by Adam Gonn
JERUSALEM, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- Egypt has appointed a new ambassador to Israel, one year after his predecessor was recalled following a diplomatic crisis.
Atef Sayed Al-Ahl, Egypt's newly appointed ambassador to Israel, is no stranger to Israel as he worked in the past at the Egyptian consulate in the southern Red Sea resort city of Eilat.
Al-Ahl's predecessor, Yasser Rida, was recalled in August 2011 following a border incident in which Israeli soldiers in pursuit of militants that had killed eight Israeli civilians in a cross- border raid, accidentally killed five Egyptian border guards.
Rida's recall made many Israelis fear that the stable relationship that Israel enjoyed with Egypt under former president Hosni Mubarak, who was forced to step down in February 2011, had come to an end.
After Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, was elected Egypt's new president in June, Israel has been keeping a close eye on his foreign policy.
"The bottom line of Egypt's foreign policy under Morsi would be a mix of continuation and change," Prof. Yoram Meital, of the Ben- Gurion University of the Negev, told Xinhua Monday.
"This approach has already taken him to new sites -- recently to Tehran and Beijing - and at the end of the month he is scheduled to visit Washington," Meital said.
A trip to Iran by an Egyptian president would have been impossible during the Mubarak era, due to tension over a number of regional issues. While in Tehran, Morsi voiced his support for the Syrian rebels trying the overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Iran.
Prior to leaving, Morsi said that Egypt will keep its international agreements, without mentioning Israel by name.
"The appointment of a new Egyptian ambassador to Israel reflects Cairo's commitment to the peace treaty. However, the bilateral relations between the two states are in a very sensitive stage," Meital said, referring to a military operation Egypt currently conducted in the Sinai Peninsula to clamp down on the lawlessness of the area and to find the militants who killed more than a dozen Egyptian policemen in August.
However, the number of Egyptian forces deployed there are beyond the limits set in the peace agreement. So far, Israel has remained quiet. It understands that the more control Egypt exerts in Sinai, the better it is for Israel.
"The 1979 peace treaty constitutes a corner-stone of Egypt's relations with the United States and the West, and Morsi would not risk this," Meital said.
"However, he is aiming at reshaping the tone of the new Egypt. Morsi is fully aware of the wide repercussions of taking a unilateral step that could undermine the entire peace edifice and bring the two countries to the brink of renewed confrontation," he added.
Prof. Uri Bar-Joseph, of the University of Haifa, said that the appointment of a new ambassador was a positive sign, but noted that the announcement had received only limited coverage by Israeli media.
Israeli Foreign Ministry said that they would not comment on the issue until Al-Ahl presents his credentials to President Shimon Peres in mid-October.
One possible reason for the low profile, both of the media and the ministry, could be that the two countries are keen on avoiding the ruckus that followed Morsi's alleged reply to a Ramadan greeting he received from Peres.
When Peres received Morsi's reply, Israeli media quickly published the story which, in turn, led to harsh criticism of Morsi in Egypt, and he later denied even sending a letter.
"It's obvious that (the Egyptians) don't want to rock the boat now, especially since Morsi went to Iran," Bar-Joseph said.
He added the trip to Iran "strategically wasn't an important move," and that Morsi didn't use it to create a new relationship between the two sides.
The Egyptians wants to signal that this doesn't mean a change or anything in Egypt's foreign policy, which remains more or less the same, and they aren't going to make any hostile moves against Israel," Bar-Joseph said.
The strongest signal that this will remain unchanged, he argued, is the fact that Morsi will travel to the United States and meet President Barack Obama.
The United States brokered the Egypt-Israel peace deal, maintaining it one of the conditions for the annual 1.3 billion U. S. dollars in military aid to Egypt. In addition to the military aid, there are a number of civilian programs that also provide assistance to the Egyptian economy.