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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to visit Cairo, but Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has a condition: Netanyahu must make a positive statement on the Palestinian issue, such as re-committing to the two-state solution, Israeli sources tell me.

Why it matters: The Egyptians are concerned that they're on track for a rocky start with the Biden administration. They want to reinvigorate their role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to send a positive sign to the White House and to increase their relevance as a partner for Biden.

Between the lines: “Sisi doesn’t care so much about the Palestinian issue but he knows Netanyahu is looking for a photo-op for his election campaign and is trying to get a diplomatic achievement for Egypt out of it," a source familiar with the discussions told me.

Driving the news: The potential visit has been under discussion for several months as the Abraham Accords came together and the political transition began in the U.S.

  • Netanyahu last made an official visit to Egypt a decade ago, when Hosni Mubarak was still in power. Even then the visit was to Sharm al-Sheikh and not Cairo.
  • Since then, Netanyahu has visited Egypt secretly several times.

Behind the scenes: The visit almost took place about a month ago, but the Egyptians had second thoughts after early elections were called in Israel, two Israeli sources tell me.

  • The trip was postponed, and when talks resumed the Egyptians made the request for a goodwill gesture on the Palestinian issue in the context of the visit.
  • The Egyptians specifically raised the idea of Netanyahu making a statement of commitment to the two-state solution, the Israeli sources said.
  • Netanyahu had reservations about that proposal during an election campaign in which he's trying to mobilize his right-wing base.

The state of play: The visit is now on hold, but the Israeli sources say efforts are being made to find a compromise.

  • The issue came up again when Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel visited Jerusalem last week for talks with senior Israeli officials, including Netanyahu.
  • Worth noting: Sources close to Netanyahu denied knowledge of any condition for the visit, and denied that the matter was raised during Kamel's meeting with the prime minister.

What to watch: Biden criticized Egypt during the election campaign for its human rights violations, and the Egyptians fear their close ties with the Trump administration won't carry forward to Biden.

  • Reemphasizing the Egyptian role as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians could help Cairo build a positive agenda with the new administration — and those efforts are already underway.

Go deeper

Feb 1, 2021 - World

U.S. and Palestinians re-engage after 3-year freeze

Biden with Abbas in 2010. Photo: Thaer Ganaim/PPO via Getty Images

The Biden administration has now had more official contacts with Palestinian officials in its first two weeks than the Trump administration did in its final three years.

Why it matters: The State Department's deputy assistant secretary for Israel-Palestine, Hady Amr, spoke by phone with multiple Palestinian officials on Monday. Those were the first publicly announced interactions between the sides as the Biden administration moves to renew ties that had been effectively severed since Donald Trump announced in December 2017 that he was moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.