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Netanyahu. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi held a secret summit in Egypt on May 22nd to launch efforts toward a Gaza stabilization deal, U.S. officials told me.

Why it matters: This meeting was pivotal in the Egyptian-led efforts over the last three months to reach a deal between Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority on stabilizing Gaza. The Egyptians updated the Trump administration about their efforts and got the backing of the White House.

Netanyahu traveled to Egypt on May 22nd with a very small group of advisers and security guards. He stayed in Egypt for a few hours and went back to Israel after midnight. Netanyahu's trip stayed secret and most of the members of his security cabinet were kept out of the loop.

According to U.S. officials, Netanyahu and Sisi discussed a deal that included a long-term ceasefire in Gaza as well as...

  • Easing the Israeli and Egyptian siege on Gaza.
  • The return of the Palestinian Authority to the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip.
  • The reconstruction of critical infrastructure in Gaza.
  • Solving the issue of Israeli soldiers and civilians held by Hamas.

During the meeting, the Egyptian president told Netanyahu that any solution in Gaza must include the return of the Palestinian Authority to the strip in order to gradually retake control from Hamas.

  • Sisi stressed in the meeting that the full demilitarization of Gaza shouldn’t be a precondition to the initiative.
  • Sisi's message to Netanyahu was that Israel, the Sunni Arab countries and the international community must put pressure on Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to go back to administrating Gaza, regardless of his reluctance to do it.

The leaders also discussed the Trump administration's long-anticipated Middle East peace plan.

Go deeper

President Joe Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Joe Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 49 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden and Vice President Harris review readiness of military troops, a long-standing tradition to signify the peaceful transfer of power.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.

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