Overview of Bilateral Cooperation
Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, marking the end of 30 years of relentless hostility and five
costly wars. The treaty was preceded by Egyptian President Anwar
al-Sadat's visit to Jerusalem (1977), at the invitation of Israel's Prime Minister Menachem
Begin, as well as the signing of the Camp
David Accords (1978) which constituted a basis for peace between
Egypt and Israel and between Israel and its other neighbors. The accords
also addressed the need to solve the Palestinian issue, following a
five-year interim phase of autonomy for the Palestinian Arab residents
of Judea and Samaria (the West
Bank) and the Gaza Strip.
President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin were jointly awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize for their achievement.
The peace implemented between Israel and Egypt consists of several major
elements, including the termination of the state of war as well as acts or
threats of belligerency, hostility or violence; the establishment of
diplomatic, economic and cultural ties; the removal of barriers to trade
and freedom of movement; and withdrawal by Israel from the Sinai
peninsula, with agreed security arrangements and limited force zones.
Israel completed its withdrawal from the Sinai (1982) according to the
terms of the treaty, giving up strategic military bases and other assets
in exchange for peace.
Although Egypt was ostracized by other Arab states following
the signing of the treaty, most have since reestablished relations with
Egypt and reopened their embassies in Cairo. The headquarters of the Arab League, which had been
transferred to Tunis, were reinstated in Cairo in the early 1980s.
Having to overcome 30 years of distrust and hostility, normalization
of relations between Israel and Egypt is a long and arduous process.
Yet, embassies and consulates have been established by both countries,
and meetings between government ministers and high-ranking officials
take place regularly.
In 2004, Egypt and Israel signed
a Qualified Industrial Zone (QIZ) Agreement
under which jointly produced goods enter
the U.S. market duty free as part of the
U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement. As a
result of the QIZ, Israeli exports to Egypt
grew 110% in 2005.
Following the outbreak
of Palestinian violence (September
2000), relations cooled considerably
and Egypt recalled its ambassador, who
later returned. Even during the tense
period, cooperation continued in agriculture,
and the joint military committee met
regularly. As the Palestinian War wound
down in 2005, Egypt’s
trade with Israel picked up, and was expected
to rise 130 per cent as a result
of a U.S.-brokered agreement that created
an estimated 15,000 Egyptian jobs. Egyptian-Israeli
trade will rise from $58 million in 2004 to
a projected $134 million in 2005. The volume
is small — Egypt’s global exports
are worth about $12 billion a year, Israel’s
are about $30 billion — but the growth
in trade is a positive development in the relationship.
investment in Egypt remains
stagnant, largely because of lingering
distrust and political sentiment.
2005, Israel signed an agreement to
buy 1.7 billion cubic feet of Egyptian
natural gas for an estimated $2.5 billion
over 15 years, fulfilling a commitment
made in an addendum to the peace
This treaty was nullified by Egypt in 2012, citing the fact that Israel was not living up to it's obligations under the agreement.
The owners of the Israeli Tamar offshore gas field announced on October 20, 2014 that they had struck a deal with Egypt's Dolphinus Holdings to sell Egypt up to 2.5 billion cubic metres of fuel over the following 7 year period. This fuel will make it's way to Egypt through the same East Mediterranean Gas pipeline that Israel has gotten oil from Egypt through in the past. The deal is said to be worth around US $4 billion ($3.13 billion Euros). Noble Energy, a gigantic natural gas conglomerate based out of the United States owns 36% of the Tamar oil field. Israeli gas exports are expected to bring in $60 billion in revenue over the next 20 years. This is the largest ever trade deal signed between Egypt and Israel.
Egypt appointed Hazem Khairat as Ambassador to Israel in June 2015, after they recalled their last Ambassador in 2012 in protest of Operation Pillar of Defense. Khairat is the former Egyptian ambassador to Chile, and was welcomed to Israel as Prime Minister Netanyahu's guest at his weekly cabinet meeting on January 3, 2016. Khairat presented his Diplomatic credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem on February 24, 2016, officially confirming him as Cairo's first embassador to Israel since 2012.
The Israeli embassy in Egypt was re-opened on September 9, 2015, after a closure due to security concerns during the Egyptian revolution that began in January 2011. On September 9, 2011, angry and violent protestors descended upon the Israeli embassy in Egypt, forcing the Diplomats and other officials inside to evacuate immediately. The embassy remained vacant for four years. Director-General of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Dore Gold, stated at the re-opening ceremony on September 9, 2015, that, “Egypt will always be the biggest and most important state in the region. This event taking place in Cairo is also the beginning of something new.”
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on March 31, 2016, while they were both in Washington, DC for a top-level nuclear security summit. This was the highest ranking meeting of Israeli and Egyptian officials since the 2011 Egyptian uprising. Steinitz's office released a statement following the meeting, explaining that the two officials discussed various regional topics, including cooperation in natural gas and terrorism prevention.
The al-Sisi government approved textbook The Geography of the Arab World and the History of Modern Egypt was introduced to Egyptian classrooms in May 2016, and features more inclusive and friendlier language towards Israel. The Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv reviewed the updated textbook and found more explicit support for peace with Israel, including an increased emphasis on the economic advantages of peace, than was found in the textbook's predecessor. While the previous Egyptian standard history textbook (published in 2002) dedicated 32 pages to conflict with Israel and only three to peace, the new one condenses the conflicts down to 12 pages and allots four pages to discussing peace. Egyptian 9th grade students are now required to memorize the provisions of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty, and write on the advantages of peace between the two groups. Another change is the inclusion of a photograph of the signing of the 1979 treaty.
Two Egyptian Sarcophagi covers that were illegally smuggled into Israel were returned to Egyptian Ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, on May 22, 2016. The objects were brought into Israel through a third country and were confiscated by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
In June 2016, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry paid an official visit to Israel, the first visit of an Egyptian Foreign Minister to Israel in nine years. Shoukry and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu held lengthy discussions, and expressed their mutual desire to re-start direct negotiations in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinians. The pair watched the Euro 2016 soccer championships together at Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
Times Online, (December 17, 2005);
Migdalovitz, “Israel: Background and
Relations with the United States,” DC:
Congressional Research Service, (July 26, 2006),
Israel National News (October 20, 2014);
“Israel embassy in Egypt reopens after 4 year closure,” PressTV (September 9, 2015);
“Hazem Khairat is first Egyptian ambassador after Atef Salem was recalled in 2012 by former president Morsi,” I24 News, (January 3, 2016);
Ahren, Raphael. “Happy and proud to be here, Egypt’s first ambassador since 2012 presents credentials,” Times of Israel, (February 25, 2016);
“MFA transfers ancient sarcophagi covers to ambassador of Egypt,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (May 22, 2016);
“Netanyahu and Egyptian FM watch Euro final together,” Times of Israel (July 11, 2016)