Is Egyptian President el-Sisi about to help broker a major breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli peace process? Fascinating signals this week. [My new Jerusalem Post op-ed + analysis of el-Sisi’s UN speech]

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Four decades after the historic Camp David Accords, is Egyptian President el-Sisi signaling he is about to take the lead in helping broker dramatic peace agreements not just between Israelis and Palestinians but perhaps between Israel and the rest of the Arab world, including the Saudis and Gulf States?

Given his warm, even effusive, public meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, there are surprising and growing reasons for optimism, as I discuss in my new op-ed in The Jerusalem Post, “Behind The Smiles: Why Did Sisi Go Public With His Close Relationship With Netanyahu?” [see excerpts below]

What’s more, I strongly encourage you to watch or read the full text of President el-Sisi’s courageous address to the U.N. General Assembly, especially went he went off script to speak of Egypt’s “wonderful and excellent experiment in peace” with Israel and to urge both sides not to miss a “rare” opportunity to make peace that “may not be repeated.”

Mr. President, let me put the text aside and appeal to those who may concern. My first appeal is to the Palestinian people. I tell them that it is extremely important to unite behind your target and overcome differences, not lose the opportunity and be ready to coexist with the Israelis in safety and peace to achieve stability and security for all. I appeal to the Israeli people, telling them that Egypt has a wonderful and excellent experience in peace with you for more than 40 years. We can repeat this experiment and wonderful step. The security and safety of the Israeli citizen should be put side by side with that of the Palestinian citizen. I appeal to you to stand by your political leadership. Don’t hesitate. I assure the Israeli public opinion that we stand with you all to render this opportunity a success.

This opportunity may not come again. I address also all peace loving states and all sisterly Arab countries to support this magnificent step. I appeal to the rest of the world to back this step, which if it succeeds, it will change the history. In addition, I appeal to the US president that we have an opportunity to write a new page in the history of humanity for achieving peace in this area. 

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EXCERPTS FROM MY JERUSALEM POST OP-ED

Monday’s tete-a-tete between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, held on the sidelines of the opening session of the UN General Assembly in Manhattan, was their first-ever publicly announced meeting, and it went better than both men had hoped.

But why was President Sisi willing to go public with the relationship now?….

Is something even bigger going on?

Sisi is not a politician by training. He’s a military man, a strategist. He doesn’t make moves – certainly not vis-à-vis Israel – without carefully thinking them through. To go public now, especially with such warm and friendly photographs, strongly suggests something else is brewing.

Is the Egyptian leader about to invite Netanyahu to come to Cairo for an official, formal state visit, the first ever by an Israeli premier? Might Sisi even host a summit and introduce Netanyahu to other Arab heads of state? Will he offer to host serious peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians for a comprehensive and final treaty, having secured Netanyahu’s agreement to such talks ahead of time?

At the same time, is Netanyahu about to invite Sisi to come to Jerusalem for an official state visit? Will he invite the Egyptian leader to address the Knesset and lay out his vision for a broad regional peace, sharing lessons Egypt has learned about making – and maintaining – peace with the Jewish state?

It would be the first time an Egyptian leader set foot on Israeli soil since Anwar Sadat stunned the world and melted the hearts of the Israeli people with his bold visit to Jerusalem in 1977. It would be powerful by itself, but could it also be designed to lay the groundwork for an historic visit by another major Arab leader, or by several?….

Could another breakthrough be in the works?

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