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Fear Of Hegemony?
Egypt is drawing the line at Israel's
INA FRIEDMAN ISRAEL CORRESPONDENT
mbedded among the past
weeks' news of the stalled
talks between Israel and
Syria and the crisis in the
have been discomforting reports
of an increasingly heated spat be-
tween Israel and its oldest and
strongest partner in the long
peace process: Egypt.
Worse yet, the clash is no mar-
ginal problem but the highly
sensitive issue of Israel's unwill-
ingness to sign the Nuclear Non-
proliferation Treaty (NPT) when
it comes up for extension in April.
Last Sunday, even Jordan's King
Hussein declared his support of
Egypt's forceful new stand.
Last week, Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin inadvertently con-
tributed to the unpleasantness
when he dropped the comment
at a closed meeting of the Knes-
set Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee that "an ill wind is
blowing in the Egyptian Foreign
Ministry." The comment prompt-
ly appeared in the press and left
the Egyptians finning. They even
stopped the Egyptian distribu-
tion of the Jerusalem Post be-
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Although Israel's refusal to cause of an article critical of
open its nuclear facilities to in- Cairo's policy.
ternational inspection has been
In Paris last weekend, Defense
a sore point with the Egyptians Minister Shimon Peres believed
for a while, until recently Cairo he had assuaged Egyptian feel-
has stepped softly around ings by publishing a commu-
Jerusalem's policy of "nuclear nique speaking of the "great
ambiguity" (not admitting to the respect" Mr. Rabin felt toward
possession of nuclear weapons Mr. Mubarak and his foreign
but not joining the NPT).
Now, however, President Hos-
By the next day, Mr. Mubarak
ni Mubarak and his foreign exhibited a slight change of tac-
minister, Amr Moussa, have em- tics by inviting Mr. Peres to
barked on an outright crusade Cairo to ease the mounting ten-
to bend Israel to their will. And sions. But it is not readily ap-
in so doing, they have created a parent how that will be
dynamic from which both sides accomplished. For weeks Mr.
are having difficulty breaking Peres has been searching for
some formula to help Egypt
Mr. Mubarak even has gone gracefully descend from the limb
so far as to announce that Egypt it is perched upon while leaving
will not reaffirm its commitment Israel's policy intact. An invita-
to the NPT until Israel joins its tion to Egyptian scientists to vis-
roster of signatories. And while it Israel's experimental reactor
he failed to get Syria and the at Nahal Sorek (but not the main
members of the Gulf Cooperation facility in Dimona) was prompt-
Council to join him, he did per- ly rebuffed.
suade 14 members of the Arab
With the word "crisis" sud-
League to raise the pressure on denly hovering over Egyptian-
Israel in another way: by ap- Israeli relations (which was
proving the draft of a disarma- not the case even after Israel's
ment agreement committing the 1981 bombing of Iraq's nuclear
states of the region, including reactor or 1982 invasion of
Iran, to divest themselves of all Lebanon), the question on most
weapons of mass destruction. Israeli minds is: Why now? At