Could Egypt's Sisi help birth a unity government in Israel?

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May 18, 2016 05:58

Marathon unity talks continued late into Tuesday night after Netanyahu and Herzog met until late into the night the previous evening.

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Abdul Fattah Sisi

Abdul Fattah Sisi. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi could follow in the traditions of the mother and sister of Moses, who were midwives in ancient Egypt, by helping give birth to a national unity government in Israel, sources in the Likud and Labor said Tuesday.

Likud and Labor officials were thankful to Sisi for aiding the effort to build a new government, both behind the scenes and in a speech he made Tuesday in which he stated his commitment to contributing toward the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. The officials confirmed a Channel 10 report that if a unity government is formed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Labor Party head Isaac Herzog could go to Egypt to launch a new peace initiative under Sisi’s guidance.

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“His statement signals a possibility of dramatic progress, and highlights the will of the moderate Arab world,” Herzog said. “It is crucial that we listen to the Egyptian president, and examine the opportunity seriously and responsibly.”

A senior source in Labor stressed that there are still very significant gaps in the coalition talks. The source, who is very close to Herzog, said he was unaware that a joint visit to Egypt had been raised in the talks.

“At the moment there is no peace between Bibi and Buji [the nicknames of the two leaders], and the statement by Sisi didn’t affect that,” the source said.

Nevertheless, sources close to Herzog said Sisi’s efforts are among many diplomatic efforts taking place that could only come to fruition if he joined the government.

Herzog slammed MK Shelly Yacimovich and other critics in Labor for rejecting a potential unity deal before its details are known.

“We expect Shelly to wait until the final results are known and learn the facts before she scolds for political reasons,” a source close to Herzog said. “Until then she should stop issuing threats and statements with violent connotations.”

Yacimovich vowed on Facebook to lead a struggle for “justice, clean government, ideology and the party’s self respect.” In an interview with Israel Radio, she called the potential Netanyahu-Herzog partnership “a wedding of blood.”

Herzog critic MK Erel Margalit said “the political spin of the Sisi initiative is an insult to the intelligence coming from those crawling on all fours into the government.”

But Labor MK Hilik Bar, who also opposes joining the coalition, welcomed Sisi’s statement and expressed hope it would lead to a renewed peace process with the Palestinians.

Marathon unity talks continued late into Tuesday night after Netanyahu and Herzog met until late into the night the previous evening.

Netanyahu and Herzog also continued efforts to draft support for the initiative within their own parties.

Herzog intends to bring a unity proposal for approval at the Labor Party’s convention next week if a deal is reached. But a coalition deal had still not been reached Tuesday night.

A source close to Netanyahu said large gaps remain in the coalition talks. Netanyahu’s associates lamented that Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman had rejected overtures from Netanyahu to join the government.

Channel 10 reported that Liberman was promised the defense portfolio and support for a Yisrael Beytenu- sponsored bill that would mandate the death penalty for terrorists.

They slammed Liberman for blocking the establishment of a right-wing government.

Liberman’s associates responded that Netanyahu is trying to whitewash over his breaking of his campaign promises by forming a broad government with Labor.


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