Netanyahu prepares for meeting with Mubarak
'Ties between Egypt and Israel are the base for peace in all Middle East,' PM expected to tell Egyptian counterpart as they meet at Sinai resort town. Trip, first for Netanyahu since taking office, intended to assuage Egyptian concerns given recent diplomatic tensions
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will head to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday afternoon for his first official visit abroad since taking office. The brief diplomatic trip to the Sinai comes a week before the prime minister travels to meet US President Barak Obama in Washington and faces the new administration's demands.
"Israel has no desire to control the Palestinian people, it wants peace. And the peace between Israel and
Egypt is the base for peace throughout the Middle East," Netanyahu is expected to tell Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at Sharm, where the prime minister hopes to assuage Cairo's concerns given recent diplomatic tensions.
But Netanyahu's desire to have his peacemaking policy viewed as pragmatic, he will find a tough audience in Mubarak, at least in regards to the Palestinian issue. The Egyptian president fears that the new right-leaning Israeli government may escalate the conflict. He is deterred by the hardliner positions of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the increasingly extreme statements from Shas, as well as by the stagnation of the negotiations opposite the Palestinian Authority.
Alongside these points of contention however, Netanyahu and Mubarak are certainly on the same page in regards to the Iranian threat and its proxies in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. Netanyahu will be seeking to strengthen the moderate coalition in the Middle East against Tehran, as well as the continuation of dialogue towards regional peace based on the Arab League initiative.
A united front?
It is still unclear if Netanyahu will also be meeting with another Arab League nation ahead of his much-anticipated trip to Washington, King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Netanyahu is in the process of building Israel's foreign policy, and his meetings with Mubarak and Abdullah are intended to help him present a seemingly united front on the part of all three countries to Washington.
Jerusalem hopes Mubarak will be able to shed light on the chances of the Arab League dropping the right of return for Palestinian refugees from the peace initiative. The prime minister will also continue to demand
the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world acknowledge Israel's Jewish character.
Another objective is to promote Israeli-Egyptian cooperation on salvaging the crumbling Palestinian economy to, as Netanyahu advocates, "build the peace process from the ground up."
The two leaders will also touch on the Egyptian-Rafah border and the arms smuggling into Gaza. Israel has acknowledged the progress made on this front by the Egyptians following Operation Cast Lead, but the smuggling is still ongoing.