Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, June 28.
1) Cold peace, Israel's fault
Joel Greenberg reports lsraeli-Egyptian ties face new challenge with election of Islamist president in Egypt for the Washington Post. After going through the background, first Greenberg reports on the Egyptian view:
The Egyptian perspective was aired recently by Morsi in a television interview during the presidential campaign. Israel, he said, had not kept its commitment under the Camp David accords to reach a broader Middle East peace, particularly with the Palestinians. Afterwards he presents the Israeli view:
Reflecting the views of his movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as wider popular sentiment, Morsi accused the Israelis of acting in bad faith since they signed the peace agreements.
“Where is the mutual respect?” he said. “Where is what the agreement says about a just and comprehensive peace among all peoples of the region? Where’s the mutual non-belligerence? . . . Where are the good neighborly relations mentioned in the agreement?”
In Israel, the treaty raised hopes of developing trade and cultural links, tourism, and cooperation in business and agriculture. But ideological resistance among parts of the Egyptian elite to ties with Israel, along with the strains of the continuing conflict with the Palestinians, had a chilling effect on the relationship. The Egyptian view was presented emphatically and as "wide popular sentiment." Even the Israeli side is presented with the stipulation that the lack of progress in peace with the Palestinians (if you ignore Oslo, the withdrawals from most of the West Bank and Gaza) as a contributory reason for chilled relations with Egypt. Greenberg doesn't even suggest the likely explanation that the concern for the Palestinians was a pretext for preexisting Egyptian resistance to peace with Israel.
The sense in Israel was that Egypt was not interested in genuine normalization that would go beyond a state of non-belligerence. Egyptian tourists and businessmen did not come to Israel, the Egyptian press carried virulently anti-Israeli cartoons and articles, and trade ties were limited. The reservation emanated from the top; President Hosni Mubarak avoided travel to Israel, coming only once, for the funeral of the assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
“Since the early 1980s, Israeli leaders decided that peace with Egypt is too important to argue over every dot and comma, so in many cases they turned a blind eye to large and small Egyptian violations,” said Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt.
Two other things are worth mentioning.
One as Greenberg reports:
Still, remaining links with Israel could be weakened. A 2005 deal to supply Israel with natural gas, seen as a symbol of Mubarak’s ties with Israel, was canceled in April after criticism that it was tainted by corruption and that the gas was sold at below-market prices, costing Egypt millions of dollars in lost revenue. But was this criticism accurate? Not having a deal also cost Egypt millions. But Barry Rubin observed:
Oh, by the way, the Egyptians have now said they will not sell natural gas any more to Israel. The pipeline that had been providing 40-50 percent of Israel’s natural gas and has been attacked numerous times by Islamist attackers in Sinai will be closed permanently. The $460 million invested in the pipeline project, mostly by Israeli, is gone forever, plus Israel will have to find a substitute source until its own offshore wells come online . In other words, Egypt got a good deal from Israel, yet Greenberg only focused on the criticism that cast Israel as benefiting from the old regime.
(This article on the conviction of Sameh Fahmi again doesn't mention Israel's investment in the gas pipeline.)
Also, Greenberg quoted a statement of Mohammed Morsi that sounded perfectly reasonable. No doubt the statement was geared for Western consumption. But it doesn't take much to discover that Morsi hasn't always been so circumspect. Here's how he described Israel two years ago:
In a statement to "Ikhwanweb" Morsy maintained that it appears that the United States is pressuring the Palestinian Authority to engage in fabricated long hauled peace talks, indicating US bias towards the Israel Occupation Authorities at the expense of the Palestinians' wellbeing. Later on Morsi praised "resistance" to Israel, which is a code word for terrorism.
He continued "The Arabs disappointing response was clearly evident as they welcomed Israel 's criminal leaders into their countries with the conducting of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee at the Arab League's headquarters. The strong U.S. and Israeli pressure to resume direct talks raises many questions regarding the feasibility of conducting such negotiations amid the continuing Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, the progressive steps towards Judaizing East Jerusalem, the seizing of parts of Al-Aqsa Mosque, the imprisonment of Sheikh Raed Salah and the destruction of houses in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank.
Morsy called on the Palestinian Authority to view the inter-Palestinian reconciliation agenda as sincerely as discussions with the Israeli Occupation, stressing that it would have been more suitable if the PA and the Arab League had discussed ending the Palestinian division as opposed to discussing the illusional peace initiative.
