JERUSALEM, May 1, 2009 – Hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to visit Egypt in the first half of May at the invitation of President Hosni Mubarak, his office said on Thursday.
“The prime minister has responded positively to President Hosni Mubarak’s invitation and will travel to Egypt in the first half of May,” a statement said.
The statement said the visit would come before a planned trip by Netanyahu to Washington, the date of which has yet to be confirmed but which could begin on May 18.
Egypt is the only Arab country with Jordan to have signed a peace treaty with Israel and has played a key role as a mediator in the Jewish state’s dealings with Palestinian militant groups, notably the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza.
But relations have become more difficult since Netanyahu took power at the head of a mainly right-wing government at the end of March, with the controversial ultra-nationalist firebrand Avigdor Lieberman as his foreign minister.
Last week, the Egyptian president confirmed that he had invited the new Israeli prime minister to visit, but without his foreign minister.
“The Israeli prime minister might come to see us in May,” Mubarak said.
“Some say that he will bring his foreign minister with him. The Israeli prime minister is coming alone. His cabinet chief will come with him. He will not bring any other minister with him.”
Last October, Lieberman sparked fury in Egypt by saying that Mubarak could “go to hell” if he continued to refuse to visit Israel.