At some point, will it dawn on the Israelis that constructing walls is not the magic solution to all their security problems?
After Israel enraged many Egyptians by killing five border guards on August 18 (a sixth who was shot in the same incident died today), the Israeli government thought it would be prudent to install a 15-foot concrete barrier around its embassy in Cairo.
Bad move. As Issandr El Amrani noted:
The construction of a wall outside the embassy was almost a provocation to people to come and bring it down. The symbolism of a wall was not lost on any one and merely angered people.
After protesters stormed the embassy on Friday night, Egyptian authorities only moved in to protect the Israeli staff after the Obama administration interceded on Israel’s behalf. Even then, it took two hours before U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was able to speak to Supreme Military Council head Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.
“There’s no time to waste,” Panetta reportedly told Tantawi in the 1 A.M. call, warning of a tragic outcome that “would have very severe consequences.”
The U.S. source also said that Tantawi failed to answer incoming calls from U.S. officials throughout the evening, finally answering after more than two hours of attempts.
Nominally, Egypt is one of Israel’s only allies in the Middle East, but as Israelis are now acutely aware, there’s a big difference between an alliance with Hosni Mubarak and cordial relations with the Egyptian people.
Israel has now pulled out all its embassy staff and their families leaving behind just one diplomat, its deputy ambassador who has taken refuge at the US embassy.
The flight of the Israelis from Egypt comes just a few days before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan is about to arrive in Cairo where he will address a meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Tuesday. Some reports say that he might travel from Cairo for a brief visit to Gaza.