Leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians to meet in Cairo

Hamza Hendawi

The National  /  January 17, 2023

Top of the agenda is Israel’s right-wing and religiously conservative government.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are flying to Cairo on Tuesday for a summit with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is expected to top the agenda, following the coming to office of Israel’s far-right government.

The three leaders periodically meet to co-ordinate policies towards Israel and on how to revive the long-stalled peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.

They last met in June in Cairo. Tuesday’s meeting, however, takes added significance because of the re-election of right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994, respectively.

However, relations between them and Israel often become fraught with tension at times of Israeli-Palestinian violence or when Israel is seen to be using excessive force against Palestinian protesters.

Earlier this month, a right wing minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet – National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir – visited Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem. The visit sparked international condemnation, including from Israel’s main backer, the US.

Under a long-standing status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times, but are not allowed to pray there. In recent years, however, a growing number of Jewish people, most of them Israeli nationalists, have covertly prayed at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a development decried by Palestinians.

Both Jordan and Egypt strongly condemned the visit, and warned Israel against changing the status quo in East Jerusalem and cautioned against provocative actions by the new government.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is Islam’s third holiest site and East Jerusalem is what the Palestinians want as a capital for a future independent state.

Also on the agenda in Tuesday’s talks, according to Egyptian officials, is the new Israeli government’s declared intention to expand its West Bank settlements, which are widely seen as a major impediment to a final settlement of the conflict.

The three leaders will also discuss prospects for reconciliation between the Fatah faction, which dominates the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, and the Hamas group that has ruled the Gaza Strip alone since 2007, they said.

Hamza Hendawi – foreign correspondent