Egyptian Embassy Hosts Capital Jewish Forum

April 16, 2010 by J-Wire Staff
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The Egyptian embassy has hosted a function a t which Ambassador Omar Metwally has addressed the Capital Jewish Forum in Canberra. CJF founder Manny Waks told J-Wire that among the guests at the function were two had made the trip to Canberra from Melbourne and one from Sydney. He announced that the guest at next month’s function will be the United States’ Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich.

Around thirty CJF members, from diverse professional backgrounds, had the opportunity to hear Ambassador Metwally speak on ‘The role of President Sadat in achieving peace between Egypt and Israel in the late 1970s, and the current challenges facing the peace process in the Middle East’ at the Egyptian Embassy. Ambassador Metwally also discussed why the settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict is central to security and stability in the region. The Embassy also generously offered CJF members a range of traditional Egyptian delicacies.

Guests at the embassy function

CJF founder and director Manny Waks commented: “On behalf of the CJF I would like to sincerely thank Ambassador Metwally for so kindly and generously hosting the CJF at his Embassy. We greatly appreciated the Ambassador’s frank responses to the diverse range of questions, including sharing his views on complex and sensitive issues such as the Israeli-Arab conflict, the nuclear debate and internal Egyptian matters. A prominent issue raised by a number of CJF members was in relation to recognising Israel as a Jewish State. While the Ambassador made his views very clear on the matter – that religion should have nothing to do with Israel’s identity, to the discomfort of a number of members – it was a great example of the rigorous discussion and the manner in which that takes place at CJF events. Generally speaking, CJF members are encouraged to ask or state anything of relevance at CJF events, provided it is done so respectfully.” J-Wire publishes Ambassador Metwally’s address in full: It is a pleasure to welcome you all to the embassy of Egypt this evening. I would like first to thank the Capital Jewish Forum for providing me with the opportunity to share with this distinguished audience some thoughts about the Role of President Sadat in achieving peace between Egypt and Israel in the late 1970s, and the current challenges facing the peace process in the Middle East. I am very much convinced that a final and just settlement of the Arab Israeli conflict is central to security and stability of the international community, therefore the Middle East peace process requires full appreciation of the past, full understanding of the present and farsighted vision for the future. Throughout time, the decisions made by leaders have dramatically changed the course of history. While some people say that peace is an impossible dream in the Middle East, there are people who defy great odds to broker peace in a war-torn land. For sure, President Anwar Al Sadat is one of them, and his decision to make peace with Israel is a clear example. President Sadat is considered a pioneer of peace not only in the Middle East but also all over the world because of his display of courage and flexibility in dealing with the Arab – Israeli conflict. He was willing to ignore past Arab-Israeli hatreds, and was daring enough to do what had been unthinkable in the area, as he expressed his willingness to have normal relations with Israel if it opts to the road of peace. Sadat sought the way of peace since he came to power in late 1970, but when his attempt to launch peace negotiations in 1971 failed, he launched the October War 1973 to liberate Sinai and strengthen the bargaining position of Egypt in the peace negotiations with Israel. The outcome of that war made Israel recognize the importance of peace to all peoples in the region. His willingness and dedication to peace led to the first peace treaty between the Arabs and Israel signed at the White House on March 26, 1979. His aim was to remove and shatter all barriers of doubt, mistrust, hatred and fear between the two sides in order to end many decades of confrontation and launch a new era of coexistence and cooperation. The point of the treaty was to, not only create peace between Israel and Egypt, but also between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The desired result of the treaty was to bring the war atmosphere to an end, and to establish peace where everyone can live safely. The treaty asks that Israel withdraws from Arab lands, under the circumstances that the Arab population accepts the existence of Israel.

