Mubarak uses Washington visit to lash out at Israeli policies

WASHINGTON, March 11 (JTA) — Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had wanted to focus on U.S.-Egyptian relations during his visit this week with President Clinton. But with Palestinians and Israelis once again in the midst of a crisis in negotiations, the Middle East peace process took center stage. During three hours of White House meetings, Mubarak and Clinton trained their attention on the mounting Palestinian criticism that too little of the West Bank was being transferred to Palestinian self-rule. Mubarak himself expressed anger over Israel’s redeployment plans as well as over the Israeli government’s decision to build Jewish housing in eastern Jerusalem and to close four Palestinian offices in Jerusalem. Standing next to Clinton at an East Room news conference, Mubarak blamed Israel for making the peace process “a fragile and vulnerable one.” Hinting at a possibly violent Palestinian response to the latest developments, Mubarak said, “Our purpose here is to eliminate all potential sources of tension and violence.” Clinton joined Mubarak in stepping up the criticism of Israel. In an apparent swipe at Israel for making decisions without consulting first with the Palestinians, Clinton decried those who “attempt to preclude the process of negotiations or pre-empt it or are insensitive to the needs and the feelings of people in the negotiating process.” Clinton’s statements upset Israeli representatives in Washington who have listened for weeks as administration officials have intensified their criticism of Netanyahu’s policies. Clinton expressed similar sentiments last week during his meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. In the most recent indication of official U.S. reaction to the latest developments, the State Department has begun to refer to the site of the new housing project exclusively by its Arabic name, Jamal Abu Ghenaim, rather than by its Hebrew name, Har Homa. Clinton himself appeared to lend credibility to the notion that the site is disputed, saying, “It’s obvious that who owns the land is disputed.” While Clinton gave Mubarak a White House platform to criticize Israel, members of Congress protested to the Egyptian leader their growing frustration with Egypt’s peace policies. “Egypt has turned up the heat in the Arab world against Israel and President Mubarak will be told that that’s not acceptable,” said an aide to a member of Congress who met with Mubarak on Tuesday. Jewish groups also planned to address the matter with Mubarak in a Wednesday meeting. “Many in our community, and frankly many in the Congress, have concerns about an erosion of Egyptian leadership for peace,” said Jason Isaacson, director of international and governmental affairs at the American Jewish Committee. “We have grave concerns about the posture Egypt has struck in recent months regarding Hebron and further redeployment,” said Isaacson, who was one of the Jewish officials scheduled to meet with Mubarak. At the same time, representatives of the Anti-Defamation League planned to discuss anti-Semitism in the Egyptian media at the meeting with Mubarak. The ADL released a report on anti-Semitism in the Egyptian media and ran a full-page ad in The New York Times to coincide with Mubarak’s visit. “Egypt led the Arab world in reconciling with Israel, and was expected to lead its population and the rest of the Arab world in changing public attitudes towards Jews and Israel,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “That expectation has net yet been realized.”

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