In a week which has seen ties between Israel and Egypt strengthen, there is renewed hope that the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians can be broken, amid reports that Egypt is set to offer to host peace talks.
On Sunday, Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, made a surprise visit to Israel, the first such visit in nine years. He urged the Palestinians to follow Egypt’s historic example and pursue direct negotiations.
Shoukry, standing alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, declared that Egypt remained a “steadfast and unwavering” supporter of the two-solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and called for both sides to resume negotiations.
He made assurances that Cairo was committed to “establishing a just and comprehensive peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people, bringing this long conflict to an end”.
The development occurs nearly four decades after the historic peace accord between Israel and Egypt changed the landscape of the Middle East.
There are reports that there is a new energy deal on the horizon, which would be worth billions of dollars. In a further sign of healthier ties between Israeli and Egypt, Shoukry’s visit comes after Israel’s military commended the “unprecedented” intelligence cooperation with Egypt to combat the so-called Islamic State group. Both of these factors have shifted the political dynamics in the Middle East, and have drawn Israel and Egypt closer together.
There are further reports that the purpose of Shoukry’s visit was also to arrange a first meeting between Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in the coming months.
It has also emerged that Israel has been conducting drone strikes against terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula in recent years with Egypt’s knowledge and blessing, according to a Bloomberg news report that quoted an unnamed former senior official.
Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Haim Koren, stated that “this is one of the best times we’ve ever had” with regards to cooperation between governments. He continued: “There’s good cooperation between the armies, we have understandings about the Sinai Peninsula, and basically, we see (eye-to-eye) on development of the region”.
Israeli officials are yet to comment on reports that Egypt is to try and revive the dormant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but it is hoped that these encouraging signs could mark the beginning of an era of warmer ties between Israel and Egypt, as well as between Israel and the Palestinians, if negotiations are successfully restarted.