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This article appeared today in the New York Times August 1, 2000


The Egypt Game

Memo From: President Clinton To: President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 
Dear Hosni: I'm writing you this letter by hand on White House 
stationery because it is a personal note from a friend. Hosni, I have to tell 
you how disappointed I and all my foreign policy aides were with your 
behavior during the Camp David summit. I am going to be frank with you, you're 
skating on thin ice here. The number of people on my foreign policy team, or in 
Congress, who have a good word to say about you or Egypt today could 
be counted on one hand -- maybe on no hands. More and more people are 
asking me: What exactly are we getting out of our relationship with Egypt -- not 
to mention $30 billion in aid to Egypt since 1978? 

Let's review what's happened here. Before the summit I called you and 
asked for your support and you said you would try to be helpful. Then, in 
the middle of Camp David, while I was at the G-8 summit in Okinawa, I 
called you, King Abdullah of Jordan, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and 
President Ben Ali of Tunisia, and I asked for your help. I said the summit was 
totally stuck and the big problem was Jerusalem. I told you that I didn't 
expect you to force Arafat to compromise on Jerusalem. I know how important that 
is for the Muslim world. I needed your help to persuade Arafat to defer the 
Jerusalem issue -- which we obviously weren't going to solve -- and 
to try instead to reach agreement on all the other issues, which was 

King Abdullah of Jordan tried to help. You, by contrast, flew to 
Saudi Arabia and joined with the Saudis in urging the Palestinians not to make any 
compromises on Jerusalem. Well, thanks a lot. I wasn't asking you to 
twist Arafat's arm on Jerusalem; I was asking you to cover his back, while 
he deferred this issue. But instead of making that decision easier for 
Arafat, you made it harder. 

But that's not the only reason we're losing patience with you. Where 
do I start? You just arrested Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an American University 
of Cairo democracy specialist who has a U.S. passport and whose crime seems to 
be that he was working for democratic elections in Egypt. I say "seems" since 
you've been holding him without charges while your press smears his name. 
(Your press seems to be free only to spew hate at Israel or spin conspiracy 
theories about the U.S.) In 19 years as president of Egypt you've 
never visited Israel, save for Yitzhak Rabin's funeral. And you were just 
re-elected in a one-man election by 94 percent of the vote. Not as 
good as Hafez al-Assad used to get, but close. 

I have started to realize, Hosni, that Israel is to Egypt what oil is 
to Saudi Arabia -- a hugely distorting factor. Ever since Camp David, we 
in the U.S. have judged Egypt on only one yardstick -- how nice you were to 
Israel. And as long as you were not totally hostile, we made excuses for you 
and turned a blind eye to your regime's corruption and lack of democracy. 
In doing that, we've done you no favors. 

Several times you've said to me that Ehud Barak may be afraid for his 
life, and that is why he hasn't been more forthcoming. The fact is, he 
showed remarkable courage at Camp David, and it may cost him his job. You 
should only be so courageous. You're always telling us that the Egyptian 
street won't let you do this or that, or that if anything happens to you we 
will have to deal with the Islamic fundamentalists. Well, have you ever 
tried to lead your street? And if you are so intimidated by the 
fundamentalists that they shape all your actions, what good are you? Tell me something 
Hosni, when was the last time you did something really hard for us or for the 
peace process? When was the last time you risked anything? 

Hosni, Egypt is a great country, with a great people. You led the way 
with peace with Israel. You were a big help in the gulf war. It's because 
we respect the role you and Egypt could play that we are so disappointed 
when you don't. Too often, you act as though we owe you something because 
you made peace with Israel. Well, guess what? As they say in Arkansas, we 
don't owe you diddly. The cold war is over. We don't need to buy you away from 
the Soviets anymore. 

The fact is you owe us, and your own people, some real leadership on 
regional peace and domestic democracy. You've been sitting around too long 
living off your past and Sadat's legacy. It's time to get moving again, Hosni. 
One sphinx in Egypt is enough. 

Best regards, Bill
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