Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent a letter to Egypt’s newly elected President Mohammed Mursi, urging him to uphold a peace treaty between the two countries, a source told AFP on Sunday.
The letter, first reported by Israeli daily Haaretz on Sunday morning, “stressed Israel’s desire to continue cooperation and to strengthen the peace,” an Israeli source said on condition of anonymity.
The letter was sent “in the last few days,” the source added, with Haaretz reporting that it was delivered to Mursi via the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
The newspaper said the message “congratulated Mursi on his election, offered to cooperate with the new government in Cairo and expressed ... hope that both parties will observe the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.”
Netanyahu “emphasized that honoring the agreement is in the interest of both countries,” the newspaper added, saying the Israeli premier had also wished Mursi good luck in his new role.
Haaretz said Israeli officials, after consulting with Washington, had decided to put off attempts to organize a phone call between Mursi and Netanyahu, but said the Israeli leader had dispatched an envoy for meetings with Egyptian security officials.
Netanyahu’s letter repeated much of the content of the statement he made publicly after Mursi was officially declared the winner of Egypt’s first post-uprising presidential election.
“Israel values the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential election,” he said in a statement at the time.
“Israel hopes to continue cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty,” which the two countries signed in 1979.
Israel has watched warily as the Muslim Brotherhood has gained increasing power in post-uprising Egypt, concerned about the future of the cold but key peace the two neighbors have maintained since signing their peace deal.
Mursi’s first day
In related news, Mursi began his first full day in office on Sunday, but with his powers sharply circumscribed by the military that has ruled since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power last year.
After being sworn in as the country’s first freely elected civilian president on Saturday, Mursi formally received a transfer of power and pledge of support from the military.
But the 60-year-old’s swearing-in ceremony took place at the constitutional court in Cairo, despite Mursi’s wish that it take place before the now disbanded Islamist-led parliament.
The military dissolved parliament last month following a court order in what the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mursi stood down after his election, described as a “soft coup.”
In Saturday’s handover at Cairo’s Hike Step base, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), vowed to support the Islamist Mursi.
“We will stand with the new president, elected by the people,” Tantawi said in a speech after an honor guard parade and a helicopter fly-past.
However, the ritual masked a political impasse ripe for future confrontation.
The SCAF assumed legislative powers after it disbanded parliament and also formed a powerful national security council headed by the president but dominated by the generals.
The military also reserves the right to appoint a new constituent assembly should the one elected by the old parliament be disbanded by a court decision expected on September 1.