Ambassador discusses a point

No one can deny the impact of his historic visit to Jerusalem in 1977, where he met with the Israeli leaders and addressed the Knesset. Sadat took this action against the wishes and advice of his fellow Arab leaders. This action signaled the beginning of Egyptian interest in seeking a diplomatic solution over another military engagement.  I would like to quote an excerpt from his speech delivered to the Israeli Knesset. “For the sake of them all, for the sake of the lives of all our sons and brothers, for the sake of affording our communities the opportunity to work for the progress and happiness of man, feeling secure and with the right to a dignified life, for the generations to come, for a smile on the face of every child born in our land, for all that I have taken my decision to come to you, despite all the hazards, to deliver my address.” The most important lesson we can learn from the life of Anwar Al Sadat is to Work for peace even if it is costly. Working for peace cost Sadat his life. Extremists from both sides were not happy with what he did. His former allies abandoned him and did not even attend his funeral. But his legacy showed that even in a very bleak situation such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, peace is very possible. I know that it takes years (probably decades) to erase hostile feelings and deeply rooted international conflicts. Yet, peace is possible if only leaders would give it a chance. Ladies and gentlemen, The Middle East suffers from the absence of the political justice. Palestine is the imminent example. If justice is absent, peace shall be eliminated from the region and the rage and frustration shall increase. We still have to say that the disregard of the Palestinians justice is a very dangerous and frustrating matter. The Arab world is ready to make peace with Israel. The imminent proof thereof is the Arab Peace initiative unanimously approved during the Summit of Beirut 2002. There is no battle with Jews but the problem is the occupation by Israel to the Arab territories and the abstention of the Israeli occupation to establish the state of Palestine on the whole occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem. The Arab Peace Initiative is very crucial in the history of the region, as it offers Israel recognition, normalization and an end to the conflict. It is a clear expression that the Arabs are ready to implement their side of the deal.  The initiative is a good base for the Arab Israeli conflict to be resolved through the establishment of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. The main elements of the initiative are: (a) Israel has to withdraw completely from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon; (b) A just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194. (c) The establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return, the Arab states will do the following: (a) Consider the Arab-Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region; (b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace I am sure that every peace-lover on earth is deeply concerned about the Israeli policies in East Jerusalem and its surroundings. Such policies include house demolitions and inhabitants’ displacement, as well as the continuation of different settlement activities, which affects negatively the situation in Jerusalem and its surroundings. They also have crucial repercussions on security and stability, threatening the opportunity of establishing the independent Palestinian state and the two-state solution that Egypt and the international community seek to reach. The international community should step in and exert serious efforts to lift up the unjust Israeli siege on Gaza, which hinder the partial restorations of the different buildings and houses, and seriously affect the civilians in the Strip. Israel has to adopt clear and tangible procedures for lifting blockades in the West Bank and to end settlement activity entirely, as they have passive impact on the Palestinian capability to live, contact and work. There is now an international consensus that the vision of a two-state solution should prevail, and an independent Palestinian state lives side by side with the Israeli State in peace and security, as it is the real and only guarantee for the security, stability and peace in the region and all over the world. Therefore, both sides have to adopt steps to rebuild mutual trust in preparation for serious negotiation that abides by achieving peace within a context of a set time. The main focus of Egypt is to assist in achieving a permanent and comprehensive peaceful settlement in the region, thus we are against any move to bring back the concept of the land is a God-given right or divinely gifted to any of the conflicting parties, as it leads to turn the issue from a political conflict to a perpetual religious conflict. This concept acts against the interests of all peoples and jeopardizes the powers that call for moderation, negotiation, and reaching a political settlement that ensures the achievement of a peace based upon justice other than surrender. Egypt will keep exerting its own efforts and supporting the US and international exertion for achieving peace throughout the establishment of an independent Palestinian State. Egypt played a pivotal role – within the Arab League deliberations – in convincing the Arab countries to respond positively to the American initiative of the proxy talks between the Palestinian authority and Israel, but the Israeli government, unfortunately, responded by announcing that 1,600 settlement units will be constructed in East Jerusalem in the middle of US Vice President Joseph Biden’s visit to Israel. In this regard, I would like to commend the United States for its stance regarding settlements as declared by President Obama and his top aides.  I think all parties should seize the current opportunity to begin serious talks to bring a new era of peace and stability in the region. These are my opening remarks and I will be happy to listen to your comments.  Thank-you. Some of the points raised by Ambassador Metwally in the ensuing Q&A session include:

