Egypt's new foreign minister, Nabil Elaraby, is expected to lead the country in a tougher line against Israel than the government of Hosni Mubarak.
The appointment Sunday of Elaraby comes as Egypt gets its second new government in less than six weeks. The military council in charge of Egypt since the ousting of Mubarak in February appointed a new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, in an effort to appease demonstrators who have argued that the old cabinet, chosen in January during the height of the protests, was too connected to Mubarak.
Elaraby, a former judge in the International Court of Justice at the Hague, replaces Ahmed Aboul Gheit, who served as Egypt's foreign minister since 2004.
Before his tenure as judge, Elaraby urged Arab nations to sue Israel for atrocities committed against the Palestinians including genocide, Ynet News reports. Two months after telling an Egyptian newspaper, "I personally support an Arab Muslim claim against Israeli crimes," Elaraby was appointed as a judge at the ICJ.
Elaraby was part of a team that negotiated the Camp David peace treaty with Israel in 1978 and therefore can be expected to abide by Egypt's existing commitments to Israel, but he is likely to take a harder approach concerning Israel's activities in the occupied territories, the Washington Post reports.
"Public opinion in Egypt is in favor of a less soft approach to Israel and I think he shares this feeling," Mustapha Kamel al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told the Washington Post. "It will be very difficult for him to make the kind of concessions Hosni Mubarak made to Israel," like when Egypt closed its border with Gaza during the 2009 Gaza war.
The professor said that Elaraby is also likely to improve Egypt's relations with Iran, Syria and Lebanon's Hezbollah. This would stand in contrast to Mubarak's Egypt, which could be depended upon as a reliable ally of the United States in the region.
Meanwhile, army troops opened fire over the heads of protesters Sunday who stormed ministry and secret police offices in an attempt to obtain documents they say proves oppression under Mubarak.
The protesters claimed the documents were being destroyed.
-- Hanna Ingber Win