ISTANBUL – Israel likes to see itself as an island of tranquility in an otherwise tumultuous region, but according to Amr Moussa, the former secretary-general of the Arab League who ran unsuccessfully in last month’s Egyptian presidential elections, it’s the government in Jerusalem that threatens the Middle East’s stability.
Still, while Moussa slammed Israel’s settlement expansions in an interview Tuesday, he called on the future Egyptian president to maintain the peace treaty with Israel. He also said Israel could again get gas supplies from Egypt… but only after the needs of all other would-be purchasers were met.
“The refusal by the current Israeli government to make any move in any direction is so detrimental to the security and stability of the region. And it will not be that comfortable to the Israeli diplomacy for a long time,” Moussa told The Times of Israel. “We certainly need a Palestinian state. I am one of those who believe this is a must. Otherwise we won’t get the stability that we need in the Middle East.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, North Africa and Eurasia, Moussa said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s settlement policy rendered a just solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “impossible” and “some day will have to be dealt with.”
“The current government in Israel believes that they have won the political battle. I would tell them that no, the battle will continue. History cannot stop just at a certain stage,” he said. While it may seem that time is running out for a two-state solution “according to the current existing rules of the game,” there will always remain the chance to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict somehow, Moussa said, without elaborating. “History will not stop here.”
‘If Israel continues to respect Egypt [the next president should] continue to respect the treaty’
Born in Cairo, Moussa served as Egypt’s foreign minister before he became the Arab League’s secretary-general in 2001. That position, which he held until last year, helped him become “perhaps the most adored public servant in the Arab world,” as TIME magazine called him at the time. After he announced this year that he would run for president of Egypt, he quickly became the race’s frontrunner.
During the campaign, he saw himself confronted with rumors that he had an Israeli half-brother, which he vociferously denied. Traditionally a harsh critic of Israel, he declared the Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel “dead and buried,” but later clarified that he was referring to the part of the treaty that dealt with the Palestinian question.
In the May 23 election, he came in a disappointing fifth, with 11% of the vote. The two frontrunners — Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, and Ahmed Shafiq, a former prime minister under deposed president Hosni Mubarak — will face off in a second round of voting later this month.
Moussa, who plans to remain active in politics, said he has yet to decide which candidate he is going to endorse, but added that he suggests to both to maintain the peace treaty with Israel.
“If Israel continues to respect Egypt [they should] continue to respect the treaty,” Moussa said. Cairo’s policy vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian question should be based on the 2002 Arab Initiative, Moussa added.
Egypt should generally be willing to resume supplying gas to Israel, if it first makes sure its own needs, and those of everybody else who would want to purchase it, are covered, he said. In April, Egypt unilaterally canceled its agreement to supply Israel with natural gas, a move that those directly involved said was rooted in a commercial disagreement, but other analysts said was also political in nature.
“It’s a question of market,” Moussa said. “First of all, we have to satisfy internal domestic needs. When the market is free — and I believe we have a line of customers — Israel can join the line of customers and stand at the end of it.”