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Eyeing Bennett’s DC trip, Egypt upgrades mediator in push for Gaza breakthrough

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A more senior official has been added to the Egyptian team that has been mediating talks between Israel and Hamas since the end of May’s 11-day conflict between the Jewish state and Gaza terror groups, with Cairo stepping up its diplomatic push in order to curry favor in Washington, The Times of Israel has learned.

Veteran mediator Ahmad Abd al-Khalek has been joined by one of his superiors, Amr Nazmi, which indicates a more intensive effort by Cairo for a long-term truce in the volatile enclave.

The two mediators are both Egyptian intelligence officials, but Nazmi is ranked above al-Khalek. Al-Khalek handled the mediated talks for several years, but as long as Israel was mired in its two-year political crisis of interim governments and four rounds of elections, these diplomatic efforts were restrained.

The reason for Nazmi’s inclusion, The Times of Israel has learned, is the desire of the Egyptians to be ready for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s upcoming trip to Washington. The diplomats and the Egyptian Foreign Service were closely watching US President Joe Biden’s meeting with President Reuven Rivlin earlier this week and made note of Biden’s invitation to Bennett to visit DC “as soon as possible.”

Ahead of Bennett’s first trip to the United States as Israel’s leader, the Egyptians want to show some gains in the talks in order to win points with the new Biden administration. Such an achievement could be setting a fixed number of Palestinian prisoners to be released by Israel in exchange for the civilians and bodies of IDF soldiers held by Hamas, a figure that would be much lower than what the Gaza rulers demand. They will seek additional breakthroughs, while underlining to the Biden administration that Egypt is highly engaged and committed to........

© The Times of Israel

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