Mubarak Tries to Smooth Way for Israeli-Palestinian Summit in US
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hopes to clear a path to the high-stakes Palestinian-Israeli summit at Camp David by meeting with the leaders from both sides in Alexandria on Sunday and Monday.
It was at Camp David that Egypt first made peace with Israel 22 years ago, and Egypt hopes the new summit at the US presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland will advance Cairo's longstanding push for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
Meeting first with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Sunday and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Monday, Mubarak will try to obtain a "middle solution" on past disputes, sources close to the president said.
This would clear the air for the complex issues to be discussed at Tuesday's summit hosted by US President Bill Clinton, such as the status of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlers, boundaries and water.
Analysts said Mubarak may propose a compromise under which the Palestinians delay their plans to unilaterally declare statehood in return for Israel's implementing a third withdrawal from the West Bank.
The Israeli government has infuriated the Palestinians by failing to carry out the third pullout.
Meanwhile the Palestinians have angered the Israelis by threatening to declare statehood in September, whether there is an agreement with Israel or not.
However, the analysts did not know whether this specific compromise would be proposed by Mubarak, who frequently consults with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders about how to bridge the gaps between them.
Egypt also sees itself as a counterweight to US support for Israel by backing the Palestinians on many of their demands, and will warn them against succumbing to US pressure at the summit, sources at the presidency said.
For example, the sources expect the United States to seek concessions from Arafat with offers of financial aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.
Mubarak spoke by telephone Wednesday with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to discuss the upcoming summit.
The meetings are due to take place at the seafront Ras El-Tin presidential palace in Egypt's Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
The Israeli and Palestinian leaders are not expected to meet with each other until they reach Camp David.
The summit's stated goal is to reach a permanent agreement ending the bloody half-century conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Barak has said the summit has a 50-50 chance of success. Facing a backlash from his coalition allies, Barak has outlined "red lines" on which Israel will not compromise, such as keeping Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital.
Barak traveled to Amman on Saturday evening to talk with Jordan's King Abdullah II.
The Egyptians, meanwhile, think chances are slim for a deal to be reached at the summit.
It was at Camp David in 1978 that Egypt became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel after then US president Jimmy Carter led intensive talks between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menahem Begin.
Arafat refused to take part in these negotiations and instead condemned the Egyptians for selling out to Israel, as did the rest of the Arabs.
More than 22 years later, Arafat is taking the same route but with much more land lost to Jewish settlements and much less money in Palestinian coffers -- ALEXANDRIA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)