Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tried but failed to win freedom for Israel's three missing soldiers, whose capture by Hamas and Hizballah triggered Israel's attacks in the Gaza Strip and then Lebanon. A veteran mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Mubarak had advice for all the parties in written answers to questions from TIME's Cairo bureau chief, Scott MacLeod. (Longer excerpts appear in time.com.
TIME: What should be done?
MUBARAK: Military operations will not solve Israel's problems with Hizballah. An immediate cease-fire is the utmost priority. Cessation of hostilities would create the environment conducive to addressing such problems in a candid manner.
TIME: What's behind the crisis?
MUBARAK: The peace process has to be reinvigorated and brought to an early, successful and final conclusion. Only this will ensure security and stability for each and every country in the Middle East, including Israel. No progress was achieved with regard to the road map. The two-state vision declared by President Bush did not move an inch. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
TIME: What role is Syria playing?
MUBARAK: Syria is an important Arab country whose stability contributes to the stability of the whole region. Attempts to isolate Syria are counterproductive. Syrian aspirations to free the occupied Golan Heights must be accommodated and fulfilled.
TIME: How do you see Hizballah and Hamas?
MUBARAK: Both need to reassess their gains and losses. There are many lessons to learn from the current crises. I hope this gets through to their leaders for the sake of the Palestinian and Lebanese peoples. Hamas, all other Palestinian factions and [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as] Abu Mazen have to set aside their differences and speak in one voice. They have to prove that there exists a Palestinian partner able to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. As to Hizballah, they are part and parcel of the Lebanese people's fabric. However, nobody should be allowed to establish a state within the state.
TIME: How do you see Israel's response?
MUBARAK: Disproportionate, to say the least. Israel's response demonstrated a collective punishment against the Palestinians and the Lebanese. The bloodshed and the destruction caused by the Israelis went way too far. This disproportionate response triggered an increasing rage within the Arabs, Muslims and worldwide. Hostage situations have to be tackled with a great deal of wisdom and caution.
TIME: How did the U.S. and the international community respond to the crisis?
MUBARAK: A bit too little, too late. The situation could have been contained at its early stage. Instead, it has been allowed to aggravate. An urgent and serious démarche [diplomatic maneuver] by the international community is most needed.