Report: Netanyahu Secretly Met With Egypt's Sissi to Discuss Gaza

The premier visited Egypt discreetly in May, Israel's Channel 10 reports, citing U.S. officials ■ Leaders reportedly discussed plan to resolve Gaza crisis, ease blockade and reach a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi in New York.
Avi Ohayon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met secretly with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi back in May to discuss the Gaza Strip, Channel 10 news reported Monday evening.

According to the report, which was sourced to senior American officials, Netanyahu flew to Egypt on May 22 with a handful of advisers. He spent a few hours there and returned to Israel that same night. The trip was kept secret, and even ministers belonging to the diplomatic-security cabinet weren’t informed.

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The senior American officials told Channel 10 that Netanyahu and Sissi discussed Egypt’s efforts to promote a diplomatic solution for Gaza. The plan would include restoring the Palestinian Authority to power in Gaza, arranging a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, easing the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the territory and rehabilitating its infrastructure.

UN envoy Nikolay Mladenov has been working on a similar plan over the past few months.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will meet with senior defense officials to discuss whether to ease some of the restrictions Israel has imposed on Gaza. Defense sources said the meeting will discuss the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza to most merchandise and expanding the waters in which Israel allows Gaza fishermen to fish.

>> UN, Egypt struggling to preserve Hamas cease-fire as Israel denies deal exists

The Gaza border has been completely quiet since Sunday. Palestinians haven’t launched any incendiary kites or balloons or clashed with Israeli soldiers near the border fence. If this continues, defense officials said, Israel will consider easing additional restrictions.

Last week, Palestinians fired more than 200 rockets and mortars at Israel from Gaza, and the Israel Defense Forces attacked some 150 Hamas targets in the territory. Foreign officials subsequently reported that Israel and Hamas had agreed on a cease-fire through the mediation of Egypt and Mladenov. Israel denied this report, saying it hadn’t promised to hold its fire, but in practice, quiet has prevailed since then.

Nevertheless, during a visit to the army’s Gaza Division on Monday, Lieberman said, “The question about the next round of fighting isn’t whether, but when.”