July 18, 2000 Special Dispatch No. 115

Former Egyptian Defense Minister on Peace With Israel

July 18, 2000
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 115

Field-Marshal 'Abd Al-Halim Abu Ghazaleh served for many years as Egypt's Minister of Defense and for some time was considered second in command in the Egyptian leadership and the main candidate to succeed President Hosni Mubarak. In 1989, Mubarak fired Abu Ghazaleh from his position, and appointed him as his personal advisor. In February 1993, Abu Ghazaleh resigned altogether from the leadership.

In a recent interview in the Nasserite weekly Al-Arabi, Abu Ghazaleh presented extreme stances regarding Egypt's relations with Israel. Following are excerpts from the interview with the person who for a period of time was considered President Mubarak's successor:[1]

Question: Are we forced to accept the peace with Israel against our will?

Abu Ghazaleh: Peace with Israel is impossible. Israel's indefatigable desire for armament and its everlasting emphasis on the "Greater Israel" as it appears in the Torah, prove that it is not interested in peace.

Question: How so?

Abu Ghazaleh: When a state's legality is unfounded, and it derives its only legitimacy from a religious legend [about "Greater Israel"] peace becomes impossible, because the legend aspires to draw a map that will be compatible with this legend. "Greater Israel," as it is mentioned in the Torah, means the occupation of Arab land from the Nile to the Euphrates and Israel will never relinquish its dreams.

Question: Which means that we are heading for a war?

Abu Ghazaleh: Maybe not right now, but we must always prepare ourselves for it.

Question: Does the Israeli conventional, mass-destruction, and nuclear arsenal mean that we are not capable of fighting it?

Abu Ghazaleh: Peace for us is an essential strategic goal so that we can be free to develop our country and join the 21st century and the information and communications revolution. The Peace we refer to is the just and stable peace that is rejected by Israel, which finds shelter in its arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and in the unconcealed American protection it receives. However, we should not be intimidated by this. Experience shows that we are capable of defeating it.

Question: which experience are you referring to?

Abu Ghazaleh: I mean the American defeat in Vietnam. We are all aware of American military capability, which is incomparable to Israel's. The Israeli defeat in South Lebanon by a few warriors of the Lebanese Resistance [is another case in point.] Both cases strongly point to a weakness that should not be ignored when you deal with Israel.

Question: What are the "weaknesses" that we should not ignore?

Abu Ghazaleh: In both the US and Israel there is a significant sensitivity to casualties. This is a very important weakness. We should also add the fact that Israel has limited manpower whose morale can be broken [by inflicting] even a few casualties. Secondly, the important strategic targets in Israel are all located in limited and specific areas, which turns them into obtainable targets that are easy to strike and affect its functioning. Thirdly, the Israeli border is long but its [strategic] depth is limited, which increases the importance of Fedaai operations [i.e. guerilla and terrorism.]

Question: But Israel’s nuclear capability solves this problem...

Abu Ghazaleh: I do not believe Israel would dare to use this force in a sensitive part of the world such as the Middle East, in which there are [countries that] share interests with the superpowers. Furthermore, the nuclear threat can be neutralized if the Arab states, and especially those bordering with Israel, succeed in obtaining weapons capable of striking the Israeli depth, causing significant casualties and damage. These may not necessarily be weapons of mass destruction. Ballistic surface-to-surface missiles with a reasonable range of 500-600 kilometers can serve as an effective means of deterrence against all types of Israeli forces, whether conventional or nuclear.

Question: Israel now has an anti-missile system, or at least it will have such a system in a short while...

Abu Ghazaleh: There is no defense from a missile attack coming from several directions. No defense system against missiles can deal with more than a [limited] number of missiles in such an attack. The rest of the missiles will reach their targets. The Israeli military commanders know that. Deterrence is formed from three elements: obtaining a certain means, the resolve to use it, and the enemy's knowledge of its existence. One may say that the horror caused by 13 Iraqi Scud missiles whose warheads were reduced to increase their range, is the best proof of this.

[1] Al-Arabi (Egypt), July 2, 2000.

Share this Report: