Egypt eyes Israeli economic impact
Israeli tourists, Israeli newspapers, and even Israeli beer have come to Egypt. But despite these recent innovations, the normalizing of relations between the two countries is likely to be a lengthy process.
Israeli newspapers came to Egypt in mid- January. But they were supposed to appear several months ago. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Butrus Ghali blamed this delay on Israeli bureaucracy and on the suspicions engendered by 30 years of conlict.
For Egypt, the exchange of newspapers is an important step in efforts to get its views across to Arabs living under Israeli occupation, and to try to get them to participate in the Palestine autonomy talks now taking place.
Links between the two countries in tourism began over six months ago, on June 7, when the first Israeli tourist came to Egypt. Since then, about 1,800 visas have been granted to Israelis. About 30 Israelis a week come in regular tours organized jointly by the Egyptian Emeco Travel Agency and the Israeli VIP Tours.
An official of VIP Tours says that he expects that about 50,000 Israelis will want to come to Egypt in the first year after the borders open, if no restrictions are placed on tourism.But the Egyptian government would like to see a go-slow policy to allow Egyptians to get used to the idea, and to provide ample security for their Israeli guests.
Relatively few Egyptians have gone to Israel. This is in part because there have been no regularly organized tours from Egypt. The first organized tour from Egypt will be in February for Egyptian Jews.
Israel also has been forthcoming than Egypt in granting visas to its former enemies. Only 140 have been granted so far.
Israel is particularly interested in having good economic relations with Egypt. Israeli officials raise the possibility of joint ventures combining Israeli technological skill with cheap, plentiful Egyptian labor.
Egyptians are particularly sensitive about future trading links with Israel, fearing that Egyptian industry is too backward to compete with Israeli technological skills. Israeli goods such as silverware and transistor radios have been smuggled into Egypt's Port Said, where they have been sold much more cheaply than their Egyptian counterparts.
Minister of State for Economic Cooperation General al Nazer already has assured Egyptians that their country will not be a market for Israeli consumer goods. This assurance is meant not only to calm the fears of Egyptians but also those of other Arab states that fear that Egypt could act as a Trojan horse, enabling Israeli goods to gain a foothold in the Arab world.
Domestic opposition to close ties with Israel is strong. A recent rally of 10,000 Islamic militants, held for the purpose of attacking Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, also attacked the "US-maneuvered Egyptian-Israeli peace pact." Resolutions made by the militants called on Muslims to "boycott all Israeli magazines and newspapers, products, and Israelis themselves" when they come to Egypt.
Omar Telmesani, editor of the influential voice of the Muslim Brotherhodd, Al Dawaa, claims that opening of doors to Israel will lead to the domination of Egypt both politically and economically.
"The Jewish financial power that has manipulated America and others for the sake of realizing the selfish Jewish desires will establish itself in the Arab and Islamic world," he said.