Egypt optimistic it can boost Israeli doves
Egyptian leaders are passing through a period of apparent euphoria. It crystallized in the wake of last week's summit between Egyptian and Israeli leaders and their joint agreement to send the two countries' Taba border dispute to arbitration. The recent events, officials here say, showed that Egypt can deal with Israel on an equal footing, and that Egypt can influence the atmosphere inside Israel and bolster moderate leadership there through its bargaining positions. Israeli moderates have long said that Arab states could undermine Israeli hard-liners by presenting incentives and moderate proposals for peace. But only recently, has the theory gained credence among Egyptian officials here.
``The existence of an Arab position serves as a pressure on Israel, and it helps in the interaction of the different [Israeli] political parties until the point where one group would eventually control the [Israeli] government,'' Osama Baz, President Hosni Mubarak's adviser, said on television soon after the summit.
This view is echoed by Nabil Arabi, who led Egypt's team of Taba negotiators. Dr. Arabi hopes Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres might dissolve Israel's coaliton government after the scheduled rotation of the premiership to hard-liner Yitzhak Shamir next month, so that a government more open to negotiation with Arabs could be elected.
For the moment, Egypt sees its task as putting together a Mideast peace proposal that Mr. Peres would be willing to act on. Specifically, Egypt views its role as:
Winning United States endorsement for an international Mideast peace conference, which Jordan says is a condition for its involvement in peace talks with Israel. Egypt very much wants Jordan to join. ``We're not going to shoulder the burden by ourselves,'' Arabi says.
Winning from the Palestine Liberation Organization a clear statement on its negotiating position, including a commitment to key UN resolutions that would amount to recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace.
The Egyptians are losing patience with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat's failure to take a stand on this issue and worry that he is being pressured not to accept the resolutions by PLO hard-liners. Baz and others say Egypt is working to reconcile the PLO and Jordan, after Jordan's King Hussein earlier this year broke off an agreement to jointly pursue Mideast peace negotiations.
Meanwhile, Egyptian leaders seem sanguine about Israel's conservative rotation next month. They hope to pressure Mr. Shamir's Likud bloc to soften its policies by using the temptation of improved bilateral ties or, if that fails, employing the threat of a new freeze.