Mohamed Basiouni, who served as Egyptian ambassador to Israel for over a decade, told Arab daily al-sharq al-Awsat Thursday that he was against cancelling the peace treaty with Israel and that those opposing the treaty probably hadn't read it.
Basiouni added that "Eilat was never Egyptian soil" and that even if Cairo were to request security arrangement amendments the existing situation is much better than the situation before June 1967.
The interview comes at a time when voices in Egypt are calling for the cancellation of the Camp David peace agreements after the upcoming elections and a Pew Research Center poll revealed that 54% of Egyptians support the cancellation of the treaty from 1979.
"Popular opinion is interested in introducing the Israeli issue so the political candidates are using that sensitive issue to appease the masses. However, the issue must be handled in a smarter way," Basiouni added.
The interviewer asked for Basiouni's personal opinion and was told that "our common ground is the national interest.
"I believe that the peace treaty has achieved significant and important gains: The liberation of Egyptian soil, removal of all settlements from Sinai – an issue which is valid on all fronts – return of the oil fields, control of sailing rights in the Suez Canal, reduction of the defense budget and increase in foreign investment in Egypt," he said.
"We all gained something from this treaty, statecraft is a game for intelligent people and it is essential that all sides gain something."
Relations with Israel unique
Basiouni also addressed the issue of sovereignty in Eilat: "The truth is that Eilat is not Egyptian land and never was. The peace treaty determined the international border between Israel and Egypt based on the international border between Egypt and Palestine during the British mandate."
In response to a question over whether he agreed that Mubarak afforded Israel "beneficial treatment", an opinion held by many in Egypt, Basiouni said, "Mubarak welcomed Israeli politicians in order to maintain the peace process. The bilateral relations between Egypt and Israel are different from any other bilateral partnership because of their unique aspects.
"We must maintain a positive relationship with Tel Aviv that would be beneficial to Arabs, especially while there are still occupied Arab lands and many complex issues. Moreover – relations with the US are relations that must go through Israel."
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