Unlikely Partners: How Egypt Benefits from Ties With Israel: Fatma Khaled, The Globe Post, Mar. 20, 2019
On June 17, Egyptian state television announced that former president and top Muslim Brotherhood figure Mohamed Morsi had died in court, where he was facing charges of spying for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Perhaps no other president in modern Egyptian history was hated by the citizenry as much as Morsi was during his brief tenure in 2012-2013, in large part due to his undemocratic and confrontational measures. Most damningly, he drafted a constitution that reflected Islamist views without taking other Egyptian political forces into consideration, issued a declaration to immunize his actions from any legal challenge, and sought allegiance with Iran. Given the ill will and political upheaval generated by such actions, his sudden passing could have a number of significant implications.
According to the prosecutor general’s report on the hearing, Morsi asked the judge if he could speak, then addressed the court for five minutes; after the session was adjourned, he fainted and was transported to the hospital. He died before arrival, apparently from sudden heart failure. After the funeral prayer was said in Tora Prison hospital, he was buried quietly in eastern Cairo, with only his family and lawyers present; the ceremony was held at dawn to avoid public participation.
The court case had not been covered heavily by the press because it was not yet in its final stages. A similar media atmosphere followed Morsi’s death—state-owned newspapers made only brief mention of the incident without going into further details, and flagship daily al-Ahram published the word of his passing in the crime section, next to stories about drug dealers and thieves.
HOW WAS THE NEWS RECEIVED?
To counter any allegations that the government was responsible for killing Morsi, pro-government media emphasized that his death happened in court in front of his lawyers and various Muslim Brotherhood families. Television anchors blamed his poor health on his stubborn unwillingness to apply for permission to be treated outside the prison hospital—a decision attributed to the fact that he did not want to legitimize President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s government by accepting help from its institutions. Various outlets also claimed that Israel, Qatar, Turkey, and certain other regional states would be upset about losing Morsi because he was their spy in Egypt. Overall, media commentators agreed that while current events could raise potential security threats down the road, Egypt is still safe enough to host the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament, which kicks off this week.
The government itself has not released any formal response to the matter. Yet former foreign minister Amr Mousa stated that Morsi failed to serve as a leader for all Egyptians during his time as president and that history will judge his rule negatively—perhaps the closest Cairo will get to an official statement on his death.
For their part, Muslim Brotherhood media blamed the death on the medical negligence Morsi experienced during his jail stay. Some even accused the government of killing him, invoking the host of conspiracy theories and disputes surrounding the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. According to these arguments, the government purposefully timed his death for this week because it believed Egyptians would be distracted by the start of the Africa Cup. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The last ten years have seen forms of political disruption within Egypt that were virtually unimaginable a decade ago—from the 2011 protest uprisings; the 2012 election of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi to the Egyptian presidency; the 2013 coup d’état which unseated Morsi; and the 2014 formal assumption of power by current Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has witnessed a period of staggering political change. Few analysts would disagree with the statement that demographic circumstances and technological developments played a crucial role in sparking and sustaining the popular movement that set this chain of events into motion.
Yet for all of the political change that has taken place, the last ten years have also witnessed important forms of continuity. From an institutional perspective, Egypt remains an autocracy with a political regime undergirded by a powerful, economically-influential military. And from a demographic perspective, many of the same challenges that Egypt faced a decade ago—like a large youth population struggling with relatively high rates of unemployment—continue to be relevant concerns today. Given these forms of change and stasis, where is Egypt heading? While it is impossible to know with any degree of certainty, I will identify some relevant developments that are likely to impact Egypt in the future. In this paper, I discuss trends in autocratic stabilization, the demographic outlook, the challenge of training and finding employment for the country’s large youth population, population-level health challenges—like obesity-related diseases and Hepatitis C prevalence—as well as how climate change and insecurity of water resources are complicating all of these concerns.
Stabilizing Autocracy in Egypt.
Building on Samuel Huntington’s concept of a “veto” coup, scholars have argued the overthrow of Egypt’s first (and only) democratically-elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in June of 2013 constituted a “popular-participatory veto coup.” Concerned about Morsi’s attempts to usurp political power and damage the independence of the judiciary, liberal activists called for popular demonstrations against the president. Ordinary Egyptians, emboldened by the efficacy that they felt in the wake of the 2011 protest uprisings, went back to the streets to express their disapproval of the perceived power grab by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In the years since Morsi’s overthrow, Egypt has witnessed increasingly autocratic tendencies under the leadership of President al-Sisi. Al-Sisi has given Egypt’s interior ministry free hand in perpetrating widespread abuses, including arbitrary arrests and torture against perceived dissidents, in a bid to create political stability. The Egyptian police have forcibly disappeared citizens leaving no legal trace of their whereabouts, using tactics more brutal and repressive than those witnessed under Mubarak. Alleged members and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood have been particularly targeted, leading Brotherhood activists to be jailed and the group’s social service activity significantly reduced.
Supporters of al-Sisi would say that Egypt requires a “strong hand” in order for the state to consolidate political control, impose stability and improve the country’s economic growth. Defenders of such an approach argue that repression is the only way to avoid losing political control and that al-Sisi has been highly successful at stabilizing the country. Egyptians were particularly troubled by high levels of violent crime and social instability that took place in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 protest uprisings. Public insecurity led to a palpable increase in public anxiety as Egyptians became increasingly vulnerable to carjackings, robbery, and violent crimes. And although al-Sisi has brought forms of public stability to the country, he does not garner high levels of loyalty among Egyptians, many of whom disapprove of his repressive tactics. From a rhetorical perspective, al-Sisi engages in continual fearmongering, threatening that the chaos in regional neighbors like Libya, Syria, and Yemen could come to Egypt. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Egypt and Iran Vie for Influence in Gaza
BESA, May 7, 2019
At the start of April, Hebrew media reports quoted unnamed Israeli security officials as saying that the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror faction, which possesses a rocket arsenal even larger than that of Hamas, was planning a major attack on Israeli targets.
The disclosure of this information appeared to achieve its goal of discouraging the perpetrators, and no attack transpired. But the fact that PIJ was reportedly planning an incident that could have upset Egyptian attempts to restore calm to the Gaza Strip could hint at a wider struggle taking place within Gaza between Egypt and Iran.
Gaza’s ruling regime, Hamas, has reportedly faced demands from Egypt in recent months to decide whether it “takes its orders from Tehran or continues to implement the understandings for calm” formulated by the head of Egyptian intelligence Abbas Kamel.
The clash of interests between these two regional powers seems clear. Egypt wishes to see Gaza calm, stable, and cut off from ISIS-affiliated terror networks in Sinai, which also threaten Egyptian security; while Iran sees Gaza as one more base from which it can exercise its radical influence and encourage the growth of a terrorist army that threatens not only Israel but the stability of the whole region.
Iran transfers $100 million a year to the military wings of Hamas and PIJ collectively, according to Israeli estimates.
Boaz Ganor, executive director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, recalled that with the signing of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Cairo had no interest in retaking Gaza.
Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat “understood the problematic nature of this territory, which is the most crowded in the world, and racked with poverty, fundamentalism, and a lack of a sovereign ruler,” said Ganor. As a result, Sadat did not demand a return to Egyptian rule over Gaza, even though Egypt had controlled the Strip prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.
“What Sadat understood, [current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah] El-Sisi also understands, although in a different manner,” Ganor said. “Sisi understands that the Strip contains many risks to Egypt within it. Hamas, which controