Daily Israel Report

Ollmert-Mubarak Meeting Overshadowed by Ramallah Raid

The IDF raid in Ramallah that left four dead cast a pall over the Thursday meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 1/5/2007, 10:32 AM / Last Update: 1/4/2007, 11:17 PM

The meeting between the two leaders was described as "tense," as Mubarak himself told reporters at a joint news conference following the talks.

“I expressed to the Prime Minister our indignation at what happened today in Ramallah," Mubarak noted, "and said that Israel and all the people in the region will achieve peace only by refraining from all practices which obstruct its course.”

Olmert apologized for the civilian deaths, but pointed out that the operation was necessary to stop terrorists from carrying out deliberate operations to kill Israeli civilians.

“Things developed in a way that could not have been predicted in advance,” he said. “If innocent people were hurt, this was not our intention,” highlighting the difference between attacks by PA terrorists specifically aimed at maiming and killing Israeli civilians, and IDF operations targeting the murderous terrorists.

Mubarak Cold on Most of Agenda, Warm on Shalit
Discussions between the two men on the issue of continuing violations by Palestinian terrorist of the six-week-old ceasefire between Gaza terrorists and Israel were also tense.

Israel’s demand that the PA put a complete stop to the Kassam rocket attacks - of which there have been some 80 since the ceasefire went into effect - was met with a complete lack of sympathy. “These Kassam rockets, they will fire them every other day," Mubarak said. "Shall we stop the peace process because one or two individuals fire rockets?”

Olmert replied that Israel has been more than generous in restraining the IDF from responding to the rocket fire.

Mubarak Hints: We'll Go Nuclear
"If nuclear weapons are developed in this region and endanger Egypt, we certainly can't sit back and do nothing," Mubarak said. Though until now Egypt's nuclear program has been said to be designated only for peaceful purposes, Mubarak implied that his country would be forced to develop nuclear weapons. It was not clear if he was referring to a nuclear threat from Iran or from Israel.

Talks between Olmert and Mubarak on the issue of negotiations between Israel and the PA were also cold. Olmert’s insistence that Hamas could not be part of talks with Israel was also met with a retort by Mubarak, “Then try with the Palestinian Authority.”

Some of the tension was also over the issue of Egypt’s responsibility for preventing terrorists from smuggling weapons from Egypt into Gaza.

Olmert asked Mubarak to tighten up the security at the border to prevent further arming of PA terrorists who then aim their weapons at Israel. The number of guns and other war materiel entering Gaza from Egypt continues to increase ever since control of the border area was transferred from Israel to the PA.

Mubarak was less than cordial over the issue, however, telling Olmert bluntly that Egyptian security personnel were doing their best, but could not be expected to close the border completely.

The one issue that did not cause conflict between the two leaders was the need to secure the release of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit, held hostage by Hamas terrorists since they kidnapped him last June.

The Egyptian president pledged to continue his efforts to convince the kidnappers to release their IDF hostage. "We are working on releasing the Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and on releasing the Israeli prisoner held by the Palestinians. I hope that we will soon arrive at a solution in this matter,” he said.

For his part, Olmert praised Mubarak for the efforts of his intelligence officers on Israel’s behalf. “I thanked him for the efforts to bring about the release of the soldier... who is still held by Hamas, which is not prepared to release him,” he added.