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Israel weighs security in Cairo

Diplomats will assess situation after fleeing embassy attack

- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 11, 2011

Israel will begin sending some diplomats back to Egypt this week to evaluate the safety of restoring full relations after a mob ransacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo on Friday, an Israeli official said Sunday.

"In the next few days, we're looking to put a few people back to assess the situation and get some semblance of the embassy up and running again," said the official, who asked not to be identified in order to discuss a sensitive diplomatic issue.

He added that Israel wished to send Ambassador Yitzak Levanon back to Cairo "as soon as possible" but only under appropriate security arrangements.

After a mob tore down a concrete wall and stormed the embassy, Israel evacuated most diplomats and their families on two military jets. The attack also stoked Israeli fears that Egypt's Arab Spring revolution would imperil the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.

At a Sunday Cabinet meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Egyptian protesters of attacking the "axis of peace."

"It is an axis to which there are objectors, who are appealing not against policy, but against Israel," he said.

Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel is holding talks with Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces regarding security arrangements that would enable the ambassador's return. A high-level Israeli delegation arrived at Cairo International Airport on Sunday morning, according to the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al-Youm.

Egyptian-Israeli relations have deteriorated since the February ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, who supported relations with Israel.

Israeli leaders have accused Egypt of failing to do enough to prevent repeated attacks in the Sinai Peninsula on the pipeline that carries natural gas from Egypt to Israel.

Tension escalated last month after terrorists entered southern Israel through the Egyptian border and massacred eight people in the deadliest attack on Israeli soil since 2008. While pursuing the gunmen, Israeli forces mistakenly shot Egyptian border guards, leaving six dead and millions enraged.

Friday's events reverberated around the world, drawing condemnation from European capitals and concern in Washington.

In a phone call to the Egyptian foreign minister Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton "expressed the United States' deep concern about the violence on Friday in Cairo," the State Department said. She also called on the Egyptian government to fully protect all diplomatic missions and personnel in Egypt.

In response to the attack, the Egyptian government announced the reactivation of all articles of Egypt's Emergency Law and said that it would prosecute those who attacked the Israeli Embassy.

However some Israeli politicians remained wary.

"At the moment, we cannot rely on the current [Egyptian] government," hardline Knesset member Danny Danon said.

He added that he will seek a hearing about Egyptian-Israeli relations in the foreign affairs and defense committee.

"We have to analyze the overall situation, mainly the Sinai issue, because it's not only us who are looking at the pictures, but also Hamas and other terrorist organizations who want to take advantage of the current situation," he said.

Many fear that Egypt's upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, tentatively scheduled for later this year, will only exacerbate the diplomatic tension.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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