|Israel's new prime minister wants to build a coalition.|
In Egypt, Netanyahu to focus on Iran
JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be looking to build a coalition against Iran and exchange ideas on advancing Middle East peace negotiations when he visits Egypt today on his first trip to the Arab world since he took office.
Netanyahu is hoping to find some common ground with his Arab neighbors ahead of his pivotal trip to Washington later this month.
Egypt will be looking for the Israeli leader to endorse the internationally backed idea of a Palestinian state, something he has not done so far.
Netanyahu's election has been ill received in the Arab world because of his hard-line positions against yielding land captured in Middle East wars and his refusal to support Palestinian independence. Netanyahu hopes to redefine the regional agenda by focusing on Iran as the key threat to Mideast stability.
Egypt, a regional heavyweight, and Jordan are the only Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel. Because they, too, fear Iran's rising influence in the region, Netanyahu hopes to use them as bridgeheads for his ideas among moderate Arab states.
Both Israel and Arab moderates, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, have expressed concern over President Obama's efforts to start a dialogue with Iran.
Netanyahu's decision to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before sitting down with Obama on May 18 demonstrates his belief that "now is the time to intensify the coordination and the cooperation between Israel and those Arab countries [that] believe in peace," an official in the prime minister's office said yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said his government hoped Netanyahu would lay out his plans for moving forward on the Palestinian issue and spell out his position on a two-state solution.