Experts: Mubarak comments betray new Egyptian stance on Jerusalem

Recent statements by President Hosni Mubarak in the New York Times about Jerusalem being made the "joint capital" of both a Palestinian and Israeli state indicated a change in Egypt's position on the city, political experts said.

Previously, Egypt had insisted that East Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian state.

"This new position is a compromise and an exceedingly flexible stance towards Israel," political researcher Amar Ali Hassan told Al-Masry Al-Youm. He went on to say that peace talks "cannot possibly succeed as they essentially tackle all of the outstanding issues."

"These issues are extremely important and very sensitive in nature and were the reason behind (former Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon's decision to storm the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in 2000 to end the negotiations," added Hassan.

He asserted that the two goals of current direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were "to exploit the Palestinian cause to put pressure on Iran and to drag the Arabs into participating in a strike against Iran."

Hassan said that both Egypt and Jordan were "playacting," suggesting that talk of Jerusalem as a joint capital of both states amounted to "the same old talk as that by late President Anwar Al-Sadat, which had fallen on deaf Arab and Palestinian ears."

"This idea keeps reappearing from time to time, but it has never been suggested by such a high-profile Arab leader as President Mubarak," he added. "It's a compromise before the talks have even begun."

Analyst Wahid Abdel Maguid of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies said: "Egypt's stance on Jerusalem was always that the eastern part of the city should be the capital of a Palestinian state. Mubarak is now showing more flexibility in his stance, which helps the United States in its role as mediator."

"The situation remains insoluble at the moment. Whatever Mubarak says will make no difference anyway, since no Palestinian leader can cede any part of East Jerusalem," added Abdel Maguid. He went on to note that late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat had been in a similar position in 2000, but had feared the fate that awaited him were he to cede any part of the disputed city.

When asked about Mubarak's comments on Egypt's willingness to act as mediator between the Palestinians and to mediate a prisoner-exchange deal with Israel, Abdel Maguid said: "Mubarak is speaking about issues that Egypt no longer has any role in. He is attempting to show that Egypt still has an active role to play, because the Palestinian issue remains the only important file left in the Egyptian foreign policy."

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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