(photo credit: REUTERS)
In a sign of warmer ties between Egypt and Israel, Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold traveled to Cairo for meetings on Sunday at the invitation of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
The invitation, and the visit, comes just a week after Egypt named Hazem Khairat as its first ambassador to Israel since 2012. Gold met with Assistant Foreign Minister for Neighboring Countries’ Affairs Osama Majdoub, as well as other senior officials.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the talks focused on the Palestinian issue, “since Cairo is a central player” in this matter.
The statement said that ways to move the diplomatic process forward were discussed, including how to restart negotiations between the sides.
According to the statement, Majdoub said any arrangement had to be based on a two-state solution and that the Palestinian issue was “the heart of the conflict in the region, and the central problem of the Arabs.”
The meeting, and the fact that the Egyptians made it public, seems to indicate an interest by Cairo to play a more high-profile role in the diplomatic process than they have since former president Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011.
Israel’s relations with Egypt have traditionally been run by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defense Ministry, something that was even more the case when Avigdor Liberman served as foreign minister.
Liberman infuriated the Egyptians for his stating in the Knesset in 2008 that if Mubarak did not want to come to Israel he could “go to hell,” and for being quoted in 2001 as saying that if Israel and Egypt would ever go to war Israel could bomb the Aswan Dam.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement on Sunday stressed that this was the highest level visit from an Israeli Foreign Ministry official “in years.”
Gold’s visit also comes a week after he met with his Turkish counterpart in Rome last week to try and explore the possibility of improving ties.
Gold is considered close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, giving these meetings enhanced significance.