Prominent Egyptian historian Maged Farag has called for his country to normalize relations with Israel and to ditch support for the Palestinian cause, which he said has caused “nothing but harm” for Egypt.
According to a report by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which translated Farag’s May 28 appearance Egypt’s Mehwar TV, Farag called on his fellow countrymen to leave “the old ideology and cultural heritage on which we were raised”—referencing the rampant anti-Semitism among the Egyptian population—and to embrace Israel out of national interests.
“There are no such things as eternal enmity or eternal love,” Farag said. “There are only eternal interests. We should identify our country’s interest. [Winston] Churchill once said that he was ready to cooperate with the Devil in the interest of his country. As a man who knows a little bit about history and about international relations, I believe that it is in our interest to maintain normal relations with Israel.”
Farag cited Israeli technological advances, such as drip irrigation that can help Egypt deal with water shortages.
“They used this technology to cultivate the desert, so why can’t we use it here? Why can’t I benefit from someone who used to be my enemy? I’m not looking to force him to become my friend. I want him as a partner in developing agriculture and industry in Egypt,” he said.
Farag also said the Palestinians have shown no interest in resolving “their own problems.”
“For over 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought upon Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense,” said Farag. “We have been preoccupied all our lives with the Palestinian cause.”
He added, in reference to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, “The Palestinian cause is Palestinian. Egypt’s problem has been resolved.”
Despite signing the treaty, Egypt and Israel have maintained a cold peace. Under new Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, both countries have had a mutual interest in defeating Islamic extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula and thwarting Hamas in Gaza. But anti-Semitism remains deeply embedded within Egyptian culture, and there is little cultural exchange between the countries.