Pushing for Palestinian State


Egypt’s leader knows he is in trouble. Hosni Mubarak is the secularist president of a country turning radical. His already shaky position appears less secure by the day. Worried by rising support for Islamists among his people and the sidelining of Egyptian influence within the region in favor of an ascendant Iran, Mubarak is anxious for a solution—and a place to lay the blame.

For both of these, he has found what he is looking for in the United States.

On an October visit to Egypt by the U.S. secretary of state, Egyptian officials pushed for the U.S. to resolve what they consider the primary problem in the region. The International Herald Tribune reported, “… Egypt is pressing the United States for an aggressive promotion of Palestinian statehood as a means of strengthening itself and other Arab governments allied with Washington, senior officials say. Egyptian officials told Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her recent visit here that the United States should move straight ‘to the endgame,’ with a major U.S. policy initiative tackling the most contentious Palestinian issues: borders of a future state, the site of the state’s capital, and the so-called right of return for Palestinian refugees” (October 22, 2006).

Why a Palestinian state? Given the unlikelihood of Palestinian statehood under present circumstances— Palestinian politics controlled by Hamas, southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip becoming armed camps, Syria agitating to gain control of the Golan Heights—this request could merely be Mubarak trying to deflect Islamist hostility toward his own government.

Why the U.S.? Essentially, Cairo is pinning the blame for the Middle East’s problems on America. In the words of the iht: “The invasion of Iraq has put Baghdad into Iran’s orbit; the insistence on democratic elections allowed Hamas to gain power in the Palestinian areas; and, more recently, the refusal to press for a speedy end to Israel’s bombardment of Lebanon helped lionize Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the militant group Hezbollah” (ibid.).

This view of events truly is interesting—and not a completely unfair representation of the unpleasant effects of America’s most robust efforts to stabilize the Middle East. The fact is, Mubarak’s relationship with the maligned U.S. is in some ways hurting his political fortunes more than helping them.

The iht article described Egypt as being “in a moment of political twilight.” That certainly describes Mubarak’s regime. But it isn’t the case for the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s officially banned but most popular and only credible opposition political party, whose wagon is firmly hitched to the rising star of radical Islam.

The Trumpet has long believed Egypt would eventually throw in its lot with the radical politics of Iran. Watching Mubarak’s political squirming and his tacit acknowledgement of the increased pressures he is facing shows that, in one sense, this is already becoming reality.