By Ron Kampeas/(JTA) – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi expressed guarded optimism about peace between Arabs and Israel, but also warned of the threat posed by Islamists, in a meeting with U.S. foreign policy experts that included Jewish organizational officials. Sisi met Wednesday morning, April 5, at the Four Seasons hotel in Washington, D.C., with an array of some 65 guests, attendees said, including representatives of think tanks that focus on the Middle East, informal advisers to President Donald Trump and representatives of an array of Jewish groups. “He said the atmosphere is more primed now for peace than it was 40 years ago when Sadat made peace,” said Ezra Friedlander, the CEO of a consulting firm who is garnering support in Congress for Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian leader who in 1979 signed the first peace accord with Israel, to receive the Congressional Gold Medal.
Another attendee who asked not to be named said Sisi praised Trump, with whom he met earlier in the week, for seeking to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, but cautioned against rushing the talks. Trump’s envoy to the region, Jason Greenblatt, has completed a round of talks there and is emphasizing accelerated economic recovery for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as a means of restarting talks. He is also asking Israel to slow down settlement building. Sisi at the meeting also called for a bid to roll back Iranian influence in the region but cautioned against elevating tensions with the Islamic Republic to a military conflict, saying that would be disastrous.
Jason Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s director of international affairs, who was present at the Wednesday breakfast meeting, said Sisi is focused on preserving ties with a critical ally.
“President Sisi’s pursuit of closer alignment with the United States and his commitment to robust strategic cooperation with Israel are matters of record – and were key themes of his visit to Washington,” Isaacson told JTA.
Also present at the breakfast meeting were representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and J Street. Think tanks including the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Center for Security Policy were on hand as well.