Mubarak. Disputes and agreements
Photo: AFP
Netanyahu. 'Israel wants peace'
Photo: Reuters

Barak: Mubarak a stabilizing element

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives at Sharm el-Sheik for first meeting with Egyptian president since taking office. Defense minister says Egyptians are a responsible and serious factor in stormy reality

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday afternoon with Egyptian President Hosni Muabarak in Sharm el-Sheik, on the backdrop of joint interests in the battle for the future of the Middle East and disagreements on the nature of relations with the Palestinians.


This was Netanyahu's first trip abroad since taking office, and it was held exactly one week before his planned meeting with US President Barack Obama in Washington.


The two leaders met with their entourages and were later expected to hold a face-to-face meeting at Mubarak's official guesthouse. They were then slated to hold a press conference and have lunch together.


Officials at the Israeli Embassy in Egypt said at the start of the visit that it had been harshly criticized by opposition members. This criticism also made its way to newspapers' coverage of the preparations for the visit.

Among other things, the opposition newspapers called on Netanyahu to go back to Israel, and on Mubarak not to greet the "leader of an extreme right-wing government."


In the past 24 hours the Egyptian government has been trying to tone down the criticism, and the main message of the state media outlets, or those influenced by the Cairo government, is much more moderate. One of the publications stated that the Egyptians should listen to Netanyahu first and, if needed, criticize him later.

Sharm meeting (Photo: AFP)


The prime minister was accompanied by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. This was Ben-Eliezer's first visit to Egypt since being criticized for commanding Israel Defense Forces soldiers who allegedly killed Egyptian hostages during the Six-Day War.


Ben-Eliezer helped Netanyahu prepare the visit to Sharm and is seen as a type of "tone softener" towards the Egyptian regime, being a member of the Labor Party.


"The prime minister's visit to Egypt is very important," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday. "Egypt, headed by President Mubarak, is a stabilizing, responsible and serious element within a very stormy Mideast reality, and we have valuable strategic matters which must be discussed and are related to the chance to achieve stability, peace and cooperation across the entire region."


Netanyahu was expected to tell Mubarak that "Israel wants peace. The peace between Israel and Egypt is the foundation for peace in the Middle East."


Mubarak, however, was expected to confront Netanyahu on the Palestinian issue. The Egyptian president fears that the new Israeli government, with a right-wing majority, may escalate the conflict.


On the other hand, the two leaders were expected to agree on the Iranian threat and its satellites in Gaza and Lebanon. They were set to examine ways to bolster the moderate axis in the Middle East in the face of Tehran, as well as a continued dialogue for regional peace according to the Arab League initiative.


פרסום ראשון: 05.11.09, 14:20
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