The official, however, denied that its goal is to create a "physical separation" between Israel
and the territories.
...Likewise, Louis Michel, the foreign minister of Belgium, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, called on Israel not to cancel the meeting.
withdraws, no one would have to resist.Let's be frank and fair," he said, addressing himself to his "good friend Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
We don't want the Israeli soldiers inside Palestine, and we don't want [Israeli settlers] on our land... Get out [of the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem] and there will be no more reason for resistance."
A senior Palestinian security officer conceded that no one in the PA will take action against Islamic Jihad or Hamas as long as Israel
continues with the closure and its policy of targeted killings and retaliatory strikes.He
said the timing of the attacks had nothing to do with the planned meeting between Peres and Arafat, but was a continuation of the policy of the Islamic groups, and a result of the escalation of violence on the ground.
But another Palestinian source admitted that the Islamic groups' aim was to scuttle the meeting.
A PA source said popularity for suicide attacks is at its highest, with 80 percent to 90 percent of Palestinians supporting them.
A calm but dispute-ridden debate about Egypt's real intentions toward Israel
is currently occupying Israel's
intelligence community.A firmer view, which ascribes to Egypt warlike intentions against Israel, is heard from the right, such as from Ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Uzi Landau, and MK Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee for defense strategy and building up the IDF.
security establishment speaks of "eroded boundaries."The weaponry that the United States supplies to the Israel Defense Forces as "arms to preserves Israel's
qualitative edge" will eventually be supplied to Egypt as well.The question that disturbs Israel
is why Egypt, which after its peace agreement with Israel
is under no threat from any country, needs such extensive weaponry.Prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon each individually argued to the United States that the sales of arms to Egypt pose a danger to Israel.
is worried about the American response.The United States has made it clear that has no interest in sharing information with Israel
about the military aid it supplies to Egypt.This position, along with the American insistence on equipping Egypt with advanced weaponry, is indicative of the strategic importance the United States attributes to Egypt.
And for the first time since Egypt embraced its American orientation, the question arises as to whether Egypt's weight as a strategic ally of the United States is equal to that of Israel
or perhaps even greater.
"The Bush administration has two interests in the Middle East: to strengthen Israel
as an element that maintains stability in the Middle East and to maintain stability in Saudi Arabia."
The defense minister ascribes considerable and increasing importance to relations between Israel
and Egypt.A few months ago, the chief of Egypt's general intelligence service
, Omar Suleiman, arrived in Israel
on a secret visit.
and Egypt see eye to eye on at least two very important subjects: the war on terror and the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.
The Egyptian secret
The right-leaning Ariel Center for Policy Research
(ACPR) represents the view that attributes belligerent intentions to Egypt.The center recently published an analysis authored by Major Shawn Pine, a U.S. Army reserves specialist in counterintelligence.The amazing claim Pine raises in his
study is that Egypt is involved in deceiving, if not outright lying, to the world about its annual defense budget.
All this happened alongside two processes: the Oslo agreements and a considerable decrease in Israel's
defense budget in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, due to the high probability of regional deterioration and concern for the future, Military Intelligence has updated its assessments of Egyptian intentions and strengthening of its army: "Egypt today is a danger, but not a threat."
The emphasis, as explained to the defense minister and Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, is on the word "today."
Consequently, if the regime in the post-Mubarak period becomes weakened and the incitement against Israel
continues, an uncontrollable situation could develop similar to the waiting period of May 1967 that preceded the Six-Day War.
Steinitz rejects Military Intelligence assessments."To view Egypt as merely a danger is a farce.Egypt is a threat.It is preparing for possible war against Israel
Foreign Ministry does not take Steinitz's warning seriously and is convinced that Military Intelligence's estimates are also exaggerated.Egypt, which relies on American arms, is completely and absolutely dependent on the American administration.It would lose everything if it decided to wage war on Israel
.True, says the security establishment, but the unavoidable comparison is to Iran of the ayatollahs.Like Egypt, Iran of the Shah put its complete and total faith in American military support - until Khomeini's revolution came along and completely reshuffled the deck.The Foreign Ministry's approach more clearly resembles that of a certain sector of Middle Eastern experts, of which Professor Israel Gershoni of Tel Aviv University is one of the most prominent.
According to this view, the Islamic fundamentalists of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood have their source in another reality, which took root in the 1920s.Unlike the ayatollahs in Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt are Sunni rather than Shi'ite Muslims.In Egypt, the goal of the Islamics is to influence the government to follow its ways rather than to grab power.
is a threat to Egypt," says a senior diplomatic source closely following the developments in Egypt."Egypt does not like Israel's
prominence or centrality.Its leadership would like to see Israel
restored to its natural dimensions - without nuclear capability and back to its 1967 borders.Even Israel's demand for democracy is perceived by the Egyptian leadership as a threat."
Egypt has always seen itself as the regional leader.Every Egyptian leader, almost as far back as the Pharaohs, has viewed Egypt as the principal leader of the entire region."The Israeli threat," as Egypt sees it, threatens Egypt's status as No. 1 in the regional hegemony and as leader of the Arab world, according to some in the Foreign Ministry and the defense establishment.This explains its paternalistic approach toward the Palestinians and the link it created between Israel's
peace agreement with Egypt and the resolution of the Palestinian problem.
Even Egypt's opposition to deepening its economic cooperation with Israel
is linked to its hypersensitivity about its regional status.Joint ventures may be good for the economy, but strengthening ties with Israel
could set Egypt apart from the Arab countries it so deeply aspires to lead.
This also explains Egypt's opposition to Shimon Peres' vision of a New Middle East.Globalization and economic entrepreneurship give Israel
a clear advantage, while undercutting Egypt's position as leader of the Middle East in the new age.Egypt's increased military might stems from the same need."Since the peace agreements with Egypt, there are security-minded forces in Israel
that claim that Egypt's rearming
is aimed against Israel
," says a leading Middle East expert, but hedges that remark: "But Mubarak needs a strong army for internal reasons too.Without a large strong army, he
regime will not last long."
Egypt arming itself with American weapons also has an ironic aspect.
But the dispute between Israel's
defense establishment and the American administration today, almost 20 years after the "American revolution" in the Egyptian military, concerns the Egyptian army's capability."The Americans," says a senior IDF source, "assess the capability of Egypt today and in the future as less than ours.They say that the sum total of the capability of the Egyptian army, including the element of defense and the ability to exert power, is low.But we say that there is a positive link between capability and ambition.The higher the capability, the greater the ambition.And looking 20 years ahead, there's reason for concern."
Will the United States continue to maintain Israel's
qualitative edge?"That's what the whole argument is about," says the IDF source."We have a qualitative edge.The question is by how much.The Americans say that it's convincing enough and will remain so in the future.We want it to be decisive.We are not concerned by tanks or other capabilities, but rather by certain types of missiles that the United States is selling Egypt."
Since the signing of the peace agreement between Israel
and Egypt in March 1979, the United States has supplied Egypt wit