LONDON (Reuters) - Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak faced pressure to make concessions, including a swap for Palestinian rights, in exchange for Israel's withdrawal from Sinai, which it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, British secret documents revealed.
According to the documents, Mubarak strongly rejected American, Jewish and Israeli pressure to talk about each other during his talks with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, just 77 days before Israel's withdrawal on April 25, 1982.
The documents, obtained by BBC Arabic exclusively under Britain's Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Thatcher supported Mubarak's position and recognized his "concern to protect the interests of the wider Arab world and Palestinian rights."
Mubarak visited Britain for two days on his way back from a visit to the United States, focusing his talks on the stalled peace process in the Middle East.
According to the minutes of talks between Mubarak and Thatcher, the former Egyptian president told the British leader that "the leader of the Jewish community in America urged him to agree to the survival of some Israeli settlers in Yamit after the Israeli withdrawal," which was "rejected by" Mubarak.
In explaining his position, Mubarak expressed his strong belief that Egypt had shown enough courage to achieve peace while Israel had not taken the same position. "Mubarak argued that Egypt has taken a series of courageous steps to achieve peace, its courage is now exhausted, and the role is now on Israel to show some courage," according to the minutes.
The document shows that Thatcher seemed aware of the strong pressure on the Egyptian leadership by the Jewish lobby, which she described as "the strongest and most professional lobbies in the world." She gave an example of the position of this lobby in criticizing Israel's attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor on June 7, 1981.
In an address to the British House of Commons, Thatcher criticized the Israeli air strike on the day of its occurrence and expressed "dismay" at it. Thatcher's position came after US President Ronald Reagan criticized the strike.
The Jewish lobby contacted the British prime minister, as well as the minutes of the talks between Mubarak and Thatcher. "Then the Jewish lobby began its work and argued that Israeli action was a classic preventive military strike," he says.
She received a letter from the Jewish community in New York warning her to be careful because American opinion on the raid is changing," Thatcher told Mubarak. However, the document confirms that Thatcher did not change her position. "She reiterated her point of view that Israeli action was a mistake in principle."
"In some respects, she has tremendous sympathy with Israel," she said. "For 2,000 years, the Jews have kept their dream of creating a vibrant state, a unique people, but dealing with it is very difficult," she said.
The British prime minister went on to inform Mubarak of her support for his position on negotiations with Israel, and said clearly."We constantly argue that it is wrong to call for peace and self-determination within secure borders for yourself unless you recognize them for others," she said, "We must continue to say this."
The British Prime Minister's Special Secretary recorded the minutes of the talks, which lasted for one hour and a third of the hour, and stressed the commitment to distribute it to a very limited number of bodies, including the British Embassy in Cairo.
We know that President Mubarak wants to be clear that he is working for the interests of the wider Arab world.
Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Britain The embassy had sent to the British Foreign Office a detailed analytical report on Mubarak's internal and external policies prior to his visit to Britain.
The visit came amidst difficult negotiations between Egypt and Israel on the autonomy of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in accordance with the terms of the Camp David Agreement between Cairo and Tel Aviv, signed on 17 September 1978, after the visit of the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat historic Jerusalem.
The report tackled Egypt's position on the talks. He warned the British Foreign Office that "miles separate the positions of the two sides in the autonomy talks." As for his assessment of the Egyptian position, he stressed that "the Egyptians do not intend to sell the interests of the Palestinians either before or after April 25."
Egypt's strict stance came despite Mubarak's keenness at that time to realize the Israeli withdrawal as one of its important objectives.
"The final Israeli withdrawal from Sinai on April 25, which was supposed to be the culmination of Sadat's achievement, remains the first and most important goal of Mubarak's foreign policy," the report says.
In another telegram to the British Foreign Office's Near East and North Africa Department, the British embassy in Rome confirmed that Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali confirmed during his talks with Italian officials that "there can be no link between the target date for Palestinian self-rule and April 25."
Ali's visit to Rome followed a visit to Cairo by Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who later announced that all the remaining problems had been resolved before the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai.
"Egypt is not the owner of the disputed land. It belongs to the Palestinians, and if anyone could make concessions, they would do it ." (Hosni Mubarak )
But the Egyptian minister told the Italians, according to the British ambassador's cable, that Shamir had asked for adjustments on the Egyptian border in Sinai with Israel so that the Israelis could somehow stay on the peninsula.
The telegram pointed out that the Egyptian minister "firmly said that any Israeli request to amend the border, no matter how small, will not be acceptable to Egypt." Italians were told that "the borders were set in 1906 and confirmed at the time of the British mandate in Palestine."
