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  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a presidential session at the Africa 2018 Forum at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt December 9, 2018

    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a presidential session at the Africa 2018 Forum at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt December 9, 2018 | Photo: Reuters file.

Published 7 January 2019

CBS has reported that Sisi had asked them not to air an interview in which he acknowledges security cooperation with Israel in the Sinai peninsula. 

The President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi acknowledged a close cooperation held with Israel’s government over security issues in the Sinai peninsula in an interview with a U.S. media agency, Sunday.

CBS reported that Sisi had asked them not to air the interview, but did not give further details on the matter.

Sisi has kept a low-profile Sinai-security-cooperation with Israel for some time. The peninsula became a demilitarized zone under the U.S.-sponsored 1979 peace treaty, which facilitates the free operation of Egypt’s military forces in the area.

During the interview, Sisi was asked if cooperation was, in fact, the closest it has ever been with Israel, to which he responded, “That is correct...The Airforce sometimes needs to cross to the Israeli side. And that’s why we have a wide range of coordination with the Israelis,” he said, responding to the question asked by CBS.

During the 2014 elections, one year after the leader led a military overthrow of the country’s first democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, Sisi campaigned on the issue of defeating a stubborn Islamic state group insurgency in the northern Sinai Peninsula and won the elections.

Last year, press reports indicated that Egypt’s military cooperated with Israeli forces against insurgents in the northern part of the peninsula bordering Israel and the Gaza strip. However, the government denied these allegations.

For their part, Israeli officials have “publicly praised” security cooperation with Egypt’s military during the Sisi administration which has obtained Israel’s permission to “deploy troops, artillery, and helicopter gunships” in the proximity of its border —in contravention of the 1979 peace treaty— according to Al Jazeera.

Since taking office in 2014, Sisi has met at least two times with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The meetings have received little media attention. Egyptian trade unions and political parties are starkly opposed to normalizing relations with Israel, although government cooperation seems to be much more open to holding close relations.

Relations between the two country’s leaders have not always been friendly.

Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were at major odds with Israel during the Six-Day War fought between Jun. 5 and 10, 1967. In the events leading up to the war, in 1956, Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt to force the country to open the Straits of Tiran but was eventually forced to withdraw and the Straits were opened to it.

The tensions evolved in the mid-1960s over the Straits of Tiran, and a series of attacks led by Israel’s forces on key strategic Egyptian military posts severely crippled its military and gave the aggressor nation advantage and allowed it to occupy the Sinai peninsula and the Goal Heights. Later in 1973, an Arab country coalition led by Egypt and Syria fought to seize the east bank of the Suez Canal. This time, Egypt saw an initial success in the operation but eventually lost the war to Israel.

In this context, U.S. involvement has been key in securing relations which allow for cooperation between Israel and Egypt. The western nation has been actively giving military aid to Egypt with the purpose of limiting its military ambitions and maintaining peaceful relations with Israel.

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