mubarak in jerusalem

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Jul. 7, 2003
    Editorial: Mubarak in Jerusalem

    Egypt knows a thing or two about the Gaza Strip. Its military occupation of Gaza lasted from 1948 to 1967. According to The Encyclopedia of the Palestinians, "During Egypt's tenure, the army assumed control over Gaza's civil and security affairs. Political activity of all kinds was prohibited. Egyptians held all high-level administrative positions. Refugees were excluded from mainstream social and economic affairs, and indigenous Gazans were carefully monitored."

    It was only in the early 1960s, when president Gamal Abdel Nasser wanted to play the Palestinian card, that he permitted a Palestinian Arab to head Gaza's local council. In 1964 Cairo masterminded the formation of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

    Egypt has a long history of manipulating the Palestinian cause. So perhaps Egypt's ignoble policies during the past 1,000 days in calibrating Palestinian violence shouldn't astonish.

    First it hardened Yasser Arafat's heart by urging him to reject Ehud Barak's magnanimous Camp David 2000 offer for shared sovereignty over Jerusalem's Old City.

    President Hosni Mubarak reportedly told Arafat that he had no right to agree to share Muslim Jerusalem with the Jews. Publicly, according to Al-Ahram Weekly (24-30 August 2000), Mubarak "insisted that 'no one can conceive of East Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque under Israeli sovereignty... Compromise on this issue would lead to endless terrorism and violence.' " There was no compromise, only intransigence followed by a relentless onslaught of terrorism.

    Then, having implicitly encouraged Palestinian violence, the Egyptians "reacted" to it in November 2000 by recalling their ambassador to Israel. The cold peace became almost lifeless.

    But Egypt's destructive role goes further. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel retained security control of a thin strip of land 100 meters wide known as the "Philadelphia" route, which divides the southern tip of the Gaza Strip town of Rafah and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

    For the past 33 months Cairo has let's be generous looked the other way as Palestinian terrorist groups used a network of elaborate tunnels underneath "Philadelphia" to smuggle personnel and bomb-making material from northern Sinai into Gaza.

    Some tunnels, typically dug inside residential homes and concealed under bathrooms or children's bedrooms, contain wood-paneling, electrical wiring, communications equipment, even elevators. Small imported tunneling machines are used to do the digging. Undoubtedly, if Cairo wanted to dramatically reduce the subterranean traffic in death on its side of the border, it could.

    Nor is Cairo's tunnel vision limited to "Philadelphia." Above ground along the Sinai-Negev border there were 1,000 infiltrations between Rafah in Gaza and Eilat in 2002. Infiltrators first use the tunnels to cross the Gaza-Egypt border, then reenter Israel across the Sinai-Negev border. The bulk of the infiltrations are criminally motivated, but about 20 percent are terrorist-related. Since the start of the current war, Gaza-based terrorists have crossed the Egyptian-Israeli border six times to carry out attacks.

    Now, in another calibration of Egypt's Palestinian policy, Mubarak is trying to douse the flames he previously fanned. He successfully pushed for a hudna a Koran-sanctioned lull in the fighting between the Palestinian Authority and Islamist terrorist groups. To the extent that the hudna halts terrorism it facilitates the road map. And that earns Mubarak points in Washington.

    That's not all. According to yesterday's Al Quds al-Arabi, Egypt is considering returning its ambassador to Israel at the end of July. It's a contribution Egypt reluctantly makes under its road-map obligations, which require "Arab states [to] restore pre-intifada links to Israel." Regrettably, the current drift toward ostensible helpfulness is based not on a sincere desire to rehabilitate the Begin-Sadat vision of peace, but on Cairo's analysis of how to finagle Washington.

    For what Cairo wants is a peace "process" rather than genuine peace. Process is important to Cairo, because of its dependency on US goodwill. Last month alone, America provided $96.4 million to modernize Egyptian health care and $22.5m. for electrical power substations; in May, it was $50m. in tariff relief. Since 1975, the US has contributed $765 million to Egypt for education. Overall, US aid to Egypt totals $1.7 billion annually, most of it going to Cairo's military.

    But imagine an Egyptian regime genuinely interested in leading its 68 million people toward a culture of peace, rather than pursuing gamesmanship and process. Imagine the kind of actions as well as atmospherics that could revolutionize the prospects for genuine Arab-Israeli reconciliation.

    Were Mubarak prepared to abandon process for peace, he would do more than return Egypt's ambassador he would personally come to Jerusalem, address the Knesset, and thereby rehabilitate our bilateral relations. But that is not all.

    He would order his army to take whatever steps were necessary to stop infiltration across the borders. He would also free Israeli citizen Azzam Azzam, wrongly sentenced in 1997 to 15 years in jail for spying.

    Mubarak has been meeting in Cairo with Syria's Bashar Assad. Imagine a Mubarak authentically committed to peace urging Assad to offer Israel a sincere vision for peace, drop Syrian support for Hizbullah, and close Damascus's terror havens.

    Most obviously, a Mubarak committed to peace and not process would direct the state-controlled media to socialize his people to the idea that a Jewish state in the region is entirely legitimate. Anti-Semitic television programing and newspaper illustrations would be replaced by messages inculcating ideas of coexistence and peace.

    There is something else Egypt could do not for Israel, but for itself that would foster peace over process. The Mubarak regime could commit itself to fostering civil society and constitutional democracy, thus in the long term bringing representative government to the Arab world's most populous state. The tunnels of war would collapse. Peace would replace process.
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