Ex-regime strongman says he fears ‘price Egypt will have to pay if Israel decides to reoccupy Sinai.’ Calls on political rivals to ‘exercise caution, keep peace in region’ in light of close relations between Egypt and Hamas
In an interview with Egyptian daily al-Youm al-Saba’a, Suleiman analyzed relations between the two neighboring countries in the wake of the Arab Spring and the ongoing terrorist activity originating from the Sinai Peninsula. “I’m fearful of the price Egypt will have to pay if Israel decides to reoccupy Sinai,” he said.
He called on the Muslim Brotherhood party, which is considered his political rivals, “to exercise caution in an effort to keep peace in the region.”
“I fear that Israel thinks Egypt has become one of its enemies,” he said referring to the close relations between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and the current situation in Sinai.
“Israel regards the Sinai Peninsula as an unsecure area, and is lead by the notion that Egyptian territory can be used for rocket launching. Therefore, Israel may consider returning to secure borders,” he added.
Suleiman with PM Netanyahu (Photo: GPO)
Asked whether he plans to reoccupy Sinai, Suleiman replied: “It’s possible that Israel will confront us and use its national security as an excuse to do so. Israelis are experts at presenting such excuses to the world.”
He further said that he is fearful of misleading signals that could lead to unwanted confrontations. “If the Israelis reenter Sinai, they won’t be quick to leave it again. Egypt could pay a heavy price if such an event occurred,” he said.
According to Suleiman, “Egypt should continue tightening its relationship with Hamas but not at the expense of the country’s national interests, regional security and peace that will all enable Egypt to further develop internally.”
Suleiman, appointed deputy president by Mubarak in his last days in power, entered the presidential race at the last moment, triggering both concern and heavy criticism from reformists who see him as a symbol of Mubarak’s rule and a danger to democracy.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday to protest against Suleiman’s run for the presidency. Muslim Brotherhood supporters waved banners depicting the presidential candidate as an agent of Israel.
Meanwhile, the body overseeing Egypt’s presidential election recently disqualified10 candidates from the race, including Suleiman.
According to election rules, disqualified candidates have 48 hours to appeal the decision. The final list of candidates will be announced on April 26.
Suleiman told Egyptian media sources that the commission did not fully disqualify him but had told him that he had not presented the proper number of endorsements. Each candidate needed at least 30,000 endorsements, including at least 1,000 from each of the country’s 15 provinces, to join the race.
In response to his “temporary” disqualification, Suleiman pledged to press ahead with his campaign out of respect to his supporters.
By Roi Kais