Israeli politician: Mubarak wants 'honourable' escape

By Jennifer Lipman, February 11, 2011
Israeli President Shimon Peres with Omar Suleiman

Israeli President Shimon Peres with Omar Suleiman

A former senior Israeli politician who served as an envoy to Egypt has said President Hosni Mubarak was just looking “for an honourable way out”.

Commenting after Mr Mubarak confounded international expectation by transferring some powers to his deputy but refusing to relinquish his post, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he had spoken to the president that evening.

Mr Ben-Eliezer, a Labour politician who served as defence minister under Ariel Sharon, said: “"He knew that this was it, that this was the end of the road."

"He was looking for only one thing, to leave in an honourable fashion.”

Mr Mubarak said in a speech last night: “I am adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the constitution and safeguard the interests of the people.”.

Protesters continued to call for him to go, but an Egyptian diplomat said that the leader of 30 years would remain “the de jure president”.

However he said that vice-president Omar Suleiman would be “the de facto president”.

Cables released this week by WikLieaks revealed Israel would be sympathetic to a government led by Mr Suleiman, a former intelligence chief.

Other documents also showed that Mr Suleiman had been one of the key Egyptian officials pushing Hamas to strike deal with Israel for the release captured soldier Gilas Shalit.

Last updated: 12:04pm, February 11 2011