A senior aide to Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday hailed the prime minister’s first-ever public meeting with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York earlier this week, as a diplomatic victory.
“After this trip, our strategic situation is greatly strengthened,” the official told The Times of Israel shortly after Netanyahu’s return to Israel from a 10-day visit to Latin America and the US.
He noted it was Netanyahu’s first public meeting with an Arab leader since the start of the Arab Spring uprisings that erupted across the region in 2011.
The two leaders had “a comprehensive discussion about the problems of the region,” according to a readout provided by the Prime Minister’s Office. Sissi “expressed his desire to assist in efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the region,” it said.
Netanyahu is last known to have met with Sissi in February 2016, when the two attended a secret summit in Aqaba with former US secretary of state John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. That covert meeting was part of a push to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and seek recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by Arab countries, the Haaretz daily reported in February.
Since they established diplomatic relations in 1978 after years of hostility and a series of wars, ties between Israel and Egypt have historically been civil but frosty. However, the two countries have enjoyed closer intelligence and security ties in recent years over their shared enmity towards Islamist terror groups and other common regional concerns.
Sissi also met with a group of US Jewish leaders in New York on Monday, during which he said he was optimistic about the Trump administration’s efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
In his UN speech on Tuesday, Sissi made an impassioned pitch for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, calling for both sides to take advantage of a “rare” opportunity to achieve the elusive goal.
The Egyptian leader also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in New York.
Earlier Monday, Netanyahu met with US President Donald Trump. Going into their meeting, Trump reiterated his desire to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and told Netanyahu there was a “good chance” such an accord could happen.
Netanyahu, for his part, focused his remarks on the Iran nuclear deal and the Islamic Republic’s military expansion in the region, but also said “we will discuss the ways we can seize the opportunity for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and the Arab world. I think these things go together.”