Israel Said to Be Considering a Harder Stand Toward Egypt

Officials in the Israeli Foreign Ministry have reportedly recommended that Israel take a harsher stand toward Egypt in an effort to change what is described as Cairo’s negative attitude toward Jerusalem.

Israeli concerns that Egypt has been acting to slow the peace process and Israel’s normalization of ties with other Arab states were factors in the Foreign Ministry’s making the recommendation, the Hebrew daily Ha’aretz reported.

According to Ha’aretz, a position paper was submitted to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres calling for talks aimed at overcoming differences between the two sides.

If the dialogue fails to produce results, the position paper said, a number of measures should be taken to pressure Cairo into changing its attitude toward Israel.

These steps include moving the Israel-Palestinian autonomy negotiations out of Cairo; ending Israeli briefings to Egyptian leaders on developments in the peace process; requesting that the Nile be included in multilateral talks on water – which would reverse Israel’s earlier consent to an Egyptian demand that it not be included, and lobbying Washington against aid to Egypt, citing human rights violations and Cairo’s relations with Libya.

Egyptian government officials have recently called on Arab states not to establish ties with Israel until it withdraws from all occupied territories and signs the nuclear non-proliferation pact.

Peres said remarks made by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Amre Moussa reflect less substance than an effort to present a hard- line stance in advance of an April meeting to renew the non-proliferation treaty.

Speaking in Caracas, Venezuela, last week, Peres dismissed the Ha’aretz report, saying Israel has not changed its policy toward Egypt. The story published in Ha’aretz concerning Israeli-Egyptian relations “does not reflect Israel’s policy or any of the Foreign Ministry’s positions,” he said.

“I consider Egypt the pioneer of Israeli-Arab reconciliation and the cornerstone of regional peace,” Peres said. “Our relations with Egypt are based on positive dialogue.”

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