Frontrunner in Egypt’s Presidential Race Is an Anti-Israel Holdover From Mubarak Regime (CNS) CYBERCAST NEWS SERVICE) By Patrick Goodenough 04/19/12)
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(CNSNews.com) – The disqualification of three leading contenders in
Egypt’s presidential campaign has left the race with a new
frontrunner – a Mubarak regime holdover whose political career was
characterized by hostility towards Israel.
Egypt’s electoral commission on Tuesday confirmed its earlier
decision to rule out 10 candidates, including Salafist cleric Hazem
Salah Abu Ismail, Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat Al-Shater, and
former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
Until their disqualification the three, each controversial in his own
right, were regarded as frontrunners in next month’s election.
Their departure has moved three other presidential aspirants into the
spotlight – former foreign minister Amr Moussa, a Muslim Brotherhood
replacement candidate Mohammed Morsi, and an Islamist ex-Muslim
Brotherhood member, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh.
Of the three, Moussa has up to now fared best in opinion polls – an
Al Ahram poll earlier this month placed him at the front of the pack,
with 31 percent – and the removal of Suleiman is expected to give his
campaign a further boost.
The 75-year-old Moussa served as secretary-general of the Arab League
for a decade until last year, and was Mubarak’s foreign minister for
a decade before that.
In that capacity, he played a key role in the Middle East peace
conference in Madrid in 1991, when published accounts showed him
taken a harder line on Israel than did then President Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak for instance agreed with President George H.W. Bush that the
issue of east Jerusalem in future peace negotiations should be
discussed later, but Moussa insisted that “East Jerusalem is part of
the occupied Arab territories and everything that applies to the West
Bank, Gaza and the Golan should also apply” to the city.
Moussa later led an effort to press for Israel to relinquish its
undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal, and in 2000 backed PLO chairman
Yasser Arafat’s refusal to compromise on the issue of Jerusalem
during the Camp David summit hosted by President Clinton.
(In an unprecedented proposal, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak
offered Arafat the Gaza Strip, around 95 percent of the West Bank,
and parts of Jerusalem. The Temple Mount would remain under Israeli
sovereignty, but the Palestinians would keep “custodianship.” Arafat
refused, and the crucial talks collapsed.)
When the Palestinian intifada broke out weeks after the failed
summit, Moussa urged Arabs to support the uprising, calling for the
Arab states’ capabilities to be “mobilized.”
Moussa in 2001 became the inspiration for a song by a popular
Egyptian singer entitled “I hate Israel (but I love Amr Moussa).”
Some accounts attributed Mubarak’s decision to remove him from the
foreign minister’s post and shunt him over to the Arab League to the
president’s unhappiness with his popularity and growing profile.
(Other songs by Shaaban Abdel-Rahim include one on Osama bin Laden,
one opposing the Iraq war and one about the Mohammed cartoon
Minimizes the Iranian threat
As Arab League chief, Moussa spoke out against the U.S.-led war to
topple Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003. He was also critical of
Washington for refusing to recognize and work with Hamas after the
Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist group won parliamentary elections in
Moussa’s view on regional issues was commented on in an April 2009
U.S. diplomatic cable, later leaked by Wikileaks: “Moussa has
publicly and privately minimized Iran’s threat, claiming that the
Arab world should strengthen its economic and cultural ties with
Iran,” read the cable from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. “Moussa
believes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict poses the greatest
danger to the region, and has consistently pressed the U.S. to do
more to stop Israeli settlement activity and advance the political
process between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Despite his history with the ousted regime, Moussa describes himself
as a liberal. His candidacy does not appear to have raised the same
level of antagonism as have those of other regime-linked figures,
including the now-disqualified Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq, a former
air force commander who served briefly as Mubarak’s last prime
Even a law passed this month by the Islamist-dominated parliament
attempting to prevent anyone who had served in the regime from
running did not apply to Moussa, since it stipulated a 10 year cutoff
for barring such figures, and the former foreign minister left the
post 11 years ago.
Launching his election manifesto in a poor Cairo suburb Wednesday,
Moussa pledged to uproot corruption and to build an economy that
expands job opportunities and cuts poverty rates.
“There is no difference between Muslim or Christian, liberal,
conservative or leftist,” he declared. “Egypt is in danger and its
revolution is also in danger.”
On foreign affairs, he said as president he would work to ensure the
establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
During his campaign Moussa has occasionally criticized Israeli
policies, a popular move in a country whose three decade-old peace
agreement with Israel has never been widely embraced. (A Pew Research
Center poll last year found 45 percent support for Hamas among
Egyptian respondents, the second-highest rate – after Jordan – in the
seven Muslim countries surveyed.)
In late March Moussa posted on his Twitter account a message saying
that if Israel wished to be accepted in the region it must “give up
[its] policy of intransigence, threatening, settlements and
occupation and [allow] the establishment of the sovereign Palestinian
The candidate has been vague on the future of the Egypt-Israel peace
agreement, but has said that it is not sacrosanct.
Egypt’s presidential elections are scheduled to take place on 23 and
24 May, with a runoff in mid-June if no candidate wins a majority in
the first round. The military council has pledged to hand over power
to an elected president later in June. (copyright 1998-2012 Cybercast
News Service 04/19/12)
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