Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday praised Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi for his call for a resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to resume peace talks immediately.
Sissi told the Associated Press in an interview published Sunday that efforts should be renewed to solve the Palestinian issue and to expand Egypt’s nearly 40-year peace with Israel to include more Arab countries.
Resolving the Palestinian question, he said, could “change the face of the region and … bring about enormous improvement to the situation. … I’m optimistic by nature and I say that there is a great opportunity.”
A statement from Netanyahu’s office hailed the Egyptian president’s remarks on Arab-Israeli peace.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu urges PA President Mahmoud Abbas once again to return immediately to the negotiating table to advance the diplomatic process,” the statement said.
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who has been calling for a regional peace initiative, also welcomed Sissi’s remarks.
“Sissi’s remarks prove that today we have an opportunity to advance a regional initiative with moderate Arab states,” he said. “This sort of accord would allow us to forge an axis of moderate states against Iran and against growing terror in the Middle East, and will uphold Israel’s security interests and its existence as a Jewish state.”
Earlier this month, Netanyahu said he was willing to meet Abbas “right now” to resume peace negotiations without preconditions.
Secret contacts between Netanyahu and Abbas have been taking place for several months, according to recent reports, including in The Times of Israel. Those reports have been denied by both the PMO and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
According to the Haaretz daily, US Secretary of State John Kerry recently encouraged Abbas to hold off on meeting Netanyahu until after he and Abbas met ahead of the UN General Assembly, scheduled to begin Monday.
American officials have indicated that intensive engagement on the peace process would be resumed after the Iran deal was inked.
Nine months of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians fell apart in April 2014 amid mutual recriminations.