Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu watched the Euro 2016 soccer final late Sunday at his official residence in Jerusalem in the company of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
Shoukry became the first Egyptian foreign minister to visit Israel in nine years, and held lengthy talks with Netanyahu during the day, with reports indicating that preparations are in full swing for an unprecedented trip by Netanyahu to Egypt for talks with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi later this year.
According to a report on Channel 2, one of the reasons Netanyahu is hoping to schedule a meeting with Sissi before the end of the year is to outflank a French diplomatic move to hold an international summit on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — something Netanyahu opposes. He has indicated that he prefers a regional approach to new efforts, with Egypt in a central role.
If so, he may have seen omens on the soccer field in Paris, where the host nation, confident that it would hold sway, went down to a shock defeat to plucky Portugal, a nation with a population (10.5 million) barely larger than Israel’s (8.5 million). Portugal (the world’s 111th biggest nation, to Israel’s 149th) was hampered by an early injury to its best player Cristiano Ronaldo, but outplayed the French to triumph against the odds.
“This evening my wife Sara and I hosted Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in our home in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu posted on Facebook. “He arrived today for a visit to Israel. When our meeting ended, we had time to watch the Euro 2016 final.”
Netanyahu did not record whether he or his guest were happy with the result. But to adapt a favorite Netanyahu phrase to the soccer arena, he must have been impressed by Portugal’s ability to defend itself, by itself, against relentless attack.