As the Egyptians mount their challenge to the regime of Hosni Mubarak the man we keep thinking of is Ariel Sharon. He was the guest at the first editorial dinner of The New York Sun, held jointly with the editors of the Wall Street Journal. The date was November 2000, shortly before Mr. Sharon, in an election triumph at the start of the following year, acceded to the prime minister’s office at Jerusalem. At one point, one of the editors asked the general which country in the Middle East, or anywhere else, he considered the most hostile to the Jewish state. Suddenly Mr. Sharon fell silent and so did the rest of the table. We remember thinking to ourselves: Iraq? . . . Iran? . . . Syria? . . . the Sudan? But when the general finally spoke the country he named was Egypt.
Some murmurs of surprise were heard. In theory, after all, Egypt and Israel had been at peace since Camp David. But the man who was about to become prime minister of Israel said that not only was Egypt the most hostile but it was also the most dangerous. It was the most populous Middle East country; it was influential in the Arab world. Egypt had something like 12 divisions in its Army alone, one of the 10 largest air forces in the world, and an millions of males of military age. In recent years, it had been armed and trained by America. That worried him. He didn’t belittle the fact t… >>>