Moussa vows tough Israel policy if elected president

Cairo’s FM says Egypt gas agreement intact, but price negotiable; Netanyahu reportedly meets with Qatari PM on new gas deal

Arab League chief Amr Moussa Egypt 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Abdallah Dalsh)
Arab League chief Amr Moussa Egypt 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abdallah Dalsh)
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 dominant.
It is inevitable, he said, that parliamentary elections slated for September would bring about a legislature led by a Brotherhood-controlled Islamist bloc.
“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 Israel.
“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 said.
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 world.
“We were outside this circle. We have to get back to it as partners in leading the world,” he said.
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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 comply faithfully.”
“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 that.”
The foreign minister said Egypt-Israel commercial ties would remain intact.
“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 ago.
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 prices.”
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 agreement.