JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Hosni Mubarak had harsh words for the United States and what he described as its misguided quest for democracy in the Middle East in a telephone call with an Israeli lawmaker a day before he quit as Egypt’s president.
The legislator, former cabinet minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, said on Israel TV Friday he came away from the 20-minute conversation Thursday with the feeling the 82-year-old leader realized “it was the end of the Mubarak era.”
“He had very tough things to say about the United States,” said Ben-Eliezer, a member of the center-left Labor Party who has held talks with Mubarak on numerous occasions while serving in various Israeli coalition governments.
“He gave me a lesson in democracy and said: ‘We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that’s the fate of the Middle East,’” Ben-Eliezer said.
“‘They may be talking about democracy but they don’t know what they’re talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam,’” he quoted Mubarak as saying.
U.S. support for pro-democracy elements in Iran has not led to regime change in the Islamic Republic, and Hamas, a group Washington considers to be a terrorist organization, won a 2006 Palestinian election promoted by the United States.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after a coalition government it formed with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas collapsed in a power struggle.
In Washington, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hailed Mubarak’s exit from power as a “pivotal moment” for the Middle East and insisted Egypt’s democratic transition must be irreversible.
Ben-Eliezer said Mubarak expanded in the telephone call on “what he expects will happen in the Middle East after his fall.”
“He contended the snowball (of civil unrest) won’t stop in Egypt and it wouldn’t skip any Arab country in the Middle East and in the Gulf.
“He said ‘I won’t be surprised if in the future you see more extremism and radical Islam and more disturbances — dramatic changes and upheavals,” Ben-Eliezer added.
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel and has backed U.S.-led efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of an Iran-style Islamist revolution in Egypt should Mubarak’s Muslim Brotherhood rivals eventually take over.
“(Mubarak) was looking for an honorable way out,” Ben-Eliezer said.
“He repeated the sentence, ‘I have been serving my country, Egypt, for 61 years. Do they want me to run away? I won’t run away. Do they want to throw me out? I won’t leave. If need be, I will be killed here.’”
Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Diana Abdallah