Lapid set to visit Cairo for talks with Egyptian counterpart

Foreign minister’s agenda for trip said to include the shaky ceasefire with Hamas, Israelis being held in the Strip; unclear if he’ll meet Sissi

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset on December 6, 2021. (Oliver Fitoussi/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaks during a Yesh Atid faction meeting at the Knesset on December 6, 2021. (Oliver Fitoussi/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is slated to visit Cairo this week, his spokesman confirmed Monday, the latest in a series of high-level contacts between Israel and Egypt.

Lapid was scheduled to meet with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, as well as with other Egyptian officials.

It was not immediately clear if Lapid will be meeting with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

If the two do meet, Lapid intends to present Sissi with stolen Egyptian artifacts that were smuggled to Israel and are now held by the antiquities authority.

Lapid’s planned talks in Cairo are expected to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tentative Egyptian-brokered truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, as well as the issue of the Israelis and the remains of Israeli soldiers being held in the Strip.

Israel’s top diplomat previously met with Shoukry in July, when the two were both in Brussels for an EU conference.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Brussels, July 11, 2021. (Gabi Farkash, GPO)

Lapid’s scheduled visit to Egypt will follow Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh with Sissi in September, the first such summit between Israeli and Egyptian leaders in more than a decade.

Last month, the new head of the Shin Bet security service and Bennett’s national security adviser reportedly traveled to Egypt for talks on Gaza.

Israel and the Hamas terror group have been holding indirect negotiations, moderated by Egypt, on stabilizing the fragile ceasefire since the 11-day battle between the two sides in May. Israel has vowed not to allow a full reconstruction of Gaza without a prisoner swap between the two sides.

Clockwise from top left: Oron Shaul, Avera Mengistu, Hadar Goldin and Hisham al-Sayed. (Flash 90/Courtesy)

Two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israel Defense Forces soldiers are currently being held in Gaza. Avraham Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed entered the Strip of their own accord, and their families say they suffer from mental illness. Hamas is also holding the bodies of Oren Shaul and Hadar Goldin, two IDF soldiers who were killed in the Strip during the 2014 Gaza war.

Israel has, over the years, worked to secure the release of the civilians and the soldiers’ bodies, often using the Egyptian military, which maintains ties with both Jerusalem and Hamas, as an intermediary.

Hamas has sought, in exchange, the release of Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails — members of Hamas and of other terror groups.

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