Why Egyptian-Palestinian relations are -- once again -- on the skids
Cairo — Egypt and the Palestine Liberation Organization are back at square one. Nine months of intensive contacts aimed at removing differences over Egypt's adherence to the Camp David accords and its continued commitment to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel have produced no more than a renewed war of words.
A mixture of anger and despair marks Egypt's rejection of last month's Palestine National Council (PNC) resolutions, which called on Egypt to abandon the Camp David agreements.
Egyptian exasperation with Palestinian inability or unwillingness to grasp what Egypt views as possibly the last opportunity to regain Palestinian national rights reached new heights last weekend in an unprecedented outburst by President Hosni Mubarak.
Speaking to parliament members of his National Democratic Party, Mr. Mubarak warned the PLO not to interfere in Egypt's internal affairs. The President also threatened the estimated 40,000 Palestinians living in Egypt with ''firm action.''
''I reject any interference in our internal affairs,'' Mr. Mubarak said. ''I may ring the warning bell for the first and the second time, but I will not ring it for a third time,'' he added. ''I am not prepared to accept a state within the state.''
Mr. Mubarak's speech marked a departure from his previous restraint from publicly criticizing the Palestinians or other fellow Arabs. It also made it increasingly unlikely that Mr. Mubarak will meet with PLO leader Yasser Arafat during the nonaligned summit in New Delhi.
The Mubarak speech followed a spate of anti-PLO articles in Cairo's semiofficial press and a number of official statements criticizing the PNC resolutions.
Egypt is particularly upset with the PNC decision to cooperate closely with the ''Egyptian nationalist movement'' which is opposed to Egypt's 1979 peace accord with Israel.
Adding insult to injury, the head of the PLO's political department, Farouk Khaddoumi, was quoted last week as calling on the Egyptian armed forces and the Egyptian opposition to ''correct the mistake of Camp David'' - a ''mistake'' Mr. Khaddoumi claimed the Egyptian President had failed to set right.
''The Egyptian national movement,'' Mr. Mubarak said, ''comprises 45 million Egyptian citizens of the majority and the opposition in whose name Egypt's President speaks - including the 100 citizens who were invited to attend the Algeria conference.'' This was a reference to the 100 members of the Egyptian opposition who attended the PNC meeting.
In a clear reference to the PLO, Mr. Mubarak said, ''We are not going to punish the Palestinian people for the crimes and errors of individuals.''
President Mubarak stated that Egypt is not divorcing itself from the Palestinian struggle. He argued that time is running out because President Ronald Reagan will soon be preoccupied with the 1984 US presidential elections.
Moreover, the Egyptian President said Israeli settlement policy means that ''by the end of 1984 there will be no room for any Arab (in the Israeli-occupied territories), and any Palestinian citizen who remains in Gaza and the West Bank will be no more than a guest.''
Mr. Mubarak urged the Palestinians to allow for negotiations with Israel as a means of stopping Israel's creeping annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.