Lapid Set for High-profile Egypt Meetings as Hamas Warns of 'Foot-dragging' on Gaza

The Israeli foreign minister is scheduled to meet with his Egyptian counterpart to discuss Gaza reconstruction, PA economic crisis, and may also meet with President Sissi

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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, on Monday.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will head to Cairo next week and meet with senior Egyptian officials, including possibly President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi.

The proposed Lapid-Sissi meeting, first reported by Israel's Channel 12 News on Monday, has yet to be confirmed by the Egyptians. If it happens, Lapid would be the second senior Israeli figure to meet the Egyptian president this year, after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Lapid plans to return to Sissi archeological artifacts that were illegally smuggled from Egypt into Israel, and held by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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A meeting between the Israeli foreign minister and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, is on the itinerary. The two are expected to discuss the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after the hostilities in May between Israel and Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority's economic crisis.

Meanwhile, The Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper reported Monday that Egyptian head of intelligence Abbas Kamel has delayed his trip to Israel that was planned for the end of December due to the lack of progress on the indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel regarding Israeli prisoners.

In September, a day before Prime Minister Bennett's meeting with Sissi, Lapid presented his plan for reconstructing the Gaza Strip which he called "economy in exchange for security." The government has yet to officially adopt the initiative.

The plan's principles are not new. The first stage calls for immediate humanitarian rehabilitation of the strip. If Hamas maintains a long-term peace at this stage, Israel will allow the reconstruction of the strip's infrastructure.

The second stage calls for promoting a significant economic program in the strip which will include the establishment of an artificial island off Gazan shores on which a port could potentially be built. Additionally, international investment will be promoted, as will joint economic initiatives for Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

A diplomatic source in Hamas said on Monday that "there's a lot of frustration in Gaza," caused by the delays of the promised reconstruction of Gaza as well as ease of restrictions on Gazans. 

Hamas said that "this foot-dragging cannot last forever," the source said.   

According to diplomatic sources, during their meeting in September, Bennett and Sissi discussed Iran, Gaza, Israeli prisoners held by Hamas, international terrorism, and trade and tourism between Israel and Egypt.

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