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Why Israel is leaning on Egypt's Hosni Mubarak to nudge peace process

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a staple of Mideast politics for more than 30 years, hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Cairo this weekend amid rising concerns about Mubarak's health.

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Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, right, shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, before their talks at the Presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, July 18. Talks come within the framework of efforts aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process.

Amr Nabil/AP Photo

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With fresh reports about the health of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be feeling a greater sense of urgency to advance peace talks before possible regime change next door.

Calling Egypt under Mr. Mubarak's leadership "a main factor in advancing peace and stability in the region," Mr. Netanyahu traveled to Cairo this weekend to meet the man who has been a staple of Middle East politics for more than 30 years. Mubarak also hosted Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and US envoy George Mitchell.

Netanyahu needed the meeting to show Israelis back at home that the peace process is moving – which could boost his leverage over restless coalition partners, particularly Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, which are upset with some of Netanyahu's recent decisions.

"[The summit] is for domestic purposes,'' says Meir Javedanfar, a Middle East analyst based in Tel Aviv. "Netanyahu wants to come up with progress because he wants to reduce pressure from Washington, and to reduce Lieberman's influence.''

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