A newly released report says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog secretly traveled to Egypt last year to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Netanyahu, his advisers, Herzog, and a security team flew directly to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, in a private plane back in April 2016, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Monday.
They were taken to Egypt’s presidential palace, where Sisi pressured them to take the measures needed to advance a plan for peace with the Palestinians, the report said.
“These talks… failed due to Netanyahu’s refusal to give the Palestinians what was required,” it said.
Separately on Monday, Herzog confirmed the Cairo meeting, claiming that “it was part of a process… that yielded a document that would have changed the face of the Middle East.”
The talks could have produced a deal, but the opportunity was torpedoed by hardliners in Netanyahu’s Likud party, he told Israeli Army Radio.
The Cairo summit came as Netanyahu and Herzog were holding talks aimed at bringing Herzog’s Zionist Union party into the coalition government. However, the negotiations broke down and Netanyahu struck a deal with Yisrael Beitenu party last May, leading to the formation of the most right-wing Israeli administration ever.
In February 2016, another secret meeting was held in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, with the participation of Netanyahu, Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and former US secretary of state John Kerry.
That quadrilateral meeting focused on a proposal that included the recognition of the Israeli regime and the resumption of the so-called peace talks with the Palestinians, Haaretz reported.
An Israeli source familiar with the Aqaba meeting said Netanyahu had sought a public regional summit and called for the US recognition of construction in large settlement blocs in return for freezing such activities in isolated settlements east of the controversial separation wall in the West Bank.
Netanyahu had also demanded a guarantee from the former US administration to block anti-Israel moves at United Nations institutions and to veto such resolutions at the UN Security Council, the source said.
In May 2016, the Egyptian president expressed his readiness to “make every effort” to contribute to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. He further urged Israel and Palestine to seize what he described as a “realistic” and “great” opportunity to reach a peaceful settlement of their conflict.