Egypt’s Sisi invites Netanyahu to meet in Cairo

The visit to Egypt will be an Israeli leader’s first official trip to Cairo in a decade.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for an official state visit to Egypt that is expected to happen in the coming days, Israel Hayom reported Thursday.

It will be the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to Egypt in over 10 years and the two are expected to discuss common goals in dealing with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Talks between the two countries to coordinate the visit have been ongoing for the past few weeks. The meeting is expected to take place either either in the capital city of Cairo or the Sinai resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, which was previously the site of several rounds of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Also on the agenda will be regional issues including the Iranian threat and Israeli assistance in Egypt’s ongoing war against Islamic terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula. Cairo is also interested in taking a part in peace talks between Israel and Sudan, Egypt’s southern neighbor with which it has an ongoing border dispute.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss strategies to jump start the Mideast peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Egypt has acted as a mediator between the two sides since it became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.

Egypt is concerned that the Biden administration will take a more confrontational attitude toward the human rights violations of Sisi’s government. It is also wary of the U.S. going back into the Iran nuclear deal. Both Israel and Egypt see Iran as a threat to regional peace.

Egyptian officials told Israel Hayom that Cairo placed great importance on the Abraham Accords signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as the regional alliance being forged between Israel and other moderate Sunni Arab states and Sudan.

“If Netanyahu’s planned visit to Egypt does take place, President El-Sisi will greet him at the airport with Egyptian and Israeli flags waving alongside one another,” an official told the paper.

Netanyahu has met with Egyptian leaders several times, the first being a trip to Cairo in 1996 during his initial term as prime minister for talks with then-President Hosni Mubarak. During the more than two decades since that visit, Egypt has undergone several periods of upheaval, with Mubarak being deposed and the Muslim Brotherhood elected to power in 2012, only to be overthrown the following year in a military coup led by El-Sisi.

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The two leaders have met officially only once in New York City in 2017, when both addressed the United Nations. In May 2018, it was reported that Netanyahu flew to Egypt with a small number of defense advisers and security guards and held a secret meeting with El-Sisi, but he stayed there only for several hours.

In the most serious diplomatic incident between the two countries, Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo at the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, forcing the six staff members who were present to take refuge in a safe room. Egyptian army commandos rescued the diplomats and following the incident Netanyahu and former Mossad director Efraim Halevy thanked U.S. President Barack Obama for helping get the Israelis out safely.