Speaking at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu confirmed reports that he would meet later in the day with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who will be coming to Tel Aviv on Sunday afternoon. This will be the first time an Egyptian foreign minister has met with an Israeli leader since 2007.
The two will discuss a variety of issues at the meeting, according to Israel Radio, quoting Egyptian and Palestinian sources. At the meeting, Shoukry will make a bid for reviving the moribund talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA is urging Israel to accept a peace plan recently introduced by the French that would see Israel immediately freeze construction in Yehudah and Shomron and open talks on a two-state solution. The two will also discuss the situation in the Middle East and bilateral ties, Israel Radio said.
Netanyahu called the visit “a very important one, from many perspectives. It especially shows the change in relations between Israel and Egypt, and especially the important call by Egyptian President (Abdel Fattah) a-Sisi to advance the peace process, both with the Palestinians and the Arab states.” He said he would hold two meetings during the day with Shoukry.
Sisi called on Palestinians and Israelis in May to seize the opportunity to make a historic peace, offering Israel the tantalizing prospect of warmer ties should it reach a just peace.
Last week, the PA said it was suspending its ties with the Quartet – the group consisting of officials from the U.S., the U.N., the EU and Russia seeking to bring about negotiations between Israel and the PA – because of its dissatisfaction with a draft report issued by the EU on the reasons for the standstill in the peace process. The PA objects to a section of the report which criticizes the Authority for allowing incitement to violence, and says that such incitement is preventing the formation of an atmosphere of trust to advance the negotiation process.
According to the report, at least 570,000 Israelis live over the Green Line, significantly more than the numbers generally broadcast in the Israeli media. That figure includes areas of Yerushalayim liberated in the Six Day War, which the Quartet considers “occupied” as well. Israel essentially fully controls over 70 percent of land and resources in Area C – the area under Israeli military and civil control, according to the Oslo Accords – where the large majority of Israelis living in Yehudah and Shomron are domiciled. According to the Oslo Accords, Israel is supposed to eventually hand over jurisdiction in Area C to the Palestinian Authority, but that process stopped a long time ago, the report said.
As far as the PA is concerned, the Authority needs to reign in terror attacks and prevent murders such as the one that occurred in Kiryat Arba, when 17-year-old Muhammad Tararia snuck into the town and murdered 13-year-old Hallel Yaffeh Ariel, Hy”d. “The Palestinian Authority should act decisively and take all steps within its capacity to cease incitement to violence and strengthen ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including by clearly condemning all acts of terrorism,” the draft report said.
It is this portion of the report that the PA is opposed to. Israel Radio quoted PA officials as saying that the Quartet in recent months had “turned to support of Israel, and can no longer be considered an objective third party.” The report, officials said, “has the fingerprints of the Americans all over it, as the U.S. is influencing the Quartet. The U.N. is ineffective, the European Union is divided, and the Russians, who were thought to be friends of the Palestinians, have begun cooperating with the U.S. recently and have their own interests in the region, chiefly in Syria.”