Netanyahu expresses ‘deep sorrow’ over death of ‘personal friend’ Mubarak
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Netanyahu expresses ‘deep sorrow’ over death of ‘personal friend’ Mubarak

PM says he had many meetings with late Egyptian leader, hails him for leading ‘his people to peace and security, to peace with Israel’

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

The President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt  concerning the renewal of the negotiations with the Palestinians, January 6, 2011 (GPO)
The President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt concerning the renewal of the negotiations with the Palestinians, January 6, 2011 (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday eulogized former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who died earlier in the day at the age of 91 in a Cairo hospital.

“On behalf of the citizens and government of Israel, I would like to express deep sorrow on the passing of President Hosni Mubarak,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

“President Mubarak, my personal friend, was a leader who led his people to peace and security, to peace with Israel. I met with him many times. I was impressed by his commitment; we will continue to follow this common path.”

Netanyahu added that he sends condolences to Egypt’s current president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, as well as to Mubarak’s family and to the Egyptian people.

The Israeli prime minister was one of the first international leaders to comment on Mubarak’s passing.

Israel’s embassy in Cairo took to Twitter to express “great sadness” at the former president’s death.

The former Egyptian president maintained close ties with all Israeli leaders. His last meeting with Netanyahu, in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, took place in January 2011 — about a month before he was deposed.

Mubarak rose to power after Islamic extremists assassinated his predecessor Anwar Sadat, then steered the nation through the turmoil that buffeted the Middle East with wars, terrorism and religious extremism.

Mubarak, who served as president 1981-2011, maintained a cool peace with Israel and kept Egypt relatively free of the grip of Islamic extremism. He engineered Egypt’s return to the Arab fold after nearly a decade in the cold over its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

PM Netanyahu, left, meets Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikhm Egypt, May 11, 2009 (Moshe Milner/GPO)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas mourned Mubarak’s passing “with great sorrow.” He lauded the former Egyptian leader’s “support of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people in achieving their rights to freedom and independence.”

Eli Shaked, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt in 2003-2005, described Mubarak in 2012 as “a strong presence, not charismatic but with a heavy body like a fighter bomber, and very levelheaded.”

Shaked said Mubarak would meet visiting Israeli officials with at least three top advisers by his side, often consulting with them and demonstrating a detailed knowledge of Israeli politics. The Israeli diplomat said Mubarak liked “political jokes and witticisms,” but was short on creativity: “The man is completely status quo.”

Hosni Mubarak, then Egypt’s vice president, welcomes then-prime minister of Israel Menachem Begin at the airport of Ismalia, Egypt, December 15, 1977 (Yaacov Sa’ar/GPO)

Mubarak was born on May 4, 1928, in the village of Kafr el-Moseilha in the Nile delta province of Menoufia. His family, like that of Sadat, and Gamal Abdel Nasser before him, was lower middle class.

After joining the air force in 1950, Mubarak moved up the ranks as a bomber pilot and instructor and rose to leadership positions.

He earned nationwide acclaim as commander of the air force during the 1973 Yom Kippur War — a conflict that many Egyptians see as a victory — and was vice president when Sadat was assassinated. Mubarak, who was sitting beside Sadat in the reviewing stand, escaped with a minor hand injury.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, right, and Vice President Hosni Mubarak are seen on the reviewing stand during the Oct. 6, 1981 military parade (AP Photo/Bill Foley)

Early in his presidency, Mubarak took tentative steps toward democratic reform but pulled back toward the dictatorial style that eventually propelled the Arab Spring protests against him beginning on January 25, 2011.

He was arrested later that year after he was accused of inciting the deaths of protesters during the 18-day revolt that toppled him, in which about 850 people were killed as police clashed with demonstrators.

Mubarak was sentenced to life in 2012, but an appeals court ordered a retrial, which dismissed the charges two years later. The acquittal stunned many Egyptians, thousands of whom poured into central Cairo to show their anger against the court.

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, center, arrives with his sons Alaa, left, and Gamal, right, to testify, in a courtroom at the National Police Academy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, December 26, 2018. (AP Photo/Ahmed Abdel Fattah, File)

The following year, Mubarak and his two sons — wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal — were sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges during a retrial. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while Mubarak walked free in 2017.

Times of Israel staff and agencies contributed to this report.

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