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Bennett and Sisi talk Hamas, Iranian threats in rare meeting

CM 13/09/2021

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Disarming Hamas, the return of the hostages and halting Iranian aggression were high on the agenda when Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Sharm e-Sheikh, in the first such parley in a decade.
“It was a very important and good meeting,” Bennett said before his return to Israel from the one-day trip late Monday. “First and foremost, we created a foundation for deep ties in the future.”
Bennett was the first Israeli prime minister to publicly visit Egypt since his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu met with former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 in the same Red Sea resort on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.

 The Egypt-Israel meeting, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on September 13, 2021. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO) The Egypt-Israel meeting, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on September 13, 2021. (credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)

Back then there was only one flag at the meeting, the Egyptian one. This time, the Israeli and Egyptian leaders sat next to flags from both countries.
Bennett’s office also released a video of the hoisting of the Egyptian and Israeli flags next to the meeting venue.
In an unusual show of Egyptian comfort level with an Israeli high-level meeting, Sisi’s office announced Bennett’s presence in Sharm e-Sheikh, rather than leaving Israel to publicize the event.
Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, but it has been a cold peace, even though Cairo has been an important strategic partner for the Jewish state.
The Bennett-Sisi parley took place amid violent outbreaks along the Gaza border and a spike in terrorist attacks in the West Bank and in Jerusalem near the Central Bus station, where two Israelis were injured.
Since the end of the 11-day IDF-Hamas war in May, known as Operation Guardian of the Walls, Sisi has attempted to broker a long-term truce.
Those efforts appeared to be faltering this week as Palestinians in Gaza have launched rockets against southern Israel, none of which have caused damage or injuries.
Israel wants to ensure that any deal includes the return of the remains of two soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war, and the return of two Israeli civilians held hostage in the Hamas ruled enclave.
According to a diplomatic source, Bennett and Sisi discussed the return of the hostages and the importance of preventing another Gaza outbreak.
They also discussed ways to weaken the Hamas terrorist group  – including via Egyptian supervision at its border crossing with Gaza at Rafah to prevent the flow of material that can be used for military purposes. There is presently no oversight at that crossing, which is considered a minor one compared to the two major crossings between Israel and Gaza.
With an eye toward the larger region, the two men spoke of ways to prevent a nuclear Iran and the need to halt that country’s regional aggression.
They discussed Turkey’s activity in Libya and the crisis between Egypt and Ethiopia.
In addition, Bennett and Sisi spoke of expanding bilateral trade and tourism.
“We discussed a series of issues in the diplomatic, security and economic spheres, as well as ways to deepen ties and strengthen the interests of our countries,” Bennett said.
He thanked Sisi for the important regional role Egypt plays.
“Israel is increasingly opening up to the countries of the region, and the basis of this longstanding recognition is the peace between Israel and Egypt,” Bennett said. “Therefore, on both sides we must invest in strengthening this link – and we have done so today.”
Bennett did not mention the Palestinians in his remarks. Since taking office in May, he has clarified that he does not plan to engage in a peace process with the Palestinians or to negotiate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. US President Joe Biden has also not announced any plans for a peace process.
Sisi would like to see the revival of a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, which has been frozen since 2014.
According to Sisi’s office, the Egyptian president raised the matter with Bennett. Sisi spoke of his support for a two-state solution based on pre-1967 lines.
Bennett traveled with National Security Advisor Eyal Hulta, military secretary Brig.-Gen. Avi Gil and foreign policy adviser Shimrit Meir.
The prime minister was first received by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel.
He and Sisi then met privately for three hours, conversing with the help of translators: Bennett spoke in Hebrew and Sisi in Arabic. There was also a joint lunch with the Israeli delegation and Egyptian diplomats.
The trip appeared to give a boost to transportation links between the two countries.
The Taba crossing between Israel and Sinai, an entry point for Israeli tourists, became fully operational starting Monday as restrictions put in place during the coronavirus pandemic were lifted, Israel’s Transportation Ministry said.
From October, Egyptair will begin operating several flights a week between Cairo and Tel Aviv, sources at the Egyptian national carrier said.
Reuters contributed to this report.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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