NEW YORK (Feb. 23)
— Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told a delegation of visiting American Jewish leaders last week that he would like to see an international peace conference on the Middle East that would shift quickly to a set of separate, bilateral negotiations between Israel and each of its neighbors.
Mubarak indicated to members of the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee that his plan would allow Israel to negotiate separately with Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians, with no party having veto power over any of the individual agreements.
The AJCommittee delegation met with Mubarak at his office in Cairo on Feb. 16, following a series of meetings with top Egyptian officials. The meetings were arranged by Frank Wisner, the U.S. ambassador to Egypt.
The hour-long meeting with Mubarak was described as an opportunity for the Jewish leaders to size up the Egyptian president’s commitment to the peace process and for Mubarak to gain support for various initiatives aimed at Washington and Jerusalem.
One of those messages, according to Ira Silverman, executive vice president of AJCommittee, was that Mubarak wishes to play a key role in bringing about an Israeli-Palestinian settlement.
“We were impressed with Mubarak’s strong personal interest in playing a personal role,” Silverman said in New York this week. “He has a strong ego investment in the process.”
ARAFAT CAN’T BE ELIMINATED
Mubarak told the delegation that he hoped Shamir would drop his opposition to an international conference that would include all parties to the conflict and the United States, Soviet Union and perhaps Britain and France.
The Palestinian delegation, he suggested, would be a mix of West Bank and Gaza Strip residents and “outside” Palestinian exiles.
The outsiders would not necessarily have to include Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, he indicated. But he warned that the “elimination of Arafat,” either from the process or by the PLO’s own rejectionists, would yield only more radical Palestinian positions.
Mubarak left the AJCommittee delegation with a request of his own, that they support Egypt’s efforts to obtain more debt relief and a speedier dispersal of foreign aid from the U.S. government.
Egypt is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, after Israel.