New Israeli ambassador to Egypt slated to arrive

AP News
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Posted: Dec 11, 2011 10:22 AM
New Israeli ambassador to Egypt slated to arrive

Israel's new ambassador to Egypt is scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Monday, an official said, three months after rioters ransacked the Israeli Embassy there.

Relations between the two countries have become strained since a popular uprising toppled Egypt's longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in February. Still, both governments seem eager to preserve an alliance that is a cornerstone of Mideast stability.

Israeli Ambassador Yaakov Amitai will join a small number of embassy staffers still in Cairo, the official said.

The previous ambassador, Yitzhak Levanon, most of the staff and their families were evacuated in an Israeli military plane in September after protesters tore down a security wall around the building housing the Israeli Embassy, then stormed embassy offices and trashed them.

The violent protest followed the killing of six Egyptian soldiers by Israeli troops who were pursuing Palestinian militants near the Egyptian border.

The embassy still has not been permanently relocated, the Israeli official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the timing of the ambassador's arrival had not been officially announced.

Israel and Egypt signed a U.S.-brokered peace treaty in 1979, the first between Israel and an Arab state. Relations have always been cool, but Mubarak carefully upheld the accord.

The agreement is a key pillar of both countries' security. For Israel, the treaty has allowed it to divert resources to its volatile fronts with Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Egypt has benefited by receiving billions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

Egypt's new military leaders have vowed to preserve the peace agreement, but popular sentiment is hostile to Israel, and the ruling generals have taken a tougher stance on Israel.

The strong showing by Islamist parties in Egypt's recent elections has fueled fears in Israel about future ties between the countries.