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Syrian-egyptian Rapprochement Viewed with Equanimity in Israel

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Israeli policymakers do not seem concerned that Egypt and Syria have resumed diplomatic relations a 12-year rift.

Some believe, in fact, that the rapprochement between the two Arab powers could have a positive impact on the peace process in the Middle East.

The resumption of diplomatic ties was formally announced Wednesday in a joint communique from Damascus and Cairo. It followed a two-hour meeting in Damascus between Syrian President Hafez Assad and the Egyptian prime minister, Atef Sedki.

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is scheduled to meet with Assad in the first week of January. The two men have long been at loggerheads.

Syria severed ties with Egypt when the late President Anwar Sadat visited Jerusalem in November 1977, breaking ground for the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel two years later.

Syria’s action was emulated by most other Arab countries, and Egypt was ousted from the Arab League, to which it has since been readmitted.

But according to Energy and Infrastructure Minister Moshe Shahal, Syria is now acknowledging the wisdom of Egyptian policy, including peace with Israel.

“We must see Egypt as a contributing factor to reach similar political settlements with other Arab countries,” Shahal said.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that despite its potential dangers, Egypt’s new relationship with Syria could neutralize Damascus’ negative attitude toward the peace process.

Science and Development Minister Ezer Weizman, who served as Arab affairs adviser in the last government, said at the weekly session of the Inner Cabinet on Wednesday that Sadat was right when he predicted Egypt would eventually regain its central position in the Arab world despite making peace with Israel.

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