Netanyahu Sends Morsi Condolences on Sister's Death

Amid ongoing efforts to achieve cease-fire, Israeli PM tries to ease tension by sending Egyptian president personal message; two have had little contact since Morsi came to power.

As the Egyptian mediation efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza continued, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to ease the tension on Tuesday morning between Jerusalem and Cairo by sending Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi a personal message, offering Morsi his condolences on the death of his sister from cancer one day earlier.

Netanyahu signed the note personally, and it was transferred to Egypt's Presidential Palace in Cairo.

This was the second personal message Netanyahu has sent to Morsi over the past few days. Over the weekend he sent a letter expressing his sorrow over a serious train-bus accident in Egypt, in which 51 people were killed, most of them children.

Since Morsi emerged victorious in the Egyptian presidential election on June 17, there has been no direct contact between Israel and Egypt on the level of president, prime minister or foreign minister. There have been no meetings between ministers of the two countries and the only known phone call to take place was one between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the end of August.

In the absence of direct dialogue, the Israeli leadership has been forced to communicate with Morsi by letter. After Morsi won the elections, Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres sent him congratulatory letters. A few months later, both also sent letters with greetings for the holiday of Id al-Fitr. Morsi, who has remained cold to Israel and tries to avoid even calling it by its name, responded to Peres, while Netanyahu’s letters remained unanswered.

During the current crisis, all Israeli-Egyptian contacts have been conducted via a senior envoy from the Israeli defense establishment, who has been holding talks with senior Egyptian intelligence officials regarding a cease-fire.

Similarly, there has been indirect contact between Netanyahu and Morsi via U.S. President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders. During all his conversations with foreign leaders over the past week, Netanyahu asked them to ask Morsi to pressure Hamas to stop the rocket fire.