After White House Visit, Egyptian President Sisi Said to Be ‘Very Optimistic’ About Trump Administration
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is “very optimistic” about the Trump administration, a lobbyist who took part in a Washington, DC meeting with the leader this week told The Algemeiner on Friday.
Ezra Friedlander — the CEO of the Friedlander Group public policy consulting firm — was one of several dozen people, including foreign policy experts, think tank officials and Jewish organization representatives who attended an off-the-record meeting on Wednesday with Sisi at the Four Seasons Hotel in the nation’s capital — which was first reported on by Jewish Insider — two days after the Egyptian leader’s White House sit-down with US President Donald Trump.
“It was an opportunity for an unscripted and open-ended discussion with the Egyptian president,” Friedlander said of the meeting. “We’re living in a turbulent international environment and you have Egypt that is a very powerful stakeholder in the Middle East region and made peace with Israel. Egypt is an important component of stability in the Middle East. This was Sisi’s first trip to Washington as president and there is a new US administration, so I think he wanted to discuss recent developments with a large group of opinion shapers.”
Friedlander — who is leading an effort to get the late assassinated former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat awarded a Congressional Gold Medal — continued, “I think Sisi’s message was very, very clear. It was two-fold. First was that all of us like-minded countries need to be on the same page. A recurring theme throughout his responses to questions was that we need to condemn extremists and we need to understand that extremism is a threat to everyone. That was a major underlying theme of his message. But he also didn’t mince words when he was asked about the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He did feel we had to tackle this issue. He was very adamant that it needed to be addressed.”
Furthermore, Friedlander noted, Sisi also “wanted to make very clear that he’s on the same page as the Trump administration.”
Sisi, Friedlander stated, was “very accommodating” during the conversation. Topics included, among other things, anti-Israel bias as the UN, the preservation of Jewish historical sites in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood and Russia’s growing role in the Middle East, which Sisi attributed to a regional void left by the US in recent years.
“People left the meeting very glad that they had been invited,” Friedlander said. “I think it demonstrated that Egypt is sort of the adult in the room. Sisi is the leader of the largest Arab country and it’s in sync with the West and the United States. He understands the role he’s playing. I think people came away realizing that the way to further stability in the Middle East is to embrace Sisi. So he did a lot of good for himself by meeting with this group.”
Another meeting attendee was Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein told The Algemeiner on Friday that the tone of the meeting was “great.”
Sisi, Hoenlein said, was “positive about the president and talked about America reengaging in the region. He answered questions on a wide range of issues very frankly and openly.”
“I would say that he spoke very warmly about cooperation with Israel and the joint efforts against terrorism,” Hoenlein added.
Sisi, according to Hoenlein, also talked about the situation in the Gaza Strip, Egypt’s anti-tunnel efforts on its border with the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave and his concerns about the “meddling of outside countries” there — which Hoenlein took to mean Iran and Turkey, among others.
Regarding a potential regional approach to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, Hoenlein said Sisi is “ready and wants to help.”
“He believes there is a unique opportunity now and there is a change in the region,” Hoenlein said. “And he’s the best example of that.”
“One point he made several times was that the first step of any peace process has to be to reassure the people of Israel of their security,” Hoenlein recounted. “Sadat succeeded [in making peace with Israel] because he went and spoke to the people of Israel.”