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Israeli leader visits Egypt for the first time in 10 years

September 13, 2021

Israeli premier Bennett said Egypt could help restart the peace process with the Palestinians, while Egyptian President Al-Sisi said he wants to "strengthen regional security."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh
The leaders of Israel and Egypt met at a Red Sea resort in Sinai Image: EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday at a Sinai resort to discuss bilateral relations and reviving the Palestinian peace process. 

The get-together at the Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh marks the first time an Israeli prime minister has been officially invited to neighboring Egypt in a decade.

Egyptian presidential spokesperson Bassam Radi said the two leaders discussed  "ways and efforts to revive the peace process, as well as the latest developments on the regional and international arenas."

Egypt has often helped broker peace between Israel and Palestinian groups, most recently the latest ceasefire in May after 11 days of deadly fighting.

"The president affirmed Egypt's support for all efforts to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on the two-state solution and on the international resolutions ... which contributes in strengthening security and prosperity for all the peoples of the region," the Egyptian presidency website quoted al-Sisi as saying. 

The meeting comes as efforts to rebuild the Israeli-Palestinian peace process continue to stumble. 

On Monday, the Israeli military reported three separate rocket launches into Israel by Palestinian militants, saying at least two of them were intercepted by its rocket defenses. In retaliation, the Israeli military said it struck several Hamas targets in Gaza. There were no reports of casualties on either side.

What is Egypt's role in the peace process?

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday that he was looking to improve living conditions in the Gaza Strip and build new infrastructure to overcome "the never-ending rounds of violence" with Hamas.

But he admitted "it won't happen without the support and involvement of our Egyptian partners and without their ability to talk to everyone involved."

Since 2007, Egypt has helped maintain a blockade over Gaza to prevent to Palestinian militant group Hamas from importing weapons into the territory. 

Boosting Egypt-Israel ties 

Bennett said before departing that the talks covered diplomacy, security and the economy.

"We created a foundation for a deep connection going forward," he told reporters.

The meeting comes as the Taba border crossing between Egyptian Sinai and Israel reopened following as coronavirus restrictions were ended. Flights by national carrier Egyptair are now due to start from Cairo to Tel Aviv in October.

The pair also reportedly discussed regional issues like the Iranian influence over the Middle East and the Lebanese economic crisis.

Bennett, head of the far-right "Yamina" party, replaced Benjamin Netanyahu in June at the head of a mixed coalition. The visit with al-Sisi has been seen as helping Bennett boost his foreign policy credentials. 

Netantyahu was the last Israeli prime minister to officially visit Egypt, having been hosted at a summit held by former President Hosni Mubarak in 2010.  

In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel following the Camp David Accords.

jc/wmr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)