Netanyahu Meets with Egyptian FM to Revitalize Peace Talks

Shortly after arriving home from his whirlwind diplomatic tour of Africa, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Sunday in Jerusalem, the first visit by a high-ranking Egyptian official in nine years.

The two leaders discussed Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s proposal for a regional peace summit in Cairo. Netanyahu said at the start of his meeting that he appreciated Sisi’s offer “to advance peace with the Palestinians and a broader peace in our region.”

Today I call again on the Palestinians to follow the courageous example of Egypt and Jordan and join us for direct negotiations. This is the only way we can address all the outstanding problems between us and turn the vision of peace, based on two states for two peoples, into a reality.

“Egypt remains ready to contribute toward achieving this goal,” Shoukry responded, adding that his visit to Israel represented “a continuation of Egypt’s long-standing sense of responsibility towards peace for itself and all the peoples of the region.”

El-Sisi is a proponent of the Arab Peace Initiative, which would entail Arab countries fully recognizing Israel in return for Israel withdrawing from areas it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and creating a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees. “A multitude of ideas and initiatives have been proposed to make [peace] a practical reality – particularly the Arab Peace Initiative,” Shoukry said. “However, achieving this vision requires serious steps to build confidence, as well as a genuine will that does not waver or wane under any circumstance.” Netanyahu has said that he is willing to discuss variations on this plan.

Netanyahu emphasized during the meeting that the relationship between Jerusalem and Cairo has remained the “cornerstone of regional stability.” Ties between Israel and Egypt have greatly improved since Sisi came to power in 2013. Both nations have shared interests in fighting ISIS-affiliated terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula; IDF deputy chief of staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan said at a news conference in April that the two countries have an “unprecedented level of cooperation” concerning intelligence sharing. Israel has allowed the Egyptian army to technically break the 1979 peace treaty by operating in the eastern and northern parts of Sinai against ISIS. Israel also helped Egypt locate a Russian airliner that had crashed in the Sinai last year.

Egypt returned its ambassador to Israel in January, a move that Netanyahu said would “further strengthen relations with this important and key Arab country.” When Egypt agreed last month to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, it obtained a guarantee that the Saudis would respect Israel’s right of passage through the area.

[Photo: Haim Zach / GPO / Flash90]