TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) may travel to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in an attempt to resurrect moribund Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
In a rare move, Sissi called on the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to take advantage of a “real opportunity” to make “peace” that would also strengthen ties between Israel and Egypt.
“If we can all join forces in order to solve the Palestinian issue by creating hope for Palestinians and assuring security for Israelis, we will be able to write a new chapter that may prove to be more important than the peace accords between Israel and Egypt,” Sissi said.
Both Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Sissi’s bid for renewed talks, with the latter praising “Egypt’s historic role in supporting Palestinian affairs.”
Netanyahu said Israel would open a dialogue with Arab countries in order to broker a deal with the Palestinians.
“Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “I appreciate President el-Sissi’s work and am encouraged by the leadership he has shown on this important issue.”
Meanwhile, the Gaza-based Hamas terror group made no mention of Sissi’s appeal for talks to resume but lauded his call for internal Palestinian reconciliation.
In a statement on its website, Hamas wrote that it “welcomes the Egyptian statements for realizing Palestinian reconciliation, and emphasizes [its] readiness to deal with all the efforts to achieve reconciliation and restore national unity.”
The proposed Netanyahu-Herzog-Sissi meeting may also be intended to facilitate the formation of a unity government between Netanyahu’s Likud and Herzog’s Zionist Union party. Many of Herzog’s fellow party members and the majority of the public are strongly opposed to the idea.
However, a source close to Herzog rebuffed the rumors.
“At the moment there is no peace between Bibi and Buji [the nicknames of the two leaders], and the statement by Sissi didn’t affect that,” he said.
Sissi’s speech came just hours after France announced it was postponing a summit aimed at jumpstarting the so-called peace process in order to allow the U.S. to attend. Secretary of State John Kerry was not able to attend on the original date of May 30.
In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab state to sign a peace agreement with Israel. In Tuesday’s address, Sissi said that such an accord only had positive effects and the levels of hostility between Egypt and Israel before the deal were at least equal to those between Palestinians and Israelis.
“Maybe some people can say this peace [between Egypt and Israel] is not warm,” Sissi said. “I tell them a warmer peace will be achieved if we were able to resolve the issues of our Palestinian brothers.”