San Francisco Chronicle
Israeli premier holds talks with Egyptian leader
CAIRO — Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett visited Egypt on Monday for talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
It was the first official visit by an Israeli premier since 2010, when then-President Hosni Mubarak hosted a summit with Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Less than a year later, Egypt was rocked by a popular uprising that toppled Mubarak.
Bennett and the Egyptian president discussed bilateral relations, reviving the IsraelPalestinian peace process and other regional and international developments, according to a statement issued by el-Sissi’s office.
The statement said el-Sissi stressed his support for “all efforts aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution.”
The Israeli premier, in a statement following the meeting, thanked el-Sissi for Egypt’s role in preserving security and stability in the Gaza Strip and its help with Israeli missing and captives from the conflict. He said the longstanding relationship between Egypt and Israel was a foundation for Israel’s recent accords with other Arab nations.
Over nearly a decade, Israeli officials have held covert meetings with their Arab counterparts, some of which were announced only after the fact. Egypt in 1979 was the first Arab country to reach a peace agreement with Israel.
The meeting was a boost for Bennett, who took office in
June and is still trying to establish his foreign-policy credentials. His predecessor, Netanyahu, billed himself as a global statesman but never was able to hold a public meeting with the Egyptian president.
Saeed Okasha, a political analyst with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that a more public meeting between el-Sissi and Netanyahu was not conceivable given his “anti-Palestinian” policies.
“However, there are no grudges between Egypt and Bennett. Egypt is willing to listen to a new Israeli voice especially in light of regional tensions,” he said.
Egypt and Israel have often found themselves on the same side of a wider regional conflict with rivals Iran and sometimes Turkey. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians would give Iran and Turkey one less conflict in which to exert their influence, according to Okasha.
Israel, with Egypt’s help, has maintained a tight blockade over Gaza since the Palestinian militant group Hamas overran the territory in 2007 in an effort to prevent it from importing weapons. Egypt has been trying to broker a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but those efforts appear to have run into trouble in recent weeks.