Photo: AP
מצרים קהיר מפגינים הפגנה הורידו דגל מ שגרירות ישראל
Photo: AP
Ambassador to Egypt: To succeed you have 'to keep a low profile'
After completing over two years as ambassador, Ya'akov Amitai discusses the dangers, and struggles of serving in Egypt.

"For two years I couldn't walk in the streets of Cairo even once."



Ya'akov Amitai was appointed as Israel's ambassador to Egypt just a short while after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power. Amitai remained in his position to witness two revolutions and finished the job in April just before presidential elections are due take place.


Amitai, age 67, joined the foreign ministry in 1976. Two-and-a-half years ago, after serving as Israel's ambassador to Kenya and Ethiopia, he approached the foreign minister and asked to be stationed in Cairo.


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Why did you insist on being the ambassador to Egypt of all places?


"It's what I'm the best at. I'm familiar with the country, the culture, and the language. I don't regret it for an instant," he said.


"The last two-and-a-quarter years have been filled with strenuous work. One week after another and the deep feeling is that you're part of a history that taking place in front of your eyes, and you get what's happening through the culture and the language."


"For example, I thought that at some point the Middle East would become green, the color of the Muslim Brotherhood. When I lived there I understood that the Egyptians are religious, but not necessarily fanatics."


"You can understand that just through the field, from what I heard in meetings. And that shows, by the way, how important it is to learn the Arabic language: to enjoy the culture and also to understand where we are living."


You never experience moments of fear?


"My wife Yael, who stayed behind in Jerusalem said: 'Now I have someone I can worry about'. but I wasn't afraid and didn't run into any hostilities although here and there I heard in the media calls to expel me. There were also times that I didn't go back to Egypt (after a weekend break in Israel) on the suggestions of our people.


What's left of the big embassy that we had in the time of Mubarak?


"A small, close-knit team that's adapted to the very unique situation in Egypt."


Did you meet Field Marshal Sisi?


"I don't talk about any of the people with whom I met. Someone who wants to keep a channel of dialoge open has to keep a low profile."


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