Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said that any steps towards bringing peace to the region should be undertaken in a manner that preserves the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people for the establishment of an independent state, whilst ensuring security for Israel.
It came during a phone conversation between the Egyptian President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Wednesday, during which they discussed the latest regional developments, according to an Egyptian presidency statement.
President Al-Sisi added that he welcomed the recent UAE-Israel agreement, which was sponsored by the US, the Abraham Accord, paving the way for the normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE.
Al-Sisi stressed the importance of the Israeli side not taking unilateral measures that undermine the chances for peace.
This particularly includes Israel’s refraining from annexing Palestinian lands, and would provide the space for efforts between the various regional and international parties to move the current stalemate in the Palestinian issue. He noted that it would also push towards resumption in negotiations.
Last Thursday, Israel and the UAE agreed to establish full diplomatic ties, ensuring that the Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank have been suspended. Prime Minister Netanyahu said the groundbreaking accord represented a “historic day”, as he welcomed a “new era” in his country’s relations with the Arab world.
US President Donald Trump said he would host the Israeli and UAE leaders at the White House for the signing of the peace deal in about three weeks.
“I look forward to hosting them at the White House very soon to formally sign the agreement,” he said at media briefing on Thursday. “We’ll probably be doing it over the next, I would say, three weeks.”
Netanyahu had committed to the annexation of the land sought by the Palestinians, but President Trump requested for these plans to be put on hold, the Israeli PM said. He noted that the annexation may still go ahead, but only in cooperation with Washington.
The Israeli leader stated, “There is no change to my plan to extend our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, in full coordination with the United States.”
On Monday, the first-ever direct commercial passenger flight between Israel and the UAE took off on Monday, marking the first step towards implementing a historic deal between the two Middle Eastern nations.
“While this is a historic flight, we hope that this will start an ever more historic journey for the Middle East and beyond,” said senior US presidential advisor Jared Kushner.
Kushner, who is also the US President’s son-in-law, was accompanied by other senior US officials, including national security adviser Robert O’Brien. The Israeli delegation was led by the country’s national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat.
“This morning, the traditional greeting of ‘go in peace’ takes on a special significance for us,” said Ben-Shabbat.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently shuttled across the region, in hopes of securing more normalisation deals with Israel. However, even Bahrain, which has long been considered the next in line, has rejected US efforts.
Instead, many Arab states said normalisation could only occur when an independent Palestinian state was guaranteed in line with UN resolutions, highlighting the international community’s orientation toward a two-state solution.
The leadership of various Arab nations, including the Palestinians and Qatar, have criticised the UAE for moving forward with Israeli ties, without first securing a two-state solution to the conflict.
In Wednesday’s meeting, Al-Sisi asserted the importance of adhering to a state of calm and the currently enforced ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which has halted clashes between the two sides. After weeks of escalating tensions and strikes, a ceasefire between Hamas officials and the Israeli government was agreed upon on Monday.
In recent weeks, the Palestinians have sent dozens of helium balloons laden with incendiary material across the frontier to push Israel into easing its blockade of the Islamist Hamas-run strip, home to more than two million people.
In response, Israel has struck Hamas facilities almost nightly for the past two weeks, and on Friday, the militant group fired a dozen rockets towards Israeli towns. It is reported that Israeli farmland was damaged by the rockets.
Israel’s military said it had, in return, struck underground infrastructure and a military post belonging to Hamas.
Gaza militants returned fire with six rockets, the Israeli military said, drawing a second round of Israeli strikes which hit a Hamas armed training camp. With tension high, Israel has closed its only commercial crossing with Gaza, banned sea access and halted fuel imports into the strip, leading to its only power plant shutting down last week.
Mediators from the United Nations (UN), Egypt and Qatar have worked for calm, leading to a ceasefire.
However, Israel has not explicitly confirmed the existence of a deal, only tacitly acknowledging that it would fully reopen the fishing zone off the Gaza Strip coast of the Strip and the enclave’s border crossings beginning Tuesday.
“This decision will be tested on the ground. If Hamas, which is responsible for all actions that are taken in the Gaza Strip, will fail to meet its obligations, Israel will act accordingly,” Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians said in a statement.