March 27, 2013
Should Israel fear “the king which knew not Josef?”
As Passover lays upon us, I asked Adi Grady, a teaching and research assistant in Tel- Aviv University’s Political Science department, and a Political Science grad student, to write a little bit about Israel, Egypt, and recent years. Here's an analysis of Israel-Egypt relations, inspired by Passover:
In November 2000, Egypt called its ambassador to Israel back to Cairo for "consultation". This was the Egyptian response to pressures both from outside (mainly, the Arab League) and from within to respond to Israel's military actions following the violent outbreak of the "second intifada". Arab leaders and members of the cabinet alike called to invoke the peace treaty with Israel, and some even pleaded with Mubarak to wage a war against Israel. Mubarak is said to have responded that he had been to war with Israel and that the violent era between the two states is over.
Mubarak had been the Commander of the Egyptian Air Force during the 1973 war ("Yom Kippur war" in Israel, "October war" in Egypt). He had addressed his experiences from the war many times, and has publicly spoken of the way the memory of that war should keep Israel and Egypt on a diplomatic conflict, and not an armed one."Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." (Exodus 1:8). The book of Exodus begins with the change of generations in Egypt. The new generation did not know of Josef, who served as pharaoh's councilor, and enslaved the Israelites and underestimated the power of their god. As in every year, we tell the story of exodus which begins with this notion.
And nowadays, there is no king in Egypt, but a new democratically elected president. As Jews celebrate a holiday that is dedicated to freedom, Israel cannot but hope for the freedom of its neighboring nation. But an understandable fear also rises. The new administration did not experience the feeling of successful retribution the Egyptian nation felt during the early days of the war, celebrated to this day every October. It did not experience the horrors of that war, and the way it ended for Egypt, with the loss of thousands and without taking back any territory.
So, is an administration that is more attentive to the Egyptian public and hasn't had the sobering experience of war against Israel, the one that's more dangerous to the peace treaty?
Not necessarily. In November 2012, during the "Pillar of Defense" operation (also a name inspired by Exodus, its Hebrew name being "Pillar of Cloud"), Egypt immediately called back its ambassador. But, not only did he return a few days later, Morsi's Egypt also helped broker a cease fire. It seems that, for now, the new administration in Egypt is more focused on its current Plagues: instability, poverty, economic strife and, even in the last few weeks, locusts... Its leader has commemorated the October war, hopefully drawing from it the same conclusions as his predecessor- The conflict with Israel should be managed through diplomatic measures, not through force. Egypt has its Plagues, and blood should not be one of them.