Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said late on Monday that the Egyptian president had invited the Israeli leader to meet, despite tensions between the two countries at the beginning of Netanyahu’s term.
The statement late on Monday said Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak talked by telephone and Mubarak invited Netanyahu to the Egyptian Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheik for talks. No date was set.
A statement from the official Egyptian news agency on the conversation did not mention an invitation. It said Netanyahu called Mubarak and pledged to work for peace “despite premeditated impressions,” a reference to the new Israeli leader’s past opposition to concessions to the Palestinians.
A Netanyahu-Mubarak meeting could thaw a developing diplomatic freeze around the new Israeli government because of its hawkish makeup and past records of some of its main ministers.
Egypt is reported to be boycotting Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for publicly cursing Mubarak last year because Mubarak has not made an official visit to Israel.
The Israeli statement said the two leaders agreed to strengthen relations between the countries. In 1979, Egypt became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
Meanwhile, Israel sealed off the West Bank on Monday night for two weeks to curb Palestinian attacks during the Jewish Passover holidays, a military spokesman said.
“The Israeli army considers the holiday periods as very sensitive from the point of view of security,” the spokesman said, announcing that the closure would run until April 19.
“The army will reinforce its state of alert so as to ensure the security of Israeli citizens, while not disrupting, in so far as possible, the daily lives of the Palestinian population,” he said.
Yesterday, Israeli police started demolishing the home of a Palestinian who killed three Israelis in a bulldozer rampage last July.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said yesterday’s demolition was being carried out under heavy police guard.
The Israeli government said such measures deter would-be attackers. The country’s Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the demolition could go ahead.
A 30-year-old father of two, Hussam Dwayat took his construction vehicle on a rampage down Jerusalem’s Jaffa Road on July 2. He killed three Israelis before an off-duty soldier shot him dead.
The assault was followed by two similar bulldozer attacks carried out by Palestinians in Jerusalem. No Israelis were killed in the later incidents.