WASHINGTON (Mar. 12)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has no plans to visit Israel anytime soon.
This was the message Mubarak left with American Jewish officials during a one- hour meeting here arranged by the American Jewish Committee.
Participants almost universally expressed “disappointment” in Mubarak’s handling of the recent crisis in the peace process.
In 16 years as Egypt’s president, Mubarak has visited Israeli only once — for former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral. The diplomatic snub has remained an underlying source of tension in the relationship between American Jews and Egypt as well as between Israel and Egypt.
“President Mubarak made it very clear that he will not change his commitment to peace,” said Jason Isaacson, director of the AJCommittee’s office of international and governmental affairs.
“But we’re disappointed in the actual steps he’s prepared to publicly take.”
When asked whether he would be as bold as Anwar Sadat and visit Israel, Mubarak took an apparent swipe at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that Sadat’s Israeli counterpart, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was a man of “decision who could get his Cabinet to agree” on important issues, according to participants.
Mubarak defended Egypt’s role in the peace process, but “on the other hand, he heard from the American Jewish community that Egypt could and should do more,” said Jess Hordes, Washington director of the Anti-Defamation League, who also participated in the meeting.
U.S. officials and American Jewish organizations had criticized Mubarak for urging Palestinians to adopt a harder negotiating line in the recent Hebron talks. Now, the Jewish groups asked Mubarak to warm up to Israel and tone down the criticism of the Jewish state.
“On balance, we were disappointed,” Hordes said.
When asked about anti-Jewish and anti-Israel cartoons in the Egyptian press, Mubarak came ready to defend his country.
To coincide with Mubarak’s visit, the ADL had released a report on anti- Semitism in the Egyptian media and ran a full-page ad about it in The New York Times.
In response, Mubarak’s staff distributed a 17-page booklet of unflattering Israeli press accounts and editorial cartoons of the Egyptian premier.
“He did not address this issue in a satisfying manner,” said Hordes. “There’s no similarity between the two.”