A dispute over a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s delegation, ahead of his upcoming trip to Egypt to meet with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, has put the visit in jeopardy, Egyptian officials said Sunday.
Senior presidential officials in Egypt told Israel Hayom that preparations for the visit had been proceeding smoothly until Israel presented Egypt with its list of delegation members, which included Shimrit Meir, Bennett’s political adviser and Middle East analyst and journalist.
Meir was the editor-in-chief of the online Arabic-language newspaper Al-Masdar, officials said, which published “propaganda material against the Egyptian government and even against President el-Sissi himself.”
They also claimed that Al-Masdar was linked to other sites that harshly criticized the Egyptian government on human rights issues, which subsequently led to the United States compiling a blacklist of senior Egyptian officials who were sanctioned by the U.S. government. The message from Cairo was clear: Meir was not welcome in Egypt.
According to the sources, upon learning of Egypt’s opposition to Meir’s arrival, Bennett attempted to convince them to change their decision.
“The Israelis even stressed the fact that it is a time of mercy, forgiveness and atonement [before Rosh Hashanah] and said that leaving the adviser behind would provoke a harsh public debate in Israel that would undermine the meeting,” they said.
The matter was resolved in a phone call between el-Sissi and President Yitzchak Herzog, the sources said.
Until Meir’s appointment as Bennett’s political adviser, she was known to have lambasted the Egyptian president and his administration on her social media page that has more than 170,000 followers.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement: “This never happened. We do not know of any such requests.”