In memo to President Herzog, Egypt’s Sissi hopes his election will bolster peace

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi sent a letter to new Israeli President Isaac Herzog congratulating him on assuming office earlier this month.

“I avail myself of this good opportunity to congratulate Your Excellency as you embark upon your new responsibilities, expressing my hope that your election will contribute to further strengthening the culture of peace,” Sissi wrote to Herzog.

“In this context, I would like to affirm that Egypt believes in the importance of joint efforts to achieve a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian cause and that I very much look forward to your contribution to this effect so that our region can eventually enjoy the peace that we all aspire to,” the Egyptian president added.

After 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Gaza in May, Egypt has looked to take a leading role in following up on the ceasefire it helped broker, including involvement in reconstruction efforts.

Herzog took office on July 7 as Israel’s 11th president, succeeding Reuven Rivlin. The letter was published Friday by his office.

Herzog has also spoken by phone with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, the latest among a number of high-level contacts between the countries after the swearing-in of Israel’s new government last month.

New President Isaac Herzog speaks at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on July 7, 2021. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

In June, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Sissi, and the two agreed to set up a meeting as soon as possible.

Ties between Israel and Egypt have been increasingly public in recent weeks.

At the end of May, Benjamin Netanyahu, then still the prime minister, met with the head of Egypt’s intelligence services Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem and held talks centered on shoring up the truce with Hamas.

Their meeting came as then-foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi was in Cairo for the first visit by an Israeli foreign minister in 13 years.

Israel and Egypt have had a fraught relationship since signing a peace deal in 1979. Ties have never been warm, and in 2011, Egyptian protesters stormed an outer wall of the Israeli embassy in the capital’s Giza district, forcing the evacuation of its diplomatic staff. In 2015, Israel reopened its mission in a new location in Cairo’s Maadi neighborhood.

After Sissi seized power in a 2014 coup, Israel’s cooperation with Egypt deepened around security and energy.

According to foreign reports, Israel has helped the Egyptian military crack down on a jihadist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula with its own bombing campaign, and Egypt has taken part in efforts to stunt Hamas in Gaza.

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