  • • Prior to the Palestinian elections, Egypt specifically informed the US that Hamas would win. It recommended postponing it. The Bush Administration refused any delay and ultimately Hamas was victorious.   After Hamas won a legitimate democratic election in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel and the US led the International Community to isolate Hamas. The marginalisation of Hamas is problematic. At the same time, external entities are utilising Hamas for their own agenda. Egypt is doing what it can in terms of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
  • • The Palestinian refugee issue is resolvable – it is not an obstacle to the peace talks. In numerous discussions between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators understanding has already been reached that only a symbolic number of refugees will return to Israel itself, while the remainder will return to the future Palestinian state. Besides, many Palestinians would prefer to remain where they currently are (e.g. those in the US, Australia).
  • • In relation to the reports that surfaced several years ago that alleged the Arab League – led by former Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa – specifically instructed the late Yasser Arafat to reject the Camp David peace talks due to its objection to the Palestinians conceding any part of Jerusalem to Israel, the Arab League leader himself informed the Ambassador that these reports are simply wrong. This instruction was never given.
  • • Gaza is under the responsibility of Israel. Nonetheless, Egypt is permitting the passage of people and goods for humanitarian purposes.
  • • A new Palestinian state will succeed and prosper – Palestinians are well educated and a talented people. However, their success will largely depend on the international community, including Israel.
  • • We believe that Jerusalem could be two capitals, East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There could be international control over the Holy places.
  • • While conceding that anti-Jewish sentiments occurs in the Egyptian media, and this is unacceptable, it is mainly due to the many media outlets that service the large population, and the perception that exists among the population that Israel is not really interested in peace – it merely reflects the sentiments expressed by some people.
  • • Trade figures between Israel and Egypt are increasing. Many Israelis travel to Egypt for holidays (mainly to Sinai and Tabah). At the highest level there is a close relationship between the two countries. However, these relationships are not as close as they were during the Begin-Sadat era. But Middle East peace is a must and Egypt wants to achieve it, including doing what it can in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
  • • Egypt aims to make the Middle East region free of nuclear arms. The current circumstances make this very challenging – Israel has nuclear weapons and Iran may be attempting to obtain it. Therefore others may legitimately consider obtaining such weapons too.
  • • There is no concern for the post-Mubarak era. Egypt has “always been a land of moderation”. Of course there are extremist elements within Egypt, as there are in most countries. However, Egypt is a strong country with strong institutions.
  • • Egypt, as a civil, democratic and secular state, objects to defining Israel as a Jewish State. Israel is a sovereign state. But a Jewish State by definition is highly problematic for the 20% of its non-Jewish citizens. It is discriminatory. Will they be expelled? There needs to be a better understanding of the definition of a Jewish State. States should be about politics, not religion.
  • • Australia can have a more active role in the Middle East peace talks. There has been a noticeable attempt by the current Australian Administration to contribute more to peace in the Middle East. A number of countries could do more to support the peace efforts of the US.

Following the CJF launch in August 2009 by Mr Mark Dreyfus QC, MP, at the Australian Parliament House, other distinguished presenters featured the Israeli, Indonesian, Jordanian and Turkish ambassadors, the Palestinian Territories’ Head of Delegation, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission Chairman and the Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services Parliamentary Secretary. Other guests who have confirmed their attendance include the Federal Shadow Deputy Leader, the Federal Shadow Treasurer, the Office of National Assessments Director-General, the current and former Australian ambassadors to Israel, the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, the Australian Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, the Australian Ambassador to the EU, the Pakistani High Commissioner, and the US, EU and Hungarian ambassadors.

Comments

2 Responses to “Egyptian Embassy Hosts Capital Jewish Forum”
  1. anonymous says:

    To the person who commented, please do not speak of something that is not true. If you are not sure of what you are saying then please refer to Manny Waks the CJF founder. He will tell you that they did tell the Egyptian Embassy they would pay for the food , but the Egyptian Embassy of course refused and they did offer all the members free food and drinks.

  2. Prefer Not To says:

    “The Embassy also generously offered CJF members a range of traditional Egyptian delicacies.” – this is not true! The members had to pay for these delicacies, so they were not ‘generously offered’! This was simply catering supplied at a cost!

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