Israel’s Naphtali Bennett met Monday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Jewish prime minister’s first visit to the North African country in a decade.
According to Radi, security co-operation between the two countries was also discussed, attended by Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamil and Israel’s national security adviser Ayal Hlata.
Before returning home, Bennett said the meeting had helped lay the groundwork for a “deeper future” between Egypt and Israel.
He said the talks focused on a range of issues in the diplomatic, security and economic spheres, and on “ways to deepen ties and strengthen the interests of our countries.”
A statement from his office said that Bennett also praised Egypt’s “significant role” in bringing security to the Gaza Strip and finding a solution to the problem of (Israeli) prisoners and missing persons.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, after decades of hostility.
In May, it played a key role in the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, after 11 days of deadly fighting.
Egypt maintains strong diplomatic, security and economic ties with Israel and regularly receives leaders from the Palestinian Authority, led by Hamas as well as its political rival Mahmoud Abbas.
Restoration of peace talks.
An Israeli diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, were also discussed.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lipid on Sunday proposed building new infrastructure in exchange for improving living conditions in Gaza and calming down Hamas.
“It will not happen without the support and involvement of our Egyptian partners and the ability to talk to everyone involved,” he said.
Bennett’s visit came about 10 days after Abbas arrived in Cairo for talks with Sisi.
Cairo-based analyst Neil Shama told AFP that Monday’s talks were “an important step in light of the growing security and economic ties between the two countries and their mutual concern over the situation in Gaza.”
He added that this was in line with “Egypt’s plans to resume political talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
Bennett, a right-wing religious nationalist, took office in June, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 consecutive years as Israel’s prime minister.
The last meeting between an Egyptian president and an Israeli prime minister was in January 2011, when Hosni Mubarak received Netanyahu, just weeks before he was ousted in a popular uprising.
In the ensuing political turmoil, relations between the two countries soured as protests erupted outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo in 2011.
Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi’s one-year rule since 2012 has also been frozen, with Israel doubting the Muslim Brotherhood’s close ties to Hamas.
Sisi has once again established Egypt as a regional base for stability, and has echoed the successive peace summits before his ouster under Mubarak’s supervision.
Israel and Egypt are Washington’s two main allies in the Middle East and the largest recipients of US military aid, and they have worked together on security issues.
In an interview with CBS in 2019, Sisi acknowledged that the Egyptian military was working with Israel to fight “terrorists” in northern Sinai.
He called for Cairo’s “broader cooperation with the Israelis.”
The relationship dates back to Egypt’s independence from the Sinai Peninsula, which was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Egyptian forces have been fighting the insurgency in Sinai for years, led by a local member of the Islamic State group.
The two neighbors have also deepened their ties in the field of energy. Since last year, Egypt has received liquefied natural gas from Israel and re-exported to Europe.
Popular sentiment on the ground in Egypt, where the 1979 agreement is considered a “cold peace”, has refused to take a hard line against Israel amid a crackdown on dissent under Sisi.
Mustafa Samel al-Sayed, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said: “Sisi has succeeded in overcoming the opposition and absorbing other political movements.
Israel last year agreed to routine deals with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan under the Donald Trump administration.