Egypt concerned about expansion of Arab normalisation with Israel

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A state of anxiety plagues Cairo due to the second wave of Arab peace with Israel, the last of which was with Sudan, a step that threatens Cairo’s influence in Khartoum. Some circles in Cairo expressed concern about allowing the Israeli rapprochement with Sudan, which would give Tel Aviv great influence in Khartoum. In recent days, several Sudanese delegations visited Cairo to brief Egyptian officials on the details of the negotiations with Israel. Although Egypt was briefed on the negotiations, Egyptian officials expressed significant concerns that the normalisation process might make them lose their influence in Sudan.

An Egyptian official close to the official authorities indicated that Egypt is “deeply disturbed by the second wave of normalisation that followed the Israeli normalisation agreements with the UAE and Bahrain in the past two months.” He said, “Egypt has not been informed or reassured sufficiently of the true purpose of this deal,” according to Mada Masr.

Egypt has been the main interlocutor with Israel for the past 40 years. It was the first Arab country to establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel after the Camp David peace treaty in 1979. But Cairo’s influence has waned over the past decade, with the emergence of the UAE and Saudi Arabia as regional mediators, and therefore the decision of the UAE and Bahrain to normalise relations with Israel, with the blessing of Saudi Arabia, threatens to marginalise Cairo’s influence in the region.

As usual, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the first to congratulate the move towards normalisation and “the joint efforts of the United States of America, Sudan and Israel regarding the normalisation of relations between Sudan and Israel.” However, despite the official Egyptian welcome, Egypt sees these developments with suspicion, and there is a certain concern within some circles of power in Cairo regarding these developments.

According to the well-informed Egyptian source, the rapprochement with Sudan would allow Israel to establish relief organisations in all parts of Sudan, which would give it significant influence in the country. The source added that there are also fears that Israel is seeking to establish water-intensive projects in Sudan, as it did before in Ethiopia.

Egyptian concern is escalating, in light of the loss of its influence over the Palestinians and Israelis in recent months, in favour of Qatar on the one hand, and the UAE on the other hand, which threatens its relationship with the Palestinian cause. This Egyptian retreat with Israel was revealed by the former Tel Aviv ambassador to Cairo, Isaac Levanon. He said that Egypt is losing its influence and predominance in the region and its position with Israel.

Egypt participated in finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, mediated with Hamas, silently intervened with Turkey to prevent the Marmara fleet, and conducted behind-the-scenes talks with former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to push the settlement with Tel Aviv forward. However, with the entry of the UAE and then Sudan on the line of relations with Israel, according to Levanon, Egypt may lose its primacy, and if other Arab countries join the path of relations with Israel, Egypt may lose more of its influence related with Tel Aviv.

Perhaps Israeli-Sudanese relations will escalate, especially since Khartoum hosted the famous Three No’s Conference in August 1967. During the conference, the Arab countries together declared “no peace,” “no negotiations,” and “no recognition of Israel,” which represents that normalisation will be contrary to this conference and its outcomes. According to Israel Today newspaper, which is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in contrast to the Abraham Agreements with the UAE and Bahrain, Sudan’s agreement is an “important pillar” for more Sunni Arab countries joining the peace process. According to the sources, this accession threatens Egypt’s position, who said that the large number of countries that will establish relations with Israel will make Cairo like other capitals globally and will not make it unique in dealing with the Palestinian issue.

The Hebrew newspaper considered that the agreement with Sudan implies a much greater added security importance than the Abraham Agreements, a point which Cairo has not been informed of, according to the sources. Sudan is the third Arab country to normalise its relationship with Israel during the past two months, as the UAE and Bahrain preceded it. Thus, the number of Arab countries that normalised their relationship with Israel increased to five, after Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994). In addition to the Palestinian presidency, Palestinian leaders criticised Sudan’s agreement with Israel, describing it as a “serious stab in the back of the Palestinian and Sudanese people.”