Greenberg had a chance to give further background, but instead fell too easily into the blame Israel narrative.
2) Some more views on Egypt
In his analysis of the election of Morsi as president of Egypt, Worst case scenario in Egypt, Martin Kramer speculates:
If you think this is pie in the sky, then it isn’t difficult to imagine the “Plan B” of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is to find ways to raise the rent Egypt collects from the West and rich Arabs for its geopolitical position. Call it a shakedown, call it a bailout, it doesn’t matter. The message Egypt is sending is that it’s too big to fail, and that the world, and especially the United States, owes it. The deputy guide, Khayrat ash-Shater, put it directly: “We strongly advise the Americans and the Europeans to support Egypt during this critical period as compensation for the many years they supported a brutal dictatorship.” Egypt, which is one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, is thus owed compensation. Consider the similarity in sentiment between ash-Shater and Thomas Friedman, in End of Mideast Wholesale:
A key part of this narrative is that Mubarak sold peace with Israel on the cheap. In Egypt it is believed that the $1.3 billion that Egypt receives a year in military aid, and hundreds of millions more in economic aid, are just a portion of what Egypt’s adherence to peace is worth. To get more, the plan of the Muslim Brotherhood is to persuade Washington that it can’t take Egypt for granted. The strategy will be to stimulate crises that will be amenable to resolution by the transfer of resources. No one can predict what those crises will look like. It’s hard to imagine that some of them won’t involve Israel.
Let’s start with Israel. For the last 30 years, Israel enjoyed peace with Egypt wholesale — by having peace with just one man, Hosni Mubarak. That sale is over. Today, post-Mubarak, to sustain the peace treaty with Egypt in any kind of stable manner, Israel is going to have to pay retail. It is going to have to make peace with 85 million Egyptians. The days in which one phone call by Israel to Mubarak could shut down any crisis in relations are over. Both argue that peace with Egypt needs to be bought. But shouldn't peace be of value to Egypt on its own?
Eric Trager made an interesting observation the other day:
Thankfully, none of this anticipated violence came to fruition. But it should not go unnoticed that, in the first presidential election following Egypt’s pro-democratic election, it was the new ruling party—the Muslim Brotherhood—that was preparing for months to reject an electoral outcome against it. By contrast, members of the old, autocratic ruling party, who overwhelmingly endorsed Shafik, swallowed Morsi’s victory without incident. Egypt may have ousted a dictator, but its new rulers will only play by democratic rules so long as they enhance their own power. Fouad Ajami, though, argues that it's too early to judge the Muslim Brotherhood:
Many are eager to rebuke this Egyptian interlude. Those who had given the reign of Hosni Mubarak three decades of indulgence are unwilling to see in the last 18 months the birth pangs of a democratic possibility. They forget or ignore even recent history, how the Egyptian people had abandoned politics and all but given up on their country. A new hope has arisen in that weary country. Are Egyptians not entitled to a decent interval before we consign them, yet again, to a despotic fate?
And here's some surprisingly good sense from Thomas Friedman in The Fear Factor:
The U.S. has some leverage in terms of foreign aid, military aid and foreign investment — and we should use it by making clear that we respect the vote of the Egyptian people, and we want to continue to help Egypt thrive, but our support will be conditioned on certain principles. What principles? Our principles? Once you get past his tropes about the Arab Human Development Report and the deficits it reports, this isn't unreasonable. (One deficit I'd add is a deficit of tolerance for Jews and Israel, specifically.) Of course, given his record, I would assume that if Morsi doesn't abide by those principles, Friedman would be making excuses for ignoring Morsi's record and supporting him regardless.
No. The principles identified by the 2002 U.N. Arab Human Development Report, which was written by and for Arabs. It said that for the Arab world to thrive it needs to overcome its deficit of freedom, its deficit of knowledge and its deficit of women’s empowerment. And, I would add, its deficit of religious and political pluralism. We should help any country whose government is working on that agenda — including an Egypt led by a Muslim Brotherhood president — and we should withhold our support from any that is not.
The past few days we've had an internet outage at home. Verizon seems to have fixed the problem.
Labels: Egyptian elections, Egyptian gas pipeline, Egyptian Revolution, Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Middle East Media Sampler, Mohammed Morsy, Muslim Brotherhood, Soccer Dad, US foreign aid