'Israel preferred Suleiman as Mubarak's successor'

WikiLeaks: Defense Ministry official tells US that if Egyptian president's dies, "Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of Suleiman."

By ASSOCIATED PRESS,
February 8, 2011 02:31
2 minute read.
Omar Suleiman and Binyamin Netanyahu

suleiman netanyahu 311. (photo credit: GPO)

Newly leaked US diplomatic cables suggest that Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman was long seen by Israel as the preferred candidate to succeed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

According to a 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks, and published on the Daily Telegraphweb site Monday, a senior adviser from the Defense Ministry told US diplomats in Tel Aviv that the Israelis believe Suleiman would likely serve as "at least an interim president if Mubarak dies or is incapacitated."

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The cable quoted the advisor, David Hacham, as saying that he sometimes spoke to Suleiman's deputy several times a day via a "hotline."

The diplomats added: "There is no question that Israel is most comfortable with the prospect of" Suleiman.

According to the cable, Hacham stated that an Israeli delegation led by Defense Minister Ehud Barak was "shocked by Mubarak's aged appearance and slurred speech," when it met him in Egypt. "Hacham was full of praise" for Suleiman, however, it said.

Suleiman, formerly the chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, was appointed Egypt's vice president by President Hosni Mubarak last month following the outbreak of mass protests against the regime.

He has been known as a powerful figure who has kept Islamists in check at home while managing contacts at the highest level with Israel, Fatah and Hamas abroad.

In 1993, he was appointed by Mubarak to head the all-powerful General Intelligence Directorate, which has been described by Egyptian journalist Issandr Amrani as an organization that “combines the intelligence-gathering elements of the CIA, the counterterrorism role of the FBI, the protection duties of the Secret Service, and the high-level diplomacy of the State Department.”

Following his appointment, Suleiman was tasked with stemming a major terrorism campaign launched by the al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya group, which killed hundreds of members of the Egyptian security forces and foreign tourists, in a string of attacks throughout the 1990s. In 2003, al-Gammal al-Islamiyya renounced terrorism, and other Islamist elements had been weakened or forced to disband by Suleiman’s war against them.

On a regional level, Suleiman is Egypt’s most important envoy to Israel, Fatah and Hamas. He is extremely well versed in the affairs of both Israel and the Palestinians, according to Dr. Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

Suleiman oversaw numerous mediation efforts aimed at getting Fatah and Hamas to agree to a power-sharing deal over the past two decades.

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