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Monday, August 19, 2013

Israel pushing United States to back Egyptian army?

In an earlier post, I reported that 'out friends the Saudis' were pushing the United States to continue to support the Egyptian army and that Israel was trying to stay out of the picture. Now, the New York Times reports that Israel is getting into the picture, and may begin openly pressing the United States to support the Egyptian army.
With the European Union planning an urgent review of its relations with Egypt in a meeting Monday, the message, in part, is that concerns about democracy and human rights should take a back seat to stability and security because of Egypt’s size and strategic importance.
“We’re trying to talk to key actors, key countries, and share our view that you may not like what you see, but what’s the alternative?” the official explained. “If you insist on big principles, then you will miss the essential — the essential being putting Egypt back on track at whatever cost. First, save what you can, and then deal with democracy and freedom and so on.
“At this point,” the official added, “it’s army or anarchy.”
Israeli leaders have made no public statements and have refused interviews since Wednesday’s brutal clearing of two Muslim Brotherhood protest encampments. But even as the death toll climbed in ensuing gunfights in mosques and on streets, officials spoke frequently to members of Congress, officials at the Pentagon and State Department, and European diplomats.
While Israel's concerns are obvious, not everyone in Israel agrees with the idea of openly supporting the Egyptian army.
“This is a very big mistake to interfere in what happens in Egypt,” said Mordechai Kedar, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and director of its new Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam.
Dr. Kedar invoked an old joke about a lifeguard kicking a boy out of a pool for urinating — from the diving board. “You can do things, but do them under the water,” he said. “Israel, by supporting explicitly the army, exposes itself to retaliation. Israel should have done things behind the scenes, under the surface, without being associated with any side of the Egyptian problem.”
But Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, praised Mr. Netanyahu’s government for “acting very discreetly,” and Yitzhak Levanon, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt until 2011, said the lobbying had not been aggressive.
“We are talking to a lot of friends,” said Mr. Levanon, who teaches a course on Egypt at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. “Pushing? I don’t think that this is the word. We are expressing what we believe is best for the region.”
Mr. Shaked said that unlike the Obama administration and the European Union, Israel did “not have any illusions about the possibility of a democracy in Egypt.”
“I understand Washington and Europe with their criticism, but there is no alternative to letting the army in Egypt try by force,” he said. “We have to choose here not between the good guys and the bad guys — we don’t have good guys. It is a situation where you have to choose who is less harmful.”
Read the whole thing.

That Israel would support the Egyptian army in this case seems obvious. I'm not sure it needed to be said.

Haaretz's Barak Ravid tweets that the source for both Rudoren's story and for another one by Herb Keinon in Monday's JPost is Prime Minister Netanyahu's close adviser and future ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. Maybe Ravid is jealous that Dermer didn't call him, but I disagree with Ravid's assertion. Given past Obama administration efforts to expose things Israel does quietly (see Syria), I suspect the source is someone in Washington.

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At 3:05 PM, Blogger YMedad said...

You mean someone American in Washington, yes?


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