Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s decision to remain in office is an internal Egyptian issue, which Egyptians will need to settle themselves. Barak called for renewed efforts in Israeli-Palestinian statehood negotiations, despite the turmoil in the Middle East.
Barak spoke in New York, shortly after meeting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, shortly after Mr. Mubarak spoke on Egyptian television, saying he would not step down as protestors demand. "It is up to the Egyptian people to find a way and to do it according to their own constitution, norms and practices," he said.
The Israeli defense minister said the upheaval in the Middle East should not constrain efforts to reach a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
"In spite of all the turbulence around us, we should look for opportunities within these difficulties rather than spiral into heavy uncertainty that paralyzes us from acting toward a better and more stable future," he said.
Earlier this week, Barak met with senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to discuss the protests in Egypt and the turmoil in Tunisia, and how they are affecting the international situation in the Mideast.
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, followed by Jordan in 1994.
Israeli analysts say they worry that with Islamist groups in power in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and the possibility for similar groups coming to power Egypt might threaten regional stability.