One of the toxic myths standing in the way of Israeli-Palestinian peace is the claim that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is making no effort toward a resolution, despite his repeated claims to be ready to sit down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at any time without preconditions.
The visit of Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to Jerusalem on Sunday, July 10, exposed the truth about Israel’s commitment to pursuing peace under Netanyahu.
No Egyptian foreign minister had visited Israel since 2007, and Shoukry’s trip reflected a thaw in the long cold peace between Israel and Egypt. It also represented the genuine trust Netanyahu has in Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Like the new detente between Israel and Turkey, the warmth between Israel and Egypt isn’t about liking each other but about recognizing shared concerns and security needs. Sisi’s chief domestic foe is the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent of Israel’s chief Palestinian enemy, Hamas. Egypt and Israel share an interest in combating terrorism in the Sinai and in suppressing Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Sisi’s push for a peace process that would bring Israel to the table with the Palestinians and other Arabs thus has a foundation that incorporates Israel’s security needs. It also should give Abbas the confidence that any deal would have the support of the key Arab nations against the opposition of Hamas and others.
“I call again on the Palestinians to follow the greatest example of Egypt and Jordan and join us for direct negotiations,” Netanyahu said in welcoming Shoukry. “This is the only way we can address all the outstanding problems between us and turn the vision of peace based on two states for two peoples into a reality.”
Shoukry responded by emphasizing the desires of Palestinians and Israelis — the former to have a state based on the pre-1967 lines with a capital in East Jerusalem, the latter to live in peace and security.
“We greatly value the trust of both sides and the international community in our commitment to peace, stability and justice,” he said.
“The vision of the two-state solution is not far-fetched,” Shoukry added, mentioning many ideas, including the Arab peace initiative, to make that solution a reality through a series of steps to build confidence.
“I would like to assure that Egypt’s commitment to supporting a just, comprehensive and sustainable resolution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and to supporting peace and security in the Middle East is a steadfast and unwavering commitment and that the Egyptian leadership is serious in its determination to provide all possible forms of support in order to achieve this noble goal,” he said.
Netanyahu did not blanch at the mention of the borders before the 1967 war or a sharing of Jerusalem. He didn’t say anything to counter or weaken what Shoukry said. He’s willing to talk about anything and everything, perhaps with the Egyptians as mediators, to make real progress toward a comprehensive peace.
Israel’s in. Egypt’s in. Now it’s up to Abbas to decide whether he wants to be bold and try to establish a legacy as a peacemaker or he wants to continue to cling to power, slander Israel, and wait for European Union or United Nations help that will never come.