Israel in talks with Egypt for return of ambassador


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his government was consulting with Egypt on arrangements to return Israel’s ambassador to Cairo after a mob ransacked the mission there. “We are in touch with the Egyptian government over the necessary arrangements for the return of the ambassador, so that he and his staff will be appropriately protected in order to maintain Israeli representation in Cairo,” a statement from his office quoted him as telling the weekly cabinet meeting. He described the events of Friday night and the early hours of Saturday, in which six Israeli security guards were besieged in the embassy building for several hours, as “a hard and challenging weekend.”
“The rioters entered the embassy building, entered the embassy premises… came right to the door behind which our men were trapped,” he said. The guards were eventually rescued by an Egyptian commando squad and immediately flown home on an Israeli aircraft.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the incident was “complex and very dangerous, a hair’s breadth away from loss of life.” The attack, in which crowds smashed through an external security wall, tossed embassy papers from balconies and tore down the Israeli flag, was the worst since Israel set up its mission in Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state, in 1979. But Israeli officials on Sunday called for a return to business as usual. “We shall do everything in order that relations between the two countries will return to normal,” Environment Minister Gilad Erdan told public radio. “In this case the Egyptian authorities acted as they should,” he said, referring to the rescue.
It was the latest episode in worsening relations between Egypt and Israel since the killing of six Egyptian policemen on their common border as Israel hunted militants after a deadly attack last month. Netanyahu himself on Saturday restated his desire to maintain the peace treaty with Egypt, one of only two Arab countries with Jordan to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.
“We are committed to preserving peace with Egypt, which is in the interest of Egypt and Israel,” he said in a broadcast address. Since president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February after a popular revolt, Egyptian activists have called for a revision of the peace treaty with Israel.