Lapid meets with President Sissi in Cairo amid a series of high-profile meetings

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Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met Thursday with President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo.

Lapid is also expected to meet with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry and other senior Egyptian officials.

Lapid will return Egyptian archeological artifacts that were illegally smuggled from Egypt into Israel, held by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

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The two are expected to discuss the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after the hostilities in May between Israel and Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority's economic crisis.

"Improving Israel-Egypt ties" is Israel's national interest, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Thursday. Lapid's visit is "a continuation of Israel's foreign policy to leverage shared interests in the benefit of regional stability."

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in the Knesset, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

On Monday, the Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper reported that Egyptian head of intelligence Abbas Kamel has delayed his trip to Israel that was planned for the end of December due to the lack of progress on the indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel regarding Israeli prisoners.

A diplomatic source in Hamas said on Monday that "there's a lot of frustration in Gaza," caused by the delays of the promised reconstruction of Gaza as well as ease of restrictions on Gazans. 

Hamas said that "this foot-dragging cannot last forever," the source said.

In September, a day before Prime Minister Bennett's meeting with Sissi, Lapid presented his plan for reconstructing the Gaza Strip which he called "economy in exchange for security." The government has yet to officially adopt the initiative.

The plan's principles are not new. The first stage calls for immediate humanitarian rehabilitation of the strip. If Hamas maintains a long-term peace at this stage, Israel will allow the reconstruction of the strip's infrastructure.

The second stage calls for promoting a significant economic program in the strip which will include the establishment of an artificial island off Gazan shores on which a port could potentially be built. Additionally, international investment will be promoted, as will joint economic initiatives for Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

According to diplomatic sources, during their meeting in September, Bennett and Sissi discussed Iran, Gaza, Israeli prisoners held by Hamas, international terrorism, and trade and tourism between Israel and Egypt.

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