Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt's Role Remains Vital to Middle East Peace Process

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt's Role Remains Vital to Middle East Peace Process

Article excerpt

THE recent signing of a framework agreement for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a critical step toward a final agreement on a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Some analysts question whether Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) can be trusted to negotiate a peace, or to stand by whatever final agreement might be reached with Israel. Ultimately, only Israel and its people, with the support and active involvement of the United States, can judge whether the reconciliation with Mr. Arafat's PLO is in their best interests.

It is essential, however, that in moving toward peace the US remember that without Egypt's participation, and without the long history of steadfast support for peace from both the Sadat and Mubarak governments, the peace process would not have evolved to this point.

Egypt has led the Arab world in the quest for peace since 1978, when Anwar Sadat traveled to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. That courageous move initiated the process that led to the signing of the Camp David accords in 1979.

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak, has continued the search for peace. As the sole principal actor speaking with both the PLO and Israel, President Mubarak served a mediating role.

Perhaps Egypt's most important contribution was convincing Israelis that peace with Arabs was possible, and that once reached, it could last.

In the aftermath of the 1981 agreement, many Israelis wondered whether true peace could ever come to the Middle East. I remember well the atmosphere in the mid-1980s during what Egyptians and Israelis called the "cold peace," when the fruits of peace did not appear to be as great as once expected.

But I also remember from my own conversations during this time, as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operation Subcommittee, the steady commitment of Egypt's leaders to the Camp David Accords and the understanding of Israeli leaders that the peace itself was never threatened.

Even during Israel's invasion of Lebanon, which angered Egypt, there was no question of Egypt's fundamental commitment to peace and to the agreements Sadat signed in Washington.

Egypt has held firm to the letter of the peace treaty, maintaining unwavering support for expanding the peace process. For the US, the Israeli government, and especially the Israeli people, Egypt's commitment was reassurance that peace was possible. Without Cairo's commitment over the past decade, the historic events of recent weeks would not have occurred.

This is a critical time for Egypt's political and economic development, which could have enormous implications for the politics of the region. …

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