During the Weekend, the American Newspaper the New York Times Published a Fascinating Scoop.
With the headline “Secret Alliance: Israel carries out air strikes in Egypt, with the approval of Cairo,” international correspondent David D. Kirkpatrick (former head of the Egyptian newspaper office) gives details of a remarkable and highly military relationship secret between both countries.
- “For more than two years,” he wrote, “Israeli drones, helicopters, and planes have conducted a covert aerial campaign and have conducted more than 100 air strikes in Egypt, often more than once a week, all with the approval of the president. Abdel Fattah the Sisi. “
Although Egypt has a peace agreement with Israel since 1979, the relationship between them was considered a “cold peace.”
R aramente some collaboration between the two countries is recognized, much less talking about airstrikes authorized.
The essence of The New York Times story is that the Egyptian army, which had long been fighting to deal with the Islamic insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, had turned to Israel for help.
The Relationship Has Had Benefits for Both Parties.
“For Cairo,” says the journalist, “the Israeli intervention has helped the Egyptian army regain its balance in its battle of almost five years against the jihadist militants.”
“For Israel, the attacks have reinforced the security of its borders and the stability of its neighbor,” he adds.
When The New York Times published the text, based entirely on Israeli or Western sources, it caused consternation among Egyptian media commentators, who branded the piece as “unprofessional journalism” and “false news. “
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The Egyptian military spokesman insisted that only Egyptian security forces were facing the Islamists. Such military cooperation, if true, would be a very sensitive issue for the Egyptian authorities.
But in the midst of a series of reports of air strikes – of drones and manned aircraft – for several months, I’ve certainly wondered at times who might be carrying them out.
The story fits the pattern of a broader change in the region, whose general lines are true, but its extent and probable consequences are far from clear.
An Alliance Against Iran?
The rise of Iran and its growing role as an influential regional power, which stretches from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, is alarming for countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.
Circumstances have pushed some of the moderate Sunni Arab states to move closer and closer to Israel.
They share concerns about the regional role of Iran and its nuclear ambitions, and about the perception of Washington’s unwillingness in recent years to confront Tehran. Diplomatic signals and informational meetings lead to the belief that there are genuine foundations in this approach.
There have also been subtle signals and some not so subtle ones. Recently, Dr. Mohammed al Issa, secretary general of the Islamic World League, based in Saudi Arabia, wrote a fascinating “open” letter to the director of the Holocaust Museum in Washington.
The gesture, coming from a very important religious leader in a region that, to be frank, has been at the forefront of Holocaust denial for decades, was a remarkable statement.
Israel and the Sunnis
From the Arab side, one has to gather pieces like this to get an idea of the changes that are happening below the surface. The Israelis are much more direct. In both private and public briefings, they are anxious to improve their ties with moderate Sunni states.
This was what the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed in a presentation at the London Chatham House, in November 2017. Speaking of the region, he said that “the bad news is that, in the battle between medievalists and modernists, medievalists are advancing, specifically with Iran.” But the good news, he continued, “is that the other guys are uniting with Israel like never before.”
“And there is something I would not have expected in my life, but we are working very hard to achieve it: an effective alliance between Israel and the moderate Sunni states to counteract the aggression of Iran, to make it go back as far as possible,” he added.
Netanyahu struggled to highlight this point by pointing out that “as one moves towards the Persian Gulf, or as they call it, the Arabian Gulf, it realizes that attitudes toward Israel are becoming considerably softer .”
“They are still very hardened, you know, among the Palestinians, in our immediate vicinity, but they are softening a bit,” he said.
Netanyahu’s mention of the Palestinians is an element that should lead to this debate. It is true that even when the president of the United States, Donald Trump, announced his intention to move the embassy of his country in Israel to Jerusalem, there was only a tenuous reaction among the Sunni Arab leaders.
But attitudes in Arab society in general, between intellectuals and citizens, do not tend to reflect this “softening of the elite” towards Israel.
There is a paradox here, as many analysts believe that the Israelis are facing an opportunity to try to push the peace process with the Palestinians and take advantage of the new cooperative attitude of the so-called “moderate Arabs”.
Since the Sunni Arabs, while still criticizing some of Netanyahu’s policies, seek a consensus on the security threats they share with Israel.
And there are those in Israel who are desperate to see what they consider a missed opportunity to at least try to prove what could be possible.
The Netanyahu government seems to be showing signs that it can have it all, that is, improve its relationship with moderate Arabs without the need to make progress on the Palestinian front.