack Obama to publicly condemn  Morsi, after he attended a sermon where the preacher called for the "destruction and dispersal of the Jews."

At the same time, Morsi recently sent a letterto his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, in which he referred to the Israeli president as a "great friend."

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