'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."

February 9, 2011 03:04
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 its preferred candidate to succeed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

According to a 2008 cable released by WikiLeaks, and published on the Daily Telegraph website 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.

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Suleiman, formerly the chief of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, was appointed Egypt’s vice president by 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 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-Gama’a al-Islamiyya renounced terrorism, and other Islamist elements have 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 has overseen numerous mediation efforts aimed at getting Fatah and Hamas to agree to a powersharing deal.

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