Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's continuing patronage of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat has prompted a strong protest by the Israeli government to Cairo that such backing could delay progress toward Jordanian-Israeli peace negotiations, Israeli officials said here today.
Prime Minister Shimon Peres complained to Egypt that Mubarak's support of Arafat's limited renunciation of anti-Israeli violence by the Palestine Liberation Organization will not advance the peace process, government sources said. Peres' protest came in an oral message to Mubarak given yesterday to the Egyptian charge d'affaires in Tel Aviv, Mohammed Bassiouni.
Foreign Ministry officials said Israel is continuing through diplomatic channels to protest Mubarak's support of Arafat on the basis that it violates the 1979 Camp David Egyptian-Israeli peace accord's prohibition against either side making inflammatory statements that could jeopardize the accord.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, in a television interview, said, "According to the treaty, Egypt is supposed to prevent all terrorist activity against Israel from its territory or from anywhere else, at its initiative and with its knowledge. Any help to the PLO, any aid, any support for terrorist activity, even if it's verbal support, is tantamount to a violation of the peace treaty. I am very sorry about this, and we are protesting it."
He was referring to Mubarak's support of Arafat when the Egyptian president stood beside the PLO chairman on Thursday in Cairo as Arafat read a declaration saying the PLO denounced terrorism against civilians anywhere, but reserved the right of Palestinians to continue armed operations in the "occupied land."
While Egyptian officials said they interpreted "occupied land" to mean the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli officials say they regard the statement as including Israel itself.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said today, "We are in touch with Egypt about this. We never made a secret of our displeasure over the new love affair between Egypt and the PLO."
Israeli officials said that Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein appear increasingly out of step in their diplomatic maneuvers toward reaching comprehensive Middle East peace negotiations in an international forum and that the lack of coordination could delay the start of talks.
Meanwhile, Egypt was reported to have agreed in principle to resuming negotiations with Israel over the disputed strip of beachfront on the border at Taba, in the Sinai Peninsula.
Israeli government officials said Bassiouni spoke of renewing the Taba talks when he met with Peres yesterday, but no date has been set.
Egypt broke off talks after the Oct. 1 Israeli air raid on PLO headquarters in Tunisia.