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Mubarak: Only Arafat Can Make Peace With Israel - 2001-12-16

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is warning Israel against the idea of dealing with a Palestinian leader other than Yasser Arafat. The Egyptian president also criticized calls for Mr. Arafat to crack down on militant groups, describing those demands as "not realistic."

The Palestinian leader has come under intense international pressure to crack down on militant organizations, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, in response to the escalating violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But Mr. Mubarak asked, "How can he, when all the assets that he uses are not present, when he himself cannot move and the police apparatus has been hit?"

President Mubarak was referring to Israel's current policy of responding to recent terrorist attacks with military strikes against Palestinian security forces and symbols of Palestinian authority. He said Israel's response cannot lead to a solution, but rather, "it could lead to danger without limit."

Mr. Mubarak's comments were published Sunday in an interview with Egypt's pro-government newspaper, el-Gomhuria. He also discussed Israel's decision to cut ties with Mr. Arafat. In the Egyptian president's words, "President Yasser Arafat is the only leader who can make peace with Israel." Mr. Mubarak added he has warned Israel that dealing with other Palestinian leaders would be "a big catastrophe."

Mr. Mubarak said any Palestinian leader would have to support the uprising against Israel, adding, "nobody could reach this popularity unless he undertakes guerrilla acts against Israel, as a reaction to what's going on now."

The Egyptian President's remarks follow a weekend meeting in Cairo, with special U.S. peace envoy Anthony Zinni and Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East, William Burns. Both men have been recalled to Washington to brief President Bush on their efforts to attain a cease fire. Following a meeting with Mr. Mubarak's top political adviser Osama el-Baz, Mr. Burns pledged the United States will remain very actively engaged in efforts to end violence. He told reporters that Washington will do everything it can to move Israel and the Palestinians back in the direction of a political process.