Israel must turn over land, Mordechai tells Mubarak

JERUSALEM — The implementation of the second withdrawal can no longer be delayed, Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said Tuesday after meeting President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. The two discussed advancing the negotiations with the Palestinians.

"The most important thing I said is that the time has come to make decisions," Mordechai told reporters before flying home. "And we have to make them on the basis of the information we have, to advance the peace process with the minimum of damage."

Mubarak, at a brief joint press conference, said, "Only those who fought in the wars know the meaning of peace."

Mordechai described the meeting as "very warm and friendly."

"Even if we didn't see eye to eye, the very fact that we met was very important," Mordechai said.

He said he explained to Mubarak that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "making a great effort in very difficult conditions to advance the peace process."

Last January, Mordechai threatened to resign if there was no decision for a second withdrawal in the West Bank within three months.

Aides close to Labor Party leader Ehud Barak said that Mordechai's trip was fruitless, since he is not able to have an impact within Netanyahu's government.

"Although we think Mordechai is a positive force inside the government, we think he is a coward," said an aide in Barak's inner circle. "He said he would leave if there was no second withdrawal, but he is not showing any signs of leaving."