Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with Egypt’s new ambassador to Israel, Cairo’s first envoy to Jerusalem since 2012.
“Today I hosted the new Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat. Welcome to Israel, Mr. Ambassador!” Netanyhau posted to his official Facebook page with a photo of the two at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
A Prime Minister’s Office statement said “the two discussed, among other things, relations between Israel and Egypt, regional issues and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.”
The meeting comes the day after an Egyptian MP came under furious criticism in parliament — and was even attacked with a shoe — over a dinner he had with the Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Haim Koren.
אני מקדם בברכה את שגרירה החדש של מצרים בישראל, חאזם ח׳ירת. ברוך הבא לישראל!==Today I hosted the new Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat. Welcome to Israel, Mr. Ambassador!(צילום: קובי גדעון, לע״מ)
Khairat handed his diplomatic credentials to President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, and took the opportunity to praise the two countries’ bilateral relations. He expressed the hope that the Egyptian-Israeli “constructive” relationship would help bring peace to the region.
After the ceremony at the President’s Residence, Rivlin told reporters Khairat had said he was “very happy and very proud to be in Israel,” and hoped his presence would contribute to forging a “friendship between the Jewish people and the Arab people in general, and between the countries of the region, such that we can live in peace.”
Khairat, whose appointment was warmly received in Jerusalem when it was announced in June, watched the Egyptian flag being raised at the residence, and heard the Egyptian national anthem played as he arrived and handed his letter of credence to Rivlin. Before leaving the residence, he stood next to Rivlin as the Israeli national anthem was played.
Cairo’s last ambassador to Israel, Atef Salem, arrived in Tel Aviv in October 2012 but was recalled soon after in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip against Hamas and other terror groups launching rockets at Israeli towns.
In the unrest that followed the ouster of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi in July 2013, Israel reduced its own diplomatic presence in Cairo, but began returning diplomats to the Egyptian capital recently in light of the relative calm in the country under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
In September 2015, Israel reopened its embassy in Egypt four years after it was shut when a mob stormed the complex.
Official relations between Jerusalem and Cairo have been relatively warm since Sissi took power.