Egyptian source – Ben-Gvir’s ascent to Temple Mount won’t hurt bilateral relations

Cairo treats the Israeli government as two separate entities, a right-wing one to be condemned and a practical one to work with, the source said.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Egypt does not consider National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s controversial visit to the Temple Mount to be a game-changer, despite having officially criticized it, an Egyptian official said Monday, adding that it will not affect Cairo’s relationship with Israel.

Speaking to the London-based Al Sharq al Awsat newspaper, the unnamed official, who is familiar with the countries’ bilateral relations, said that Egypt relates to the Israeli government as if it were two separate administrations. The first, he said, “is led by the extreme right,” while the second, “which presents itself to the world as the government, is led by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu.”

The Egyptian foreign ministry had condemned the right-wing minister’s 15-minute walk on Judaism’s holiest site, calling it “an attempt to test reactions to the implementation of the extreme Right’s plans for the holy places in Jerusalem,” the official said.

However, the reaction was mild in comparison to those of fellow Arab countries. While parroting the almost universal criticism that the Ben-Gvir’s visit was a “unilateral measure” that “violate[d] the legal and historic status quo of Jerusalem,” the statement termed Cairo’s displeasure only as “regret” over the incident.

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Cairo did repeat the same allegation as other Arab governments that Ben-Gvir had “stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque” although the minister had not even entered the building.

Nevertheless, the core stability of the Jerusalem-Cairo relationship remains in place, the official said.

“Egypt understands that Ben-Gvir’s move received Netanyahu’s blessing, so it will affect his government’s relations with Egypt and Jordan in the context of the Palestinian issue, but this does not mean major tensions or difficulties in relations between the two the countries,” the source said.

Another London-based paper, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported a contrasting view Sunday.

According to the paper’s diplomatic sources, “the failure of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s attempts to rein in [Ben Gvir]” caused “resentment” and “embarrassment” in President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s office, because al-Sisi had specifically asked Netanyahu to prevent the minister from ascending the Mount – and Netanyahu had promised to do so, said the report.

Al-Araby Al-Jadeed’s sources said the Egyptians are angry over the visit as well as the sanctions that Israel has announced against the Palestinian Authority and its officials for having instigated a UN resolution against the Jewish state.

These actions, the souirces said, “have made it difficult for Egypt to mediate” with Hamas regarding a potential prisoner swap.

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Cairo’s efforts, they said, “have been affected by the formation of the most extremist government in Israel’s history.”