|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
20 - 26 December 2001
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
Mission abortedSharon's policy is a recipe for "disaster and chaos" in the region, warned President Mubarak. Nevine Khalil reports on Cairo's response to the unprecedented deterioration in the situation in Palestine
A further deterioration of conditions in the Palestinian territories has caused an outcry in diplomatic circles in the Arab world. In Cairo, Tel Aviv was accused of spurring the recent escalation of violence.
President Mubarak with US peace envoy Anthony Zinni on Saturday
In an interview published on Sunday, President Hosni Mubarak chided Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, saying that the increase in violence over the past three weeks was "premeditated." Mubarak said that Israel had provoked Palestinian militants with the killing of five students and the assassination of the Hamas activist Mahmoud Abu Hannoud on the eve of the arrival of US peace envoys Anthony Zinni and William Burns. "It aimed to abort their mission before it began," Mubarak said.
Since the suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa on 1 and 2 December, the US and Israel have focused on the Israeli victims, Mubarak said, "and forgot all about the daily Israeli provocations of the Palestinians." He added: "Nearly every hour the Israelis commit a grotesque crime against the Palestinians. The US and Israel have also ignored the Palestinian Authority's extraordinary efforts to contain the situation, which are hampered by the Israeli siege."
Meeting with Zinni and Burns on Saturday shortly before they left the region for Washington, Mubarak discussed the unprecedented Israeli incursions in the Palestinian territories. He also urged an end to Israel's assaults on the Palestinian people and their leadership in order to restore calm and pave the way to the negotiating table.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said that Egypt supports any "honest effort to break the cycle of violence for the sake of a just peace, security and stability." In a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Sunday, Maher asked Washington to invest more effort in convincing Israel to return to the negotiating table and send Zinni back to the region to work on this.
Mubarak believes that the US's responsibility is "to strike a balance between its demands on Israel and the PA." He said it was "unreasonable" to ask Arafat to exert "100 per cent effort," without asking Israel to make progress on a peaceful settlement in return.
Mubarak told Al-Gomhuriya newspaper that Israel's escalation of violence against the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership had reached "its peak." He was referring to Tel Aviv breaking off contact with the PA, describing Arafat as "irrelevant", targeting PA security infrastructure and invading Palestinian- controlled areas. He added that "without a doubt," the clampdown on Arafat -- restricting his movements and severing contacts with him -- indicates that Israel "is hiding evil intentions, the first of which is the liquidation of the PA."
Mubarak warned Sharon that his plan to destroy the PA would lead to "disaster and chaos" because Tel Aviv would then have to deal with numerous splinter groups if Arafat's PA disappears. "I have said many times that Arafat is the only Palestinian leader who is capable of reaching peace with the Israelis," Mubarak stated. "Otherwise, Israel will be dealing with numerous leaders who do not have thorough control on the political or security situation, which is a threat to the whole peace process."
He continued that possible alternative leaders, such as leading Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), would turn down an offer to replace Arafat. He further warned that someone trying to replace Arafat would probably try to amass popular support through more suicide operations against Israel.
Mubarak argued on behalf of Arafat that a PA held hostage by Israel could not possibly clamp down on suspected militants, particularly when its security forces are being targeted by Israel on a daily basis. He said that those who claim that Arafat can deliver 100 per cent calm "are unrealistic and unaware of what is taking place in the region and what Israel is up to."
Mubarak believes that the problem lies in the fact that Sharon "is in denial about the inevitability of a Palestinian state, and believes we can spend the next decade in an interim phase, during which Israel would build more settlements on Palestinian land."
According to Mubarak, the only formula for peace and security requires the lift of the siege by Israel, a relaunching of negotiations, adherence to the Madrid and UN resolutions and the creation of a Palestinian state.
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