December 12, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 311

An Interview with President Mubarak

December 12, 2001
Syria, Lebanon, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 311

The December 7, 2001 issue of the pro-Syrian Lebanese daily Al-Safir published a comprehensive interview with the"Egyptian peasant," President Hosni Mubarak. Following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Q: "How do you analyze the last Israeli attack on the Palestinian Authority?"

Mubarak: "It is a most grave and stupid act [on the part of Israel] to attack the [Gaza] airport and [Arafat's] headquarters, and to view the PA as a terrorist group. It is skipping over the important issue; we want to talk about peace. We are against killing innocent people, whether in Israel or in Palestine. They are both human beings. Killing innocent [people] is a very grave matter. Since Sharon's government came [to power], the cycle of action and reaction has not ceased… We have entered a vicious circle that must be broken, and this can happen only by sitting at the negotiating table. First, the closure on the villages and cities should be lifted, so that the people can breathe a sigh of relief and feel hope for the future, so that they will be able to stop the violence when they are asked to…"

Q: "Does Sharon's declaration of war on the PA constitute a step towards its elimination?"

Mubarak: "What does a declaration of war mean? Is Sharon going to fight a country? He has an arsenal of weaponry and airplanes, and the Palestinians have nothing. If that is the case, Sharon has declared war on a defenseless people. Even [Sharon's] words are idiotic: declaring war on whom?… He won't accomplish anything – neither security for his people nor stability for the region."

Suicide Bombings Are The Palestinians' Only Weapon

Q: "And what about Sharon's threat to destroy the PA?"

Mubarak: "If that is what he is thinking, it won't be the end… The violence will explode more than in the past, and… the violence will be [both] 'inside' and 'outside.' Do we need this?… But it is obvious that the frustration of the Palestinian citizen will push him to other explosions. I am fearful of the Palestinian response, after what Sharon has said in recent days. Perhaps it will come in a week, in two weeks, or three. No one can guarantee anything. The Palestinian is a human being; the only weapon he has is to wrap himself in explosives and blow himself up."

Q: "Has the door of hope [for an end to the violence through] negotiations been closed?"

Mubarak: "If you lived in a town or city in Palestine, you couldn't send your children to school or to the hospital. Or feed them. You'd be frustrated. You would decide to commit suicide and kill someone along with you. That's what's happening now, and it will continue to happen unless a solution is found. My words are not a call to continue the violence. All the parties must stop. There were negotiations before Sharon came [to power]; Sharon insisted on igniting the situation several times, including at the beginning when he conducted his provocative visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif [on Temple Mount]. Regarding our contacts with Sharon, he called me once. Before that, our contacts with Rabin, Peres, [and] Barak were many and frequent. We even spoke frequently with Netanyahu and Shamir. In contrast, no one talks with the present government…"[2]

After Arafat's Death: An Unconventional Arms Race

Q: "Are you worried about Yasser Arafat?"

Mubarak: "I'm worried first of all about peace. If they make a mistake and kill Arafat, this would mean that they have carried out a crime against the Palestinian people as well as against the Israeli people, because it will be difficult to find even one Palestinian around whom the Palestinian people will unite..."

Q: "It is also the assassination of a head of state…"

Mubarak: "It is also the assassination of a head of state. This will lead to anarchy, which will damage Israel. What will come after Arafat? Who will Israel hold responsible? The Hamas leaders? The PFLP, and the others? There are six, seven, or eight leaders who will arise and compete amongst themselves for the trust of the Palestinian people. This will be done by means of actions against Israel. Then there will be anarchy. If this situation continues, the crisis will not end, and the people will explode when they see Israel arming itself while they cannot do anything. Will the people agree to continue this situation, and for how long? There is no doubt that the day will come when the patience of the people will run out, and this will oblige the governments to enter into an arms race, with the aim of obtaining weapons of mass destruction, biological weapons – one test tube of germs can destroy an entire people – chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, that can be bought in suitcases from the former Soviet Union. Then the region, including Israel, will be at risk of total annihilation. If Israel and we do not understand this, the end will be the region's annihilation …"

Mubarak Warned the American Jewish Lobby that the Middle East Will be Destroyed

Q: "Do you think that the current American administration is capable of forcing Israel to fulfill [the agreements]?"

Mubarak: "I think that any American administration can do that. America is the life-line for Israel: weapons, finance, support. Israel rebels every so often, relying on the Jewish lobby, but I warned the representatives of the Jewish organizations when I met with them that such rebellion is likely to lead to the destruction of the region. I am not saying that in another year or two the area will be destroyed, but perhaps in another five or ten years, the region is liable to be destroyed, by means of nuclear weapons, or by means of chemical weapons, or by means of biological weapons. No one will be saved. For this reason, we want the removal of all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons from the region. America has interests in the region that it cannot relinquish. Instability in the region is liable to sweep away these interests…"

Bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abd Al-Rahman Were 'American Heroes'

Q: "Did Sadat's regime encourage the Islamists?"

Mubarak: "No. Some people advised Sadat to encourage the Islamic groups to tackle Communism. This advice was, of course, inappropriate, because Communism did not live in our countries and did not succeed in its own country. But when the so-called Mujahideen went to Afghanistan, they became more extreme, and began to disseminate extremist ideas. People like Omar Abd Al-Rahman and bin Laden were American heroes. This is what I told the Americans themselves on television." "The war in Afghanistan against the Russians ended and they left [Afghanistan]. Bin Laden found himself with money and drugs. The Americans took the other one, Omar Abd Al-Rahman, to Saudi Arabia and then to the Sudan. Then they gave him a visa and he went to America. I told [the Americans] that he was wanted by the courts here [in Egypt], and they told me, 'Do you want us to send him to you?' I told them, 'Keep him, but you'll pay the price.' Following this, the first World Trade Center instance occurred…"

The Jewish Lobby Incites the American Press Against Egypt

Q: "In Egypt-U.S. relations, a clandestine third party – Israel – sometimes appears."

Mubarak: "Our relations with the U.S. are solid and based on common interests, although the Jewish lobby sometimes tries to undermine them by raising scandals every so often, as happened recently in the matter of the arms deal, or something like that."[3]

"But it is obvious that matters are moving right along, because the Americans have interests with us, and relations between us and them are strong. The Jewish lobby tries, but in no way will it succeed. Their attempts are reflected in several newspapers and by some columnists, [who write] at the behest of the Israelis. We know that it is the Israelis who are pushing the Jewish lobby. When Barak negotiated with the Palestinians, they asked us to apply pressure on the Palestinian side, and we refused. Thus, the attack began. But we always know how to answer them."

Egyptian Democracy, Israeli Dictatorship

Q: "What did they expect from Egypt that led them to launch this attack?"

Mubarak: "Is this only about us? No, it's also about Saudi Arabia. It was the [U.S.] press that carried out the attack, claiming that we are not helping that much in Afghanistan – although we are a country that suffered from terrorism and we were the first state to call for an international conference on the struggle against terrorism. We have helped in other ways, rather than by sending forces to fight. In any event, such a thing [sending forces to war] requires the agreement of Parliament. It amazes me that some claim that Israel is the only democratic state in the region. I say that Israel is the only dictatorship – because there the decisions are made by a single man, while in Egypt the decision is not solely in my hands; Parliament must approve it by a majority of two thirds before I send our sons on a mission to fight abroad …"

Q: "But why is Saudi Arabia also under attack?"

Mubarak: "This too is incomprehensible. Perhaps it is a Jewish act, pushed by Israel, to humiliate [the Arabs]. But what has this attack on us achieved? Nothing. In the past, during President Clinton's time, we suffered from similar attacks, but this doesn't interest us. We did only the right things, in accordance with our responsibilities. I maintain that Egyptian pubic opinion realizes this. I say to you that this attack does not move a hair on my head. Do not think that I am concerned, or nervous. Israel's attacks are ineffective, and they will accomplish nothing because the matters are known to the Egyptian public opinion. There are no secrets. [In Egypt] there is freedom of the press, of the judicial system, in Parliament. All the issues come to the surface openly and transparently. We will continue on the right path, and we will pay no attention to those incited [American] columnists [doing it] for money. The Egyptians know the truth. If I had no position, there would be no attacks on Egypt or its president…"

The President's Son

Q: "What position does your son, Gamal Mubarak, fill?"

Mubarak: "He fills a position in the National Democratic Party, distanced from executive activity. But there are rumors from time to time… that he is to be appointed vice president. Gamal was in England, and worked in a bank. He gained experience and is interested in investments and economics. For this reason, I say to you: Don't believe the rumors that arise from time to time. They are baseless…"

Hizbullah Attacks on Israel

Q: "What is your opinion on the resistance activity at Shab'a farms [i.e. Hizbullah attacks on Israel] that America is trying to describe as terrorism?"

Mubarak: "Let's be clear. Someone defending his land from within his land is not a terrorist. If I expel a colonialist from my land, how can this be called terrorism? The Lebanese youth is connected to his land, and set out to defend it, just like the Palestinian who fights and defends his land and wants it returned. Forget Sharon's worthless words."

[1] Al-Safir (Lebanon), December 7, 2001.

[2] Evidently, this interview was conducted before Mubarak sent Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher to Jerusalem to meet with Sharon.

[3] A reference to claims that Egypt is developing missiles jointly with North Korea. Egyptian officials have denied these claims since February2000, when the CIA issued a report on the matter. Nevertheless, Mubarak himself told the Egyptian weekly Al-Mussawar in an interview on July6, 2001: "When the Americans told me that we were developing mid-range missiles with [North] Korea, I answered, 'Why not involve us in themissile industry, like you do with Israel?'" Now, however, Mubarak is again denying any type of joint missile program.

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