Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Mubarak Urges Sephardic Leaders Talk to 2 Palestinian-americans

July 21, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Israel should talk with two prominent Palestinian-American academicians if it wants to advance Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s peace initiative in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That was the “main point” made by Mubarak during his 90-minute meeting Wednesday with two leaders of Israel’s Sephardic community, according to reliable sources quoted Thursday in the Jerusalem Post.

Mubarak met in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria with former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Interior Minister Arye Deri.

The suggested interlocutors are Edward Said, a professor of English literature at Columbia University, and Ibrahim Abu Lughod, professor of political science at Northwestern University.

Both are members of the Palestine National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Reagan administration had mentioned both men as possible members of a Palestinian negotiating team, but Israel refuses to deal with PNC members, as it shuns any official contact with the PLO.

The Jerusalem Post said Mubarak told his guests that by talking to the two professors, as well as with local leaders in the territories, Israel could convince the Palestinians that its peace initiative is not intended to drive a wedge between the inhabitants of the territories and Palestinians overseas.


Deri made no mention of Mubarak’s suggestion in his briefings to Israeli reporters who accompanied him and Yosef.

He said they had discussed the peace process and that he would report to the prime minister.

Deri added, however, that Mubarak and every other Egyptian leader he met was disturbed by the hard-line “constraints” on Shamir’s peace plan adopted by the Likud Central Committee on July 5.

Deri, a moderate in the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, is mediating between the Labor Party and Likud to try to prevent the collapse of the unity coalition government over the peace issue.

He and Yosef were invited to Egypt by Mubarak, enhancing both their political stature and that of Israel’s Sephardic community.

Yosef, the spiritual mentor of Shas, which was formed after he left the Chief Rabbinate, was a rabbi in Egypt before he immigrated to Israel in 1948.

Deri, who is of Moroccan origin, said the Egyptians recognize “Rabbi Yosef’s great influence among large segments of public opinion, especially in the Sephardic community,” and they “sought therefore to talk to him about the continuation of the peace process and the importance of peace.”

Recommended from JTA