Israel celebrates its independence for first time in Egypt since Arab Spring

Israel’s Embassy in Egypt celebrated the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding, the first Independence Day event since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

By: AP

Israel’s Embassy in Egypt celebrated the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding on Tuesday in Cairo, the first such event since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising and a sign of improving ties between the two countries.

The party at the Nile Ritz Carlton was a step up for diplomacy in the Arab world’s most populous country, where relations have deepened under the rule of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in 2013. Mostly foreign diplomats attended, and some Egyptians.

The event also raised eyebrows in the Egyptian media, traditionally a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment, and one state-owned publication even published an anti-Semitic cartoon. Some commentators voiced opposition to the event, especially given Israeli soldiers’ recent killing of Gazan demonstrators.

In a speech, Israeli Ambassador David Govrin welcomed the Arab world’s recent warming toward Israel, led mostly by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, underlining how the Palestinian issue has largely taken a back seat while revolutionary fervor and counterrevolution shook the region. He also took a few shots at Israel’s nemesis Iran.

“The joining of the Saudi Crown Prince to the vision of stability and economic development shared by Egypt and Israel constitutes an important corner stone. We have to broaden this partnership to additional states in order to advance common interests and in order to combat states and terror organizations, that are acting under Iran’s inspiration,” he said.

“Only a regional common struggle may confront Iran’s striving for nuclear weapons and undermine its consistent support to the terror organizations in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.”

Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, in 1979, but relations have always been frosty due to popular support for Palestinians in Egypt. On the economic front that has thawed recently however with a $15 billion deal with an Israeli company to supply natural gas to Egypt.

El-Sissi has come out publicly in support for the deal, saying it brought big advantages to Egypt and will help turn the country into a regional energy hub.

Israel closed its Cairo embassy in 2011 after crowds stormed the building, but it has since reopened in a more secure facility.

The celebrations Tuesday night were catered by celebrity Chef Shaul Ben Aderet, who was visiting Egypt for the first time and said he had received a warm welcome.

“I’m happy to see that the relationship between Egypt and Israel is OK, I was afraid before I came here but when I did I found them friendly, and the team of chefs were very good.”