The telegram added that Ali "firmly stressed that any Egyptian-Israeli understanding on Palestinian self-rule will not constitute any unfairness to the final status of the occupied territories"
This issue was raised in Thecher and Mubarak talks, which he told. "The Israelis, at an early stage, urged the need for an autonomy agreement for the Palestinians before April 25," he said.
Mubarak was quoted as saying that Egypt had replied that "when I originally asked that the withdrawal (from Sinai) be linked to self-rule, the Israelis refused, so why is this idea being sent back now?" Israel had not responded. He said his country "said it would agree to a reasonable and acceptable declaration of principles, but that could not be linked to completing the withdraw.
The minutes of the talks, which were attended by his foreign minister, Osama al-Baz, the political adviser to the president, and Hassan Abu-Saada, Egypt's ambassador to London, alluded to Britain's support for Egypt's position.
"The prime minister expressed her view that it is right to refuse to link because this could endanger the withdrawal itself," he said.
In another place of talks, there was a lengthy debate on the peace process after the Israeli withdrawal.
"When President Mubarak visited the United Kingdom last time, we were concerned about the steps that would follow the completion of the withdrawal," the British prime minister said, "and we are still concerned." We know that President Mubarak wants to be clear that he is working from For the interests of the wider Arab world. "
"We have noted with interest his frank speeches in Washington, which he has gone further, on some aspects of the peace process, than any previous Egyptian speaker," she said.
In the same context, Mubarak stressed that the full Israeli withdrawal from Sinai will not end the problem alone in the Middle East. Mubarak, during his visit to Washington, told the US government that there can be no comprehensive solution without solving the Palestinian problem, he said.
When Mubarak visited Britain, then US Secretary of State Alexander Haig was doing what he knew were shuttle trips to the Middle East in order to reach a declaration of principles on negotiations on the Palestinian issue. At the same time, Hague spoke of a declaration of principles issued by Egypt and Israel.
But Mubarak, during talks with Thatcher, rejected the idea. "Egypt is not the owner of the disputed land, it belongs to the Palestinians, and if anyone could make concessions, they would do it," he said. "If he had to sign any document (relating to autonomy negotiations), he should be able to defend it as reasonable and acceptable," Mubarak said. He warned that unless this happens, "the Palestinians and the Jordanians will never participate in any negotiations, and the Soviet Union will exploit this lack of evidence of betrayal of the Egyptians to the Palestinians."
Another telegram of the Near East and North Africa Department of the British Foreign Office confirmed that the Americans failed to get Mubarak's approval, during his meetings with various officials and Congress, of a declaration of principles that Egypt would not accept.
"In the United States, Mubarak was under pressure to accept an incomplete (partial) declaration as a first step," the telegram says.
Thatcher's view was that Egypt should not be put in a position that seemed to give up the Palestinians. "In these circumstances, Egypt will be accused of giving up the interests of the Palestinians," she said.
The documents reveal that the pressure to link the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai with Egypt's flexibility on Palestinian rights was not Jewish and Israeli but also American.
Mubarak said: "Shortly before King Hussein's visit to Washington, I sent a letter to President Reagan that if he were to persuade Egypt to agree to Palestinian autonomy that does not include Palestinian control of the land under discussion, It will put Egypt in the worst possible situation, which will mean abandoning Palestinian interests, and we doubt whether the Palestinians will approve such an autonomy agreement. "
Egypt's position in the autonomy talks insisted that this rule is applied to the people and the land together, while Israel insisted that the people be judged and the land remained in their hands.
In another confidential document, the British Foreign Office confirmed that Egypt's message to Washington was clear and unequivocal that there was no concession in the Egyptian position of rights on the Palestinian track in exchange for the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai.
The American proposal supported Israel's position that the concept of self-rule of the Palestinians, as stipulated in the Camp David Accord, applies to people rather than land, which Egypt completely rejected.
"The Egyptians believe that any agreed principles on autonomy must be reasonable and acceptable," the document said.
"After his first visit to Egypt, the Egyptians began a shuttle tour to impose an accord on self-rule before April 25. The Egyptians convinced Hegg that the gap (between Israelis and Palestinians) was enormous and that any agreement concluded under these circumstances would expose Egypt to criticism That they made concessions for the (restoration) Sinai.
" Mubarak stressed more than once during the talks that "if a declaration of principles can be drafted and negotiations launched, then the Palestinians should be involved in the elaboration of the details.