Egypt, for several centuries, has been performing an important function of cultural and political synthesis between Islam and Christianity, the Arab world and Europe, Africa and Asia, and the civilization of the desert and that of the Mediterranean. This reality, together with the perennial character of the citizens of the oldest state in the area, acquired through the ages, constitutes an important factor that conditions the attitudes and behavior of Egypt toward the rest of the world.
However, the foreign policy of a country is the sum of various geopolitical, historical and economic components. From Gamal Abdel Nasser to Anwar el-Sadat, from Anwar el-Sadat to Hosni Mubarak, these same components have influenced and shaped the foreign policy of Egypt. Therefore, it is in the nature of things that this policy should have a character of continuity through the various periods, and, consequently, after the tragic death of President Sadat, that this continuity should prevail.
Broadly speaking, Egyptian foreign policy in the last three decades has been directed toward two main challenges: how to contain Israeli ambitions and how to solve the Palestinian problem, the core of the Middle East crisis. This task, difficult in itself and rendered more complex by virtue of the multifaceted nature of the conflict, has been further complicated by the differences among Arabs, and the inability of some to adopt a rational attitude or to discard shortsighted policies toward the problem.
Thus, Egypt's efforts to resolve the contradictions between Palestinian national rights and Israeli national aims had to take place in the framework of an equation that would strike a balance between Egypt's conviction that Arab initiative is an important factor in any peace process and the necessity for her to exercise her traditional leadership in order to break the deadlock that has existed for well over 30 years, a deadlock that was undoubtedly detrimental to the interests of Egypt and all the other Arab states as well as to those of the Palestinian people.
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