President Reuven Rivlin received the credentials of the new Egyptian ambassador, Mr. Hazem Ahdy Khairat, yesterday.
The occasion marks a significant thaw in three years of icy diplomatic relations between Israel and Egypt. Relations became strained in November, 2012 when former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi recalled the previous ambassador, Atef Mohammed Salem, in protest over Israel’s incursion into Gaza in Operation Pillar of Defense.
Khairat, accompanied by his wife and the Egyptian consul general, submitted his credentials to the Israeli president during an official ceremony held at the President’s Residence on Wednesday morning.
“I receive ambassadors here at the President’s Residence from across the world. But this is a special and extremely important occasion to welcome an ambassador from our close and important neighbors,” Rivlin told Khairat.
Rivlin also expressed his desire to convey a message of friendship to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and to all the citizens of Egypt and described the peace agreement between the two countries as a shared priority.
“Egypt is the ‘Um el-Dunya’ – the mother of the world. Egypt plays an extremely significant role in our region in particular. We live in an extremely complex region. We have found a way to live with Egypt in peace and friendship. This is our message to the region and to the entire world,” Rivlin continued.
While acknowledging that the countries do not always agree on every issue, Rivlin emphasized the mutual respect with which the two countries “can build a future together.”
Ambassador Khairat informed the president of his desire to take responsibility for the improvement of the region while not explicitly mentioning Israel or its citizens. “It is our desire to take responsibility and use it for the good of the residents in the region and to ensure that we flourish and provide justice, hope, and equality.”
Rivlin concluded by wishing the new ambassador success in his new post: “I sincerely hope that you and your family will feel at home here.”
Israel and Egypt signed a peace agreement in 1979 and have since averted military conflicts. Nevertheless, former President Morsi’s decision to recall the ambassador was not without precedent. Morsi’s predecessor, President Hosni Mubarak, also had recalled the Egyptian ambassador to Israel on four separate occasions.
The ceremony also included the inauguration of new ambassadors from Japan, Malta, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
By Alexander J. Apfel/TPS – Tazpit News Agency