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Report: Israeli officials in Cairo to discuss peace push

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have travelled to Egypt’s capital Cairo on a two-day visit, according to a Palestinian media report.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency said the purpose of the visit was to lay the ground work for a peace summit between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

Aviva Raz Shechter, the director-general of the Israel Foreign Ministry’s Middle East Division is leading the delegation to Cairo. A ministry spokesman said that the diplomats were in Egypt “as part of regular dialogue”. However, the Ma’an news agency suggests that they are helping prepare for a trilateral summit between Netanyahu, Abbas and al-Sisi. Yediot Ahronot also suggested yesterday that such a meeting is being discussed.

In a surprising televised address last week, al-Sisi called for Israel and the Palestinians to grasp a “real opportunity” for peace, hailing the prospect of “a new phase that perhaps no one can imagine now”. Netanyahu welcomed al-Sisi’s sentiments and efforts encouraging peace.

It has been widely reported that former Prime Minister Tony Blair played a crucial role behind the scenes encouraging al-Sisi to deliver such as speech, and coordinated this effort with Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who were locked in ultimately failed talks to form a unity government. Yesterday, Blair spoke at a conference in London and emphasised that wider Arab involvement in relations between Israel and the Palestinians is crucial. He said: “We need to broaden the support base for the peace process … We need the help of the region. The door between Israel and the Arab states is now closed and the key is progress with the Palestinians.”

Blair also said that normalisation between Israel and Sunni Arab states would be possible if there were an enthusiastic Israeli response “to President Sisi’s initiative and to the Arab peace initiative”. The Arab peace initiative is a Saudi-led plan which would see comprehensive Arab recognition of Israel in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state.