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(photo credit: AP [file])
Egyptian reaction to Sunday's meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm e-Sheikh was mixed.
Many in both the public and the media were satisfied with Olmert's position regarding negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and happy with Egypt's continued role in the talks. But others were pessimistic about the effectiveness of the visit and doubted the power of Egypt's role as a mediator.
The media coverage of the visit was unusually varied. While government-controlled newspapers like Al-Ahram heralded the visit as a success, giving it front-page coverage, both the independent Egyptian media and the international Arab media gave little emphasis to its importance.
Egyptian television, considered extremely important due to the high illiteracy level, gave the most comprehensive and positive coverage.
The Egyptian public's reaction was similarly mixed. Muhammad Abdul, 33, a tour guide, downplayed the importance of Olmert's visit. "It's just routine," he said. "People in Egypt don't react much - they just hope the Palestinian issue will be solved. They always try to make the situation better, but it's always the same."
However, many Egyptians were pleased with the talks. Dr. Hussein Amin, a senior fellow at the Adham Center for Television Journalism, praised the talks. "Mr. Olmert was very clever in organizing such a timely visit, and such a friendly visit," he said, adding that Israel has been working on Palestinian issues without officials making strong statements, leaving the Egyptian people with "hundreds of questions."
These talks, he said, gave more solid answers about Israel's commitment to the road map and its future plans for negotiations with the PA, as well as confirming Egypt's involvement in those negotiations.
But many people remain skeptical. Dr. Walid Kazziha, chairman of the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo, doubted the effectiveness of the talks. "These kinds of meetings have become a useless exercise," he said. "They like to go through the ritual of meeting Mubarak and Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas], but they don't believe they have a real partner."
The continued suspicion is that what Israel can do unilaterally, it will do unilaterally. Others suspect that Olmert is meeting with countries like Egypt for the sake of formalities, under pressure from the US government.
Kazziha was also dismissive of Egypt's role in negotiations. "None of the Arabs can hand over the Palestinians on a silver platter," he said, "though some of them may claim they can."