Amr Moussa, the outgoing Arab League chief and leading candidate for Egypt’s
presidency, said on Friday that, if elected, he would break with Hosni Mubarak’s
consistently favorable policies toward Israel.
In an interview with The
Wall Street Journal, Moussa said the former president’s efforts to solve the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict had “led nowhere” and that Cairo needs new policies
that “reflect the consensus of the people.”
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Moussa, 74, also described a
political landscape in which the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood would be
It is inevitable, he said, that parliamentary elections slated
for September would bring about a legislature led by a Brotherhood-controlled
“Mubarak had a certain policy; it was his own policy and I
don’t think we have to follow this,” he said of relations with
“We want to be a friend of Israel, but it has to have two
parties. It is not on Egypt to be a friend. Israel has to be a friend, too,” he
Moussa, Mubarak’s foreign minister from 1991 to 2001, told the
paper he would run as an independent, and, if elected, would not be beholden to
his predecessor’s policies.
“We live in the 21st century and we have to
be part and parcel with those who influence the current circumstances in the
region or in the world,” he said, referring to the wave of unrest that unseated
the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia and undermined other leaders of the Arab
“We were outside this circle. We have to get back to it as
partners in leading the world,” he said.
A recent Pew Research Center
poll found 89 percent of Egyptians had a positive impression of Moussa, far
ahead of competitors such as reformist Ayman Nour (70%) and Nobel Peace Prize
laureate Mohamed ElBaradei (57%). Much of that support stems from his
consistently combative attitude toward Israel and the US – on several occasions
in recent years, he has described Israel’s reputed nuclear program as a greater
threat to world peace than that of Iran.
Moussa said one of the reasons
for his 2001 dismissal as foreign minister was a disagreement over Egypt’s
policy toward Israel.
“There was a conflict between us, no question,”
Moussa said of then-president Mubarak.
“A disagreement... over certain
policies, including, but not only, the Israeli policies, which I found leading
nowhere. And they led nowhere. We are in year 11 since I left. And where are
we?” On Saturday, Nabil Elaraby, Egypt’s newly installed foreign minister, said
the 1979 peace treaty with Israel is not in danger, but that the countries’
natural gas deal could be reconfigured.
“Egypt is going to comply with
every agreement and abide by every treaty it has entered into. That is the goal
of treaties,” Nabil Elaraby told The Washington Post.
“Yes, every one. I
did Camp David, of course. I always say it is difficult to negotiate with
Israel, but once it is done and everything is signed, both sides abide and
“We have normal relations, and we will continue to
have normal relations,” Elaraby said.
“We might have disagreements – you
have disagreements with your neighbors. We might disagree over the suffering of
the people in Gaza. We are going to alleviate the suffering of the people in
Gaza… We will provide for the needs of the people of Gaza. This is very
important for us. The United Nations, the EU, they have asked us for
The foreign minister said Egypt-Israel commercial ties would
“We will continue to sell gas to Israel. Its price – we
may disagree about the price – but that is commercial,” said Elaraby, a New York
University-educated lawyer who was appointed Cairo’s chief diplomat two months
Israel Radio reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu had held a secret meeting with Qatar’s prime minister on gas issues in
London. Late last month, an explosion at the pipeline in the northern Sinai
Peninsula cut gas supplies to Israel, the second apparent act of sabotage
against the pipeline in two months.
“The meeting lasted for an hour and
was held under heavy security arrangements taken by the British authorities,”
the station reported, adding that UK diplomatic sources said the Qatari leader
arrived in his private jet, and later expressed his willingness to replace Egypt
as Israel’s main natural gas supplier.
Last week, a number of Arabic
newspapers and Web forums reported Qatar’s industry minister had told his
Israeli counterpart by phone that his country was willing to export natural gas
to Israel “for an unlimited period of time and below market
Qatar is an important player in the natural gas industry,
controlling 15% of the world’s reserves. Israel and Qatar held natural gas talks
throughout the 1990s and in 2008, but neither round of negotiations produced an