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Egyptian President Meets Israeli Leader to Discuss Settlements, Prisoner Release

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Cairo to discuss the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the release of a captured Israeli soldier by the Palestinian militant party Hamas. Egypt has mediated talks between Hamas and Israel in the past.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss West Bank settlements.

The issue is far from being settled. The United States has called for Israel to freeze settlement construction, but in response Israel insisted the freeze would be time-limited and exclude settlements currently under construction.

Last week, Mr. Netanyahu offered to halt Israeli settlement construction in exchange for normalization with Arab states. This offer was rebuffed by the Arab League and Hamas leadership.

Chair of the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo Walid Kazziha says that it is likely that Mr. Netanyahu will be attempting to get Mr. Mubarak to ease pressure on Israeli settlement issue.

"By meeting Mubarak, coming to see Mubarak, is to promise Mubarak something or others so that Mubarak will tone down on this [issue]," said Walid Kazziha.

This visit marks Mr. Netanyahu's second visit to Cairo since May.

The two heads of states are also expected to discuss Egypt's efforts to mediate a prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas. The deal would include the release of an Israeli soldier held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2006.

Egypt has been mediating between rival Palestinian factions - Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, U.S. envoy George Mitchell will be meeting with Mr. Netanyahu and is expected to further discuss stopping Israeli expansion.

Kazziha says he is not assured Egyptian and American involvement will change the course of the peace process.

"The American pressure is there, but it has not yet manifested itself in a crisis situation," said Kazziha. "The Americans are demanding from the Israelis to stop their settlements or their expansion. There is no crisis, and this could drag on."

There could be a possible revival of peace talks, which have been suspended since December. The meeting would involve Mr. Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas alongside the U.N. General Assembly in New York later this month.