Egypt further shifts blame to Israel

Friday, December 28, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday harshly criticized Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in an interview with Israel's largest daily newspaper after the latter accused Egypt of doing too little to curb the flow of terrorist arms into Gaza.

In a statement picked up by the international press last week, Livni said Egypt was severely hindering Israel's peace process with the Palestinians by failing to prevent arms smuggling along its short border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Speaking to Yediot Ahronot, Mubarak lashed out at Livni, accusing her of passing judgement from the comfort of her office without knowledge of the situation on the ground. Livni, however, based her assertion on years of Israeli army intelligence showing a huge influx of terrorist arms into Gaza since Israel withdrew from the territory in late 2005.

Army officials this week said they even have video surveillance footage of Egyptian border guards assisting Hamas terrorists to reenter Gaza.

Ignoring that evidence, Mubarak angrily stated that Livni had "crossed the line" by publicly criticizing Egypt's performance along the Gaza border instead of privately conveying a message of disapproval to Cairo.

Mubarak then went on to suggest any private Israeli complaints would have been ignored, insisting that if Israel disapproves of the "way we handle arms smuggling, you're welcome to do the job yourselves."

Following the removal of Israeli civilians and soldiers from Gaza in August 2005, Egypt joined the United States in putting heavy pressure on Israel to also fully relinquish control of the Gaza-Egypt border, a frontier that Israeli forces had for years successfully prevented from becoming a transit point for terrorist arms.

Earlier in the week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Gheit also attacked the US pro-Israel lobby, claiming that Livni's remarks were part of an overall scheme by that movement to harm Egypt by convincing Congress to cut military aid to the Arab nation. A growing number of congressmen are calling for US military aid to Egypt to be tied to its performance in the war on terror, democratic reforms and improved human rights.

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