Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Benet on Monday in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. “Efforts to renew the peace process” in the Middle East were discussed, said the chancellery of the Egyptian head of state.
According to world agencies, Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Benet were expected to discuss bilateral relations, attempts to revive Middle East peace negotiations and other regional issues. Neither the chancellery of the president of Egypt nor the Israeli side has so far informed about the details of the talks.
The PA recalls that this was the first official visit of the Israeli head of government to Egypt since 2010, when the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosted then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Talks with as-Sisi will put Benet, who took office in June, in a favorable light as Israel’s new prime minister is still trying to lend credence to his foreign policy, comments the Associated Press. His predecessor, Netanyahu, tried to portray himself as a statesman with global influence, writes the PA.
Possible talks about the situation in the Gaza Strip
The tensions in relations with the Palestinian Gaza Strip were probably one of the most important topics of the talks between Benet and al-Sisi. Israel, in cooperation with Egypt, has maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip since radical Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007. In addition, Israel has fought four wars with Hamas, the most recent one in May, and Cairo has often acted as a mediator in these conflicts.
The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is systematically worsening and Hamas is demanding the lifting of the blockade, while in recent weeks it has organized several aggressive demonstrations on the border with Israel and sent incendiary balloons on its territory, which caused many fires in the south of the Jewish state, the PA reminds.
In early August, al-Sisi met in Cairo with King Abdullah II of Jordan and President Abbas; the summit participants called for the resumption of talks on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Benet, however, is against such a solution, proclaiming that he wants to support Abbas in his rivalry with Hamas.
Israel and Egypt have “long-standing working relationships”
In May, the Egyptian government helped negotiate a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and the then Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukri. It was the first visit of the Israeli chief of diplomacy to Cairo in 13 years.
On May 21, the rather fragile – as Reuters notes – ceasefire between Israel and Hamas ended the 11-day confrontation, but did not prevent further acts of violence, including the firing of Palestinian rockets at Israel last week, to which the Jewish state responded with air force attacks.
AFP recalls that Israel and Egypt, the US’s closest Middle East allies alongside Saudi Arabia, have “long-standing working relationships.” Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel, but this pragmatic relationship is based on security cooperation and limited economic exchange, writes Reuters.
Main photo source: EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY / PAP / EPA