U.S. Legislator Subjected Egyptian Official To “Tensed” Questioning

US lawmakers urge block on some military aid to Egypt | Image Credit: middleeastmonitor.com
US lawmakers urge block on some military aid to Egypt | Image Credit: middleeastmonitor.com

In a recent conversation with U.S. House members, Egypt’s ambassador to the United States, Motaz Zahran, was subjected to criticism for a failed armistice proposal that preceded Israel’s invasion of Rafah, according to Axios.

The reason this is significant: The episode is indicative of the persistent tensions between the Arab countries that have acted as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas and the numerous pro-Israel U.S. legislators.

Axios’ Barak Ravid reported that Egypt and Qatar have continued to play critical roles in the efforts to establish a ceasefire and hostage agreement between the two parties.

Influencing the media: According to three legislators who spoke to Surge Insights on the condition of anonymity in order to provide details of a private discussion, the contact was about Hamas’ announcement in early May that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal brokered by an Egyptian-Qatari.

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The announcement caught Israeli officials off guard, and they accused Egypt of providing Hamas with a new proposal without consulting with Israel.

Egyptian intelligence discreetly altered the parameters of a proposal that Israel had approved in May, according to a report by CNN several weeks later.

Israel initiated military operations in the southern Gazan city of Rafah shortly after the episode, which strained relations between Israel and the United States.

What is being communicated: According to one of the House members, Zahran was inquired as to whether he believed that Egypt had lost credibility as a result of the incident during the call. The ambassador responded by becoming “extremely agitated.”

Zahran’s response was described by the legislator as “Not at all.” No, no. I mean, we are still conducting [ceasefire negotiations]. How is it possible that we have lost credibility when [Israel and Hamas] are still in Cairo negotiating?
“Another participant on the call stated that the ambassador’s response to legislators’ inquiries was quite defensive.”
A third lawmaker stated, “It was a tense call… We were very explicit with them that we required Egypt to step up.”
Zoom out: Pro-Israel members of Congress have accused Egypt and other Arab countries that are engaged in ceasefire negotiations of being excessively hostile to Israel and close with Hamas.

In October of last year, a bipartisan group urged Egypt to “acknowledge its humanitarian responsibility” to establish secure zones for Palestinians and streamline the delivery of aid to Gaza, following its criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the enclave.

In January, lawmakers argued that Qatar has “not completely leveraged its relationship with Hamas to ensure all hostages are released without delay,” which has also resulted in criticism.

“One of the lawmakers on the call told Surge Insights that Egypt should have been playing a much more involved role in the situation… I believe they have not assisted nearly as much as they could have.”

“I believe that there is a significant amount of dissatisfaction with both the Egyptian government and the Egyptian ambassador.”

A request for comment was not responded to by the Egyptian embassy in Washington.

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