Strange Bedfellows
Egyptian FM Makes Surprise Trip to Jerusalem, Pushes Peace

We live in strange times: while the Palestinians look to the West, particularly to the French government and the Obama Administration, to pressure the Israelis into peace, the Israelis welcome a visit by Egypt, backed by Saudi Arabia. The New York Times reports:

Egypt’s foreign minister arrived in Israel on Sunday — the first such high-level visit in nearly a decade — saying that he had come to promote the “vision” of his boss, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to help rejuvenate the moribund peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel hailed the arrival of the foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, as “important from many points of view,” adding that it attested to Israel’s changing relationship with Egypt under the leadership of Mr. Sisi.

The visit came amid international efforts to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Both sides noted that it followed Mr. Sisi’s call in May to revive the peace process. In late June, Mr. Shoukry met with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, at Mr. Abbas’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The informal entente between Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf Arab monarchies has been one of the most important and under-appreciated dynamics in the Middle East during the last half decade. The rapprochement is built on shared concern about Iranian aggression and the destabilizing influence of radical Sunni groups, but increasingly features diplomatic and even some economic components.

Nevertheless, it is at its core a matter of intelligence and security cooperation, something that was brought home by another revelation Sunday. The Times of Israel reports:

Israel has carried out drone strikes against terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula in recent years, according to a Bloomberg news report Monday that quoted an unnamed former senior official.

The airstrikes were conducted with Egypt’s knowledge and blessing, according to the ex-official, who spoke to the US-based news site on condition of anonymity.

The full fruits of the Egyptian FM’s visit remain to be seen, but Israeli television is reporting that the two parties were working “feverishly” to set up peace negotiations with the Palestinians in Egypt. In that light, it’s worth re-reading the our recent essay suggesting that the parameters for such negotiations may be shifting: “Are the Palestinians Thinking the Unthinkable?”

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