A Peace Best Served Cold
A Conversation with the Egyptian and Israeli Consul Generals
After the revolution in Egypt last year, many questions have arisen around the position of Egypt’s international relations, including the peace treaty with Israel.
To answer these questions and facilitate a discussion, both the Israeli and Egyptian Consul Generals spoke at Concordia on March 14.
Hosted by the Concordia Students for Israel and the Concordia Egyptian Students Association, a business-casual wine and cheese event was held on the seventh floor of the Hall building, where students could converse and mingle with the two diplomats before and after the panel discussion.
Organizer and co-president of CSI Dana Remer said that the event was intended to inform students and open discussion about Palestine and Israel.
“I think it’s a really big step for Concordia. I don’t know of any previous events, at least recently, when an Arab and an Israeli club got together. They’re sending one message of peace,” said Remer.
Amin Meleika, the Egyptian Consul General, was enthusiastic about coming to Concordia to discuss the state of the peace treaty between the two countries in the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution.
“I thought it was a good idea, because we can both come and talk about the situation from our own point of view,” said Meleika.
“After the changes that took place in Egypt and in the Arab world, a lot of people are talking about ‘what is the future of the peace treaty?’ for instance. For my side, I wanted to talk about the Egyptian position.”
Meleika was referring to a decision made by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in the early stages of the revolution to honour all of its international agreements, including the peace treaty with Israel.
The SCAF is Egypt’s highest military authority and functions outside of Egypt’s political spectrum. Members of the SCAF along with Egypt’s diplomats, such as Meleika, retained their positions through the revolution.
The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was signed in 1979 as a ground-breaking achievement between the two countries.
It is the only peace treaty between Israel and an Arab nation. The intention of the treaty, according to Meleika, is to pave the way towards a peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine.
It led to what the Consul Generals both referred to as a “cold peace” between the two nations.
“While there is a peace with Egypt and diplomatic and economic relations have been normalized, one would not characterize these relations as constituting a ‘warm peace’ as is the case with Jordan,” explained Israeli Consul General Joel Lion.
“There is still animosity vis-à-vis Israel on the Arab streets despite the peace treaty but there is a general consensus among the ruling elite that even a cold peace is preferable to war.”
“It’s because, [in large part] there has been no advance in the Palestinian-Israeli track. Egyptians believe that the core problem in the Middle East is actually the Palestinian problem. And this has to be resolved,” said Meleika. “The Palestinians have a right to a state living side by side with Israel and they need to restore their dignity. As long as this has not been achieved, the peace in the region remains lacking.”
“[Egypt is] striving to change the situations for the Palestinians and demanding that their plight be alleviated,” Meleika continued.
A handful of students created a disturbance by yelling at the Consul Generals during the question and answer period. Most left immediately after they had had their say, without allowing for an opportunity for their concerns to be addressed.
“I was very surprised by the reactions I saw during that evening. […] I think they were not listening to what I was saying, they were coming in with pre-conceived ideas that this is about normalization of relations” said Meleika.
“We have an obligation to explain where our country stands. We want to inform people, we want to explain where the good side is and where our reservations are, and where the problems are.”
“Students have a right to ask whatever they please. A school is a place to exchange ideas. This should be done, however, in an atmosphere of calm, non-violence and mutual respect,” said Lion.
“There was a bit of shouting by a handful of students but in general the students were composed and respectful.”