Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Photo: Ron Peled

Egypt forbids 2,000 pilgrims from visiting Israel

Cairo authorities prevent Christians from attending Easter ceremonies in Jerusalem due to arrest of local man suspected of spying for Mossad. Sharon's former advisor believes Egypt won't cut ties with Israel

Some 2,000 Coptic and Greek Orthodox Christians in Egypt have been forbidden from making a pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in east Jerusalem this coming Easter.


Egyptian travel agents have informed their Israeli counterparts that the authorities in Cairo have decided not to allow this year’s pilgrimage, Yedioth Ahronoth has learned.


The decision is apparently not related to the uproar in Egypt surrounding the Israeli documentary film "Shaked Spirit", but rather to the arrest of Mohamed Essam Ghoneim el-Attar, who is currently standing trial for allegedly spying for Mossad.


'Egypt must decide which side it is on'

Meanwhile, Ra'anan Gissin, a former advisor to prime minister Sharon, and now a strategic consultant at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, told Ynetnews on Thursday that he did not believe Egypt would cut ties with Israel. "They have made a lot of noise to appease the Islamist opposition. But not much beyond that," he added.


Gissin dismissed the importance of the film. "This story is not news," he said. "It just shows how important it is that Israel carries out more complex, aggressive, public diplomacy. The truth must be shown. Israeli television, all channels, must show some responsibility, and check these stories before they spread."


If Cairo really does cut ties with Israel, it would be Egypt, not Israel that would suffer the most, Gissin argued. "The situation in the Middle East after the second Lebanon war means that Egyptians must decide on what side they are on. Does Egypt fight the Islamic tsunami or does it stand on the side?"


"Cutting ties with Israel is more harmful to Egypt than to Israel," he said, adding: "Egypt is very influenced by US aid and support. They receive two billion dollars a year."


Gissin stressed that it was Israel, rather than Egypt, that had cause for complaint on relations between the two countries. "There's no doubt that there is certain deterioration in relations," he said, citing arms smuggling from Egypt to Gaza as the main cause of that decline.


"Egypt is not doing enough to stop the Iranian danger that penetrates through its borders, from Sinai and into Gaza. If Egypt wants to be a loyal ally and to participate in stopping the Iranian threat, it must stop weapons smuggling. Because those arms are then used against Egypt itself," he said. 


פרסום ראשון: 03.08.07, 09:44
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