Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Monday won the hearts and minds of Israelis when he singled out visiting Israel Energy Minister Karine Elharrar for a warm and gracious welcome in front of a crowded conference in Cairo.
The gesture, seen in the video below, was a further sign of the thawing relations not only between Israel and the wider Arab world. Israel and Egypt have been officially at peace since 1979, but relations have for much of that time been cold.
The very public interaction between Sisi and Elharrar at the Egyptian Petroleum Show this week, however, was anything but chilly.
After entering the auditorium to great fanfare and a standing ovation, the Egyptian leader quickly welcomed everyone before continuing across the room to personally greet Elharrar.
Among those touched by the gesture was Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
President al-Sisi, you’ve touched us all. https://t.co/1kYBZgznEx
— Naftali Bennett בנט (@naftalibennett) February 14, 2022
A spokesperson for Elharrar later added that Sisi “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.”
Karine Elharrar, the child of Jewish immigrants from Morocco, suffers from muscular dystrophy. She made international headlines late last year while attending the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, which was not handicapped-accessible. She was forced to turn her wheelchair around and return to her hotel, sparking a flurry of outrage and prompting a sincere apology from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.