(i24news) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Egypt’s new ambassador to Israel on Sunday, saying at his weekly cabinet meeting that Hazem Khairat’s arrival will lead to a strengthening of ties between the two countries.
“Over the weekend, Egypt’s new ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, arrived,” Netanyahu said. “I welcome his arrival and the re-stationing here of an Egyptian ambassador to Israel, something that will enable us to further strengthen relations within this important and key Arab country.”
Khairat, a former ambassador to Chile, was appointed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in June, an appointment which was immediately and “deeply” welcomed by Netanyahu.
“This is an important piece of news. We appreciate it,” Netanayahu said, “it’s something that has been, and that is deeply welcomed in Israel and I think it’s very good for cementing the peace that exists between Egypt and Israel.”
Khairat will be the first resident Egyptian ambassador in Israel since former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi recalled Egypt’s envoy to Israel in November 2012 to protest against a series of Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip that killed top Hamas militant Ahmed Jaabari.
Jaabari was killed at the start of an eight-day Israeli operation dubbed Pillar of Defense in which 177 Palestinians and 6 Israelis were killed. The violence ended after Egypt brokered a truce.
Ties between the two neighbors soured after Morsi’s June 2012 election as president following the ouster of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 uprising.
Morsi was ousted by then army chief Sisi in July 2013.
Later that year, the Israeli foreign ministry named Middle East specialist Haim Koren as the Jewish state’s next ambassador to Egypt.
In September, Israel reopened its embassy in Cairo, five years after Israeli diplomats were forced to leave when protesters stormed the building.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Jordan followed suit in 1994.