Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah, who were invited to Washington attend the launching of direct negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, went there out of concern for their regimes, and not because they cared so much about the Palestinians or the Middle East peace process. The two Arab leaders accepted the invitation mainly due to the growing problems each one is facing at home.

Mubarak's trip to Washington comes amid growing opposition in Egypt to the idea of his son, Gamal, succeed him as president. Posters carrying the pictures of Gamal and seeking support for his candidacy have appeared in many places in the country, drawing sharp protests from many Egyptians.

The 82-year-old Mubarak is understandably desperate to have his son succeed him, but knows that without the backing of the US and the approval of the mainstream media in the West, Gamal will never be permitted to step into his father's shoes.

Such backing from the US and other Western countries is even more important than winning the support of the Egyptians, whose opinion doesn't matter anyway.

After all, these are the same Egyptians who, over the past three decades, have been giving their beloved dictator more than 95% support in government-sponsored referendums where the president's only rival is the president himself.

To achieve his goal, the ailing Mubarak is prepared to defy his doctors' advice and fly to Washington for the launching of the direct talks. He went to Washington not to seek peace between Palestinians and Israelis, but to pave the way for his son's rise to power.

If Mubarak really cared about the Palestinians, he would be helping the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip, and not building a steel underground wall along the border.

If he really cared, he would be allowing patients, students and pilgrims to leave the Gaza Strip to seek medical aid, enroll in universities and visit Mecca: he would not, instead, be arresting Palestinians and torturing them in his prisons.

If Mubarak really cared, he would not be banning humanitarian aid convoys from entering the Gaza Strip through Egypt: he would be supplying the Gaza Strip with medicine, water and electricity.

If Mubarak really cared about the peace process, he would not be allowing his government-controlled media to continue vomiting anti-Semitism and anti-Israel propaganda: instead of delegitimizing Israel and demonizing Jews, he would be preparing his people for peace.

Similarly, King Abdullah did not travel to Washington because he really cares about the Palestinians and the peace process.

He, too, has been facing increased pressure at home, especially from Jordanians who are worried about the Palestinian majority in their kingdom: calls for revoking the Jordanian citizenship of millions of Palestinians and squeezing them out of the kingdom have become almost an acceptable phenomenon.

King Abdullah seems to be sharing the same fears that his father, the late King Hussein, had some 40 years ago -- namely that the Palestinians would try to create a state-within--a-state in the Hashemite Kingdom.

King Abdullah went to Washington because he wants to secure the continued backing of the West -- and Israel -- for his regime. King Abdullah is afraid of the Palestinians; he is even afraid of an independent Palestinian state that would sit on his border. The Jordanian monarch would rather see IDF soldiers patrolling the border with Israel than Palestinian border guards.

Both Mubarak and Abdullah went to Washington empty-handed. They have nothing to offer the Israelis and Palestinians other than nice words that Westerners like to hear.

Mubarak and Abdullah did not carry with them any plans to help the Palestinians living in their countries or as their neighbors in the West Bank and Gaza Strip: they are in Washington because they want to get rid of the Palestinians and not because they want to help them. They are attending the launching of the direct talks because they want to make sure that the Palestinian issue remains Israel's problem alone.

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