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Israel-Egypt relations, not Palestinians, at the center of Bennett-Sisi meeting – source

CM 14/09/2021 1

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The meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah a-Sisi focused on bilateral ties between the countries, in keeping with Bennett’s view that the Palestinian issue does not need to be the central matter in Israel’s relations with its neighbors and beyond, a senior diplomatic source said on Tuesday.
“The thing we wanted and want consistently, not just from Arab states, but in general, is that the Palestinian issue will not be stuck in the middle of bilateral matters. OK, we’re Israel, have a conflict, but that’s not the core of the relations,” the source said.
However, sources close to the prime minister said that the meeting was primarily focused on Egypt-Israel cooperation on security, geopolitical and economic matters, and not the Palestinians.

Sisi and Bennett met one-on-one for almost three hours, shooing away their top advisers more than once when they came in to hold a bigger meeting.
Bennett said after the meeting that “we created a foundation for deep ties in the future,” and the senior diplomatic source said the bond formed between the leaders is very important to the countries’ relations.
The subsequent meeting was with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Director of the General Intelligence Service Mr. Abbas Kamel, Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata, Prime Minister’s Military Secretary Brig.-Gen. Avi Gil, Bennett’s Senior Diplomatic Adviser Shimrit Meir, as well as coordinator for captives and missing Israelis Yaron Blum, and they also held their own meetings while Bennett and Sisi talked.
Notably, an Israeli flag was present for all of the meetings, unlike in the past, which was just one factor reflecting a greater warmth after over 40 years of a cold peace between Israel and Egypt.
The diplomatic source said the Prime Minister’s Office told the Egyptian Presidency that an Israeli flag must be there for the prime minister’s meeting, and there was not much pushback.
“We’re not forcing any Arabs to embrace us. Our sense of legitimacy doesn’t come from an embrace from anyone. But when you’re not desperate, things happen on their own; it’s like dating,” the source quipped.
The exact date of Bennett’s trip had been censored in Israel and Israeli media was not able to accompany the prime minister, because of very tight security arrangements.
As such, in a rare move, the Egyptian Presidency put out a statement to the press about the visit before the PMO did.
The public nature of the trip added to previous indications of a warming of ties, like when Egypt and Israel’s energy ministers held a press conference in Egypt early last year.
When it came to discussions about Gaza, the emphasis was on stopping smuggling of arms into Gaza through the Rafah crossing in Egypt.
“The fact that Hamas is on a trajectory of turning into Hezbollah is intolerable and will bring the next round of fighting fast,” the diplomatic source said. “We have to make sure weapons don’t enter Gaza.”
When it comes to allowing Qatari funds into Gaza without it reaching terrorists, the government still has not found a solution, the source said.
Bennett met with the family of Avera Mengistu, an Israeli civilian in Hamas captivity since 2014, on Tuesday, the day after the meeting
Bennett told the family that he is “personally committed to bringing back the Israeli soldiers and civilians from Gaza, and his door is open to them,” the Prime Minister’s Office stated.
In addition to Mengistu, Hamas has held civilian Hishal al-Sayed since 2015, and the bodies of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul since 2014.

Israelis Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed being held by Hamas in Gaza (credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY/FACEBOOK)Israelis Hadar Goldin, Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu and Hisham Al-Sayed being held by Hamas in Gaza (credit: COURTESY OF THE FAMILY/FACEBOOK)

Amid reports that Sisi hoped his overtures to Israel would improve his relations with the Biden administration, State Department Officials told The Washington Post that they will place new conditions on its security aid to Egypt over human rights violations.
Egypt receives $1.3 billion in aid from the US.             
Of that, $300 million are contingent on meeting human rights standards. The Biden administration will send $170 million for counterterrorism, but another $130 will reportedly be held unless Egypt ends its prosecutions of rights NGOs and drops charges against 16 individuals.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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