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The New Arab

Israeli ambassador returns to Cairo after eight-month hiatus

Protesters outside the Israeli embassy burn its flag in 2011 [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 August, 2017

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Israel's embassy in Cairo resumed some services this week, after the return of the ambassador to the Egyptian capital.

The Israeli embassy in Cairo resumed some services on Tuesday after some diplomatic staff returned to Egypt following an eight month closure.

Ambassador David Govrin and his diplomatic staff returned to Egypt after he and his small staff left the country in December due to security threats.

Security officials from Shin Bet and the Israeli foreign office met with senior Egyptian officials to discuss security arrangements, the Israeli media reported.

The decision to reopen the embassy may be related to Egypt's recent cooperation with Israel in Syria and Gaza. A recent Haaretz article commended Egypt's role in countering Iran's hegemony in Syria, while a prisoner swap with Hamas was organised in Cairo.

The Israeli embassy is one of the only embassies to be built and designed by the embassy themselves, and the land itself in Maadi, south Cairo, is owned by the Israeli government. There have been a number of unsuccessful talks with Cairo about relocating the embassy in the past four years.

Israel and Egypt agreed to exchange ambassadors as part of its 1979 peace deal, but Israel's ambassador has had to leave Egypt on a number of occasions due to security fears.

Watch: The moment an Egyptian protestor
scaled 14 storeys of the Israeli embassy
to remove the Israeli flag

National security officials in Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said in July that maintaining good relations with Cairo was more important than reopening an embassy.

These relations may not extend to Israeli and Egyptian nationals, however. An Israeli suggestion to host a football match in February descended into a farce after Egyptians hijacked the post expressing their opposition to the game.

The normalisation of relations is a hot topic in Egypt. In 2016, controversial Egyptian MP and TV host Tawfiq Okasha sparked outrage when he hosted Israeli Ambassador Haim Koren for dinner at his home.

The dinner meeting, considered by many to be an unacceptable insult to the Arab world, earned Okasha wide criticism with one MP involved in a "shoe assault".

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