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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Egypt's latest revolution: Good for Israel?

Globes reports that Israel fears that the United States may suspend aid to Egypt in light of what is essentially a coup even if it's not being called that.
The sources familiar with the complicated three-way US-Egyptian-Israeli relationship said that keeping the Israel-Egypt peace treaty was one of the pillars of the Morsi government. The US Congress, which controls the purse strings, was suspicious, and even hostile, to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government. Its agreement, albeit with gritted teeth, to keep the peace treaty with Israel, was one of the main reasons why the pro-Israeli Congress agreed to continue aid to Egypt after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Israel hopes that the Obama administration will understand the importance of aid to Egypt for maintaining stability in the Middle East, said the sources. In a statement yesterday, US President Barack Obama said that he had ordered a review of aid to Egypt in view of the developments in Cairo.
Morsi's ouster puts Obama in a bind: should the US, which sees itself as the world's leading democracy, support democracy as an institution and process, or a democratically elected leader who abused the process to seize dictatorial power and trample his political opponents? Should the democratic process trump everything else, including its self-destruction?
This dilemma forces the White House to ask the following question: does Morsi's ouster reflect the will of the people, and is therefore a democratic act, which excuses his ouster by the military, which was carrying out the people's will? Morsi won 52% of the vote in legitimate elections a year ago. Is it conceivable that Obama's opponents would march on Washington and demand that the US Army oust him because they do not like his governmental decisions?
But the Times of Israel says that while Israel is maintaining official silence on the change in government, it is actually quite pleased that Morsy is gone
Privately, though, Israeli officials indicated Thursday that, viewed from an Israeli perspective, Egypt’s internal divides and economic challenges render it less likely to constitute a conventional military threat to Israel in the short or medium term. Jerusalem sees “a reduced likelihood of war with Egypt,” a Channel 2 report stated on Thursday afternoon.
“The Israel partnership with Egypt in the past year or so “was not with Morsi but with [Abdel-Fattah] el-Sissi” — the military chief who oversaw the president’s ouster, the TV report noted, so relations “may even improve.”
Indeed, The Times of Israel has been told that senior Israeli defense officials consider relations with el-Sissi’s military establishment to have been close and robust, with ongoing cooperation between the two military hierarchies, including in regard to confronting terrorist threats in the Sinai.The hope and expectation is that these ties will be maintained.
Netanyahu had been concerned by the prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various partners rising to ever-greater power in the Middle East. Now, after an 80-year battle for control in Egypt, “it has failed after jut one year,” the Channel 2 report noted.
Still, Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya’ari warned Thursday that Egypt might now deteriorate into a failed state, with no effective central government. That could present Israel with escalated terror threats from an anarchic Sinai, Ya’ari said. (The former Labor defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a long-time friend of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, had warned on Tuesday that Egypt was headed for civil war.)
Israel also regards the fall of Morsi as a blow to Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hebrew media reports underlined Thursday. The Egyptian authorities have warned Hamas not to seek to intervene in the Egyptian crisis, bolstered their military presence on the Gaza border, and arrested several Hamas members in Egypt.
For now, I don't see the US cutting off aid to Egypt. Except for Obama himself, no one in the US was happy with Morsy, and except for Obama himself, no one is going to elevate democracy as a value above all others regardless of its outcome. Hitler was democratically elected too, and that doesn't mean that democracy worked in that case. And Israel is definitely better off without the Muslim Brotherhood in power.

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