Israel has seen “unprecedented” intelligence cooperation with Egypt and Jordan as the countries’ fight against the Islamic State group nudge them to work together more closely, Israel’s deputy military chief said Wednesday.
Major General Yair Golan said “there is a strong feeling in the region…that we have to put aside past animosities and concentrate on mutual interests and working together” to deal with the jihadist threat.
He spoke of an “unprecedented level of cooperation” mainly regarding intelligence.
“But that’s between defense establishments, and I wouldn’t describe that as some sort of reconciliation between the people,” Golan said at a news conference for foreign journalists.
“But it is a good starting point, and I’m quite optimistic concerning that.”
Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries that have signed peace treaties with Israel, but relations between them remain delicate, particularly over their support for the “Palestinian cause.”
Jihadists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula pledged allegiance in November 2014 to ISIS, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria and also has a presence in conflict-ridden Libya.
Jihadist fighters have long used Sinai as a base and launched an insurgency after the military overthrew Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Jordan, which borders Iraq and Syria, has for years struggled with homegrown extremists and is part of a US-led coalition carrying out airstrikes against ISIS.
In a sign of the sensitivity in Egypt-Israeli relations, Egypt’s parliament in March dismissed a deputy after he held talks with Israel’s envoy to Cairo during a dinner at his home.
Tewfiq Okasha’s hosting of Israeli ambassador Haim Koren sparked outrage in parliament, where one lawmaker hit him with a shoe.