Meeting Netanyahu at UN, Egypt’s el-Sissi calls for resumption of peace talks

PM will address General Assembly on Thursday; speech will come after Trump harshly criticized Iran, declared explicit support for 2-state solution for the first time

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (right) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2018. (Avi Ohayon / PMO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (right) on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2018. (Avi Ohayon / PMO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip and other regional developments.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office said the two leaders met for two hours in talks focused on the coastal enclave, where Egypt is working to broker a permanent ceasefire between Israel and its Hamas rulers.

Sissi “stressed the importance of resuming the negotiations between the two sides, the Palestinians and the Israelis, to reach a just and a comprehensive solution based on a two-state solution and in accordance with the international treaties,” a presidential statement said.

Earlier this week, a senior Hamas official denied that Egyptian-brokered talks on reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority and a lasting truce with Israel have collapsed, but admitted progress was slow.

“The efforts of our Egyptian brothers continue on the file of Palestinian reconciliation and the calm with the (Israeli) occupation,” the terror group’s spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on t he sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 27, 2018. (PMO)

Egypt has for months been seeking to broker two separate deals.

One would bring Hamas and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah party together a decade after a bloody split, and another would see a lasting truce between Hamas and Israel in exchange for a loosening of the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

UN officials have also been involved in the indirect discussions between Gaza’s Hamas rulers and Israel.

Both Israel and Egypt enforce a number of restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza. Israel says the blockade is necessary to keep Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip from arming or building military infrastructure.

The talks come amid an uptick in violence along the Gaza-Israel border, which has seen violent clashes in recent months in a series of weekly protests that Israel accuses Hamas of orchestrating.

Netanyahu, Abbas to address UN

Netanyahu is set to address the UN General Assembly on Thursday afternoon, where he is expected to discuss Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its military entrenchment in Syria, as well as efforts to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

His speech will come shortly after Abbas will address world leaders at the UN’s New York headquarters.

Netanyahu also discussed Iran and Palestinian peace efforts with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday. After their meeting, Trump for the first time since taking office declared support for a two-state solution

Trump told reporters that he believes that two states “works best.” He had previously been vague on the topic, suggesting that he would support whatever the parties agree to, including possibly a one-state resolution, which might see the Palestinian territories become part of Israel.

“I like (a) two-state solution,” Trump said as he posed for photographs with Netanyahu. “That’s what I think works best. I don’t even have to speak to anybody, that’s my feeling.” He then motioned to Netanyahu and said: “You may have a different feeling. I don’t think so, but that’s mine.” Netanyahu did not respond.

US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. (AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm)

Later, Trump told a news conference that reaching a two-state solution is “more difficult because it’s a real estate deal” but that ultimately it “works better because you have people governing themselves.”

He added that he would still support Israel and the Palestinians should they opt for a one-state solution, though he believed it less likely. “Bottom line: If the Israelis and Palestinians want one-state, that’s OK with me. If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy.”

In his earlier comments, Trump said his much anticipated but still unreleased peace plan could be presented in the next two to four months.

After his meeting with Trump, Netanyahu told reporters the US accepts that even if a two-state solution is reached under any peace agreement, Israel will retain overall security control of the West Bank.

He said that Trump had assured him that Israel could continue its military operations in Syria freely.

“I received what I asked for. I came with specific points and I got them,” Netanyahu said in the briefing, without elaborating what his requests were.

Netanyahu also thanked Trump for his his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, and for his “strong” position on the country.

On Tuesday, Trump lashed out at Iran in his annual address to the UN General Assembly, accusing its “corrupt” leaders of enriching themselves through embezzlement and raiding state coffers to spread “mayhem.”

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd session of the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York September 25, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY

He vowed to continue to isolate the Tehran regime through US sanctions that are being re-instated following his withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. The next round of sanctions will take effect in early November.

He later predicted that the pressure from renewed sanctions would force Iran back to the table to negotiate.

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