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Rhetorical Exchanges Sour Israeli-egyptian Relations

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Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy has publicly called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to rein in officials who have insulted Israeli leaders.

A series of insulting comments by Egyptian officials and media has soured relations between the two countries in recent days.

Levy spoke after calling in the Egyptian ambassador, Mohammed Basiouny, to protest a series of hostile statements against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Deputy Foreign Minister Adel a-Safti, for example, suggested Netanyahu needed a psychiatrist to take care of what Safti described as the prime minister’s “pathological” concern about Israeli security.

Levy conceded to newsmen that some recent remarks on the Israeli side, including ones by Netanyahu, may have been “superfluous,” but he said they in no way excused the Egyptian barrage.

Referring to Egypt’s threats, voiced by Foreign Minister Amre Moussa, to postpone or cancel the Cairo regional economic conference scheduled for next month, Netanyahu said this was “to cut off his nose to spite his face.”

It subsequently emerged that noses are particularly sensitive in Egyptian language and culture, and that the premier’s remark had not gone over well at all.

One leading Egyptian newspaper retorted that Netanyahu could cut off his own ears as well as nose.

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