When Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made a grand entrance on the first day of the regional energy conference EGYPS 2022 in Cairo on Monday, he welcomed the crowd then put down his mic and crossed to the other side of the room just to greet Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.
The video went viral and was shared by Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
“President al-Sisi, you’ve touched us all,” Bennett wrote.
Indeed, all of Israel was touched and the video went viral.
Elharrar, who uses a wheelchair, told Israel’s Channel 12 News that she was moved by Sisi’s warm welcome. Her spokesperson said that the gesture was unexpected and added that “the president approaching the minister, the fact that he said he is happy she came and invited her to return is super exciting and testifies to the fact that ties that were once under wraps have become public."
It is the first time ever that Israel sent representatives to the major oil and gas exhibition in North Africa and the Mediterranean, hosted by Egypt for the fourth year. According to Israel’s Energy Ministry, the Israeli delegation is set to “participate in various panels to strengthen Israel’s ties with neighboring countries in the energy field.”
Participants of the three-day conference are expected to create partnerships, do business, and identify solutions and strategies that will reshape the global energy markets. Besides oil and gas professionals, 11 international energy ministers arrived in Cairo for the event, including Elharrar.
"The Israeli energy economy is a bridge for establishing ties with the countries of the region,” Elharrar said. “I am happy for the opportunity to represent the State of Israel in this important and diverse forum, hoping that this is another step on the way to enlarge the circle of peace.”
When asked about the possibility that Israeli gas exports to Egypt and Jordan will eventually arrive in Lebanon, Elharrar replied, “It will be.”
Last month, Israel signed a secret agreement which sets the framework for the transfer of natural gas to Lebanon. The gas from Israel’s offshore Leviathan and Tamar fields will be piped through Jordan, then to Syria – in an unprecedented exception to the sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on the Assad regime. From Syria, the gas will flow to Lebanon which officially views Israel as an enemy state. The deal might take years to be fully implemented, as a gas line that flows from Syria to Lebanon must first be repaired and extended.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.