CAIRO - At the Israeli embassy in Egypt one can sense that elections are in the offing. It is not the polling stations that are disturbing the peace of the Israeli delegates in Cairo. In the ministries they think that the diplomatic representatives in the Egyptian capital can get along with a token staff, and political wheeler-dealers prefer London and Paris. Nevertheless, the beat of the elections can be heard here clearly. Tzipi Livni left, Shaul Mofaz entered. Mofaz returned home, Ahmed Tibi arrived. Tibi took off, Amir Peretz is landing.
A party with its eye on the center urgently needs a pet Arab. Even though compared to members of Hamas, Palestinian Authority Chair Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) suddenly looks like a poodle, Kadima is not showing any tendency to have him join the winning combination. Until further notice, and apparently there will be no further notice at least until the elections, in the court of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a good Arab remains an Arab who is not a partner.
When the Palestinians shares are in decline, the Egyptian shares are on the rise. The Israeli ambassador in Cairo, Shalom Cohen, says that the Egyptians are not naive. They understand that Mofaz did not drag with him to Egypt dozens of journalists from the media in all the languages because he had something urgent to tell President Hosni Mubarak. Something that Tzipi Livni couldn't tell him when she sat opposite him less than two weeks ago.
Mofaz himself visited here two months ago. In fact, in recent weeks, cooperation between the leading Israeli security people and their Egyptian colleagues has increasingly strengthened. Mubarak's time is short, and Egypt's problems are legion. Signs of his age (78) show in his face, in his ability to concentrate and in his number of work hours.
Mubarak is willing to smile to the cameras for any Israeli politician who will keep Hamastan away from Egypt. The Hamas victory in the elections for the Palestine Legislative Council, and mainly the overwhelming victory in the Gaza Strip, is very disturbing to Egypt. Mubarak tried to convince Mofaz that the belligerence contest with Hamas and collective punishment of Palestinians will only strengthen the organization.
The president proposed that the Israeli government try to keep quiet and allow Hamas to sweat; either it will become more moderate, or it will split or it will dig its own grave. To that end, Mahmud Abbas needs a respite of several weeks. In any case, under no circumstances should he be seen by his public as a collaborator with Israel.
That same day, Mubarak met with the coordinator for the European Union, Javier Solana, and heard from him about an understanding between the Quartet (the U.S., the EU, the UN and Russia) and Israel, to the effect that the final date for deciding the fate of assistance to the Palestinian Authority is the day when the new government is sworn in. Not a day earlier.
The first announcement that emerged from the cabinet meeting on Sunday indicates that Mubarak's message reached its target. It reached its target, but was not absorbed.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Minister Roni Bar-On reported that the transfer of money to the PA will be stopped immediately upon the conclusion of the role of the transition government and the establishment of the Hamas government.
"When the Hamas government is established, the money will not be transferred," Bar-On repeated several times.
The correction was not long in coming. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apparently had forgotten to update his fellow member of the board of the Betar Jerusalem soccer team, that on the weekend he had pulled some strings and convinced Washington, behind the back of the Quartet (and according to an Israeli version, behind the back of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as well), to change the final date.
Who cares about coordination with the Europeans? So what if the Russians rejected the invitation of the leaders of Hamas, and emerged as suckers? Why is there a need to take a friendly Arab leader into consideration? We have elections on our minds, don't we?
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