Israeli-egyptian Relations Sour over Article Urging Shamir Ouster

Israeli-Egyptian relations soured this week after a Cairo newspaper published an article urging the replacement of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

It contended that any progress toward Arab-Israeli peace is impossible as long as the Likud leader remains in power.

The article was only the latest of a spate of anti-Israel pieces to appear in what Israelis consider a government-controlled press. It was sufficient for Foreign Minister David Levy to summon the Egyptian ambassador, Mohammed Basiouny, to lodge an official protest.

The envoy said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had already dissociated himself from the offending article.

Sara Doron, chairwoman of Likud’s Knesset faction, denounced the piece as an intervention in Israeli affairs.

“It is perplexing that a country in which democratic processes are foreign should criticize an elected regime in a neighboring friendly country,” she said.

Israelis may be even more disturbed by the surprise meeting Monday between Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Sedki and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.

It was Arafat’s first contact with a top-level Egyptian since the Persian Gulf War, which found the PLO and Egypt on opposing sides.

Arafat met the Egyptian prime minister in Benghazi, Libya. The PLO leader, who also met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, stressed the importance of “Arab-Palestinian coordination.”

Aside from the diplomatic tensions, Israeli-Egyptian relations are functioning smoothly.

Israel was pleased by the prompt release of a party of Israeli and American marine biologists, briefly detained by the Egyptians last week for entering restricted waters off southern Sinai.

Israelis also appreciate Egypt’s cooperation in attempts to rescue two vacationing Israel Defense Force officers who drowned while scuba diving in the Red Sea off Sinai.

The bodies of Yitzhak Hayet and Doron Hirschman, both 22, have been recovered.

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