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Ahead of Bennett’s visit to Washington, Israel tightens cooperation with Egypt

The invitation to visit Cairo and the agreement over the transfer of Qatari money to Gaza are important milestones for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett ahead of his visit to the White House.
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Aug. 1, 2021.

There was good reason for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to dispatch his director of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel, for the first high-level Egyptian meeting with senior members of the new Israeli government. “Kamel is the man closest to Sisi, his right-hand man in the full sense of the word, and that sends the exact message he wanted to convey,” a senior Israeli diplomatic source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. That message, he added, was “the extent to which he is serious in wanting to forge cooperation and an intimate working relationship” with Israel’s new leadership.

Kamel met in Jerusalem on Aug. 18-19 with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and top Israeli defense and intelligence officials. At the same time, a senior, unnamed Israeli officer was visiting Cairo for talks on security issues. His agenda items included ongoing efforts to establish a long-term cease-fire with Hamas, which would also include returning the bodies of two Israeli soldiers and releasing two civilians held in Gaza. Contrary to previous visits, this time Kamel did not insist on secrecy, nor did he try to avoid photo-ops. “On the contrary,” the diplomatic source said, “They want their photos taken and they want to be seen with us, just like the Jordanians. Relations with Israel have become an asset rather than being a burden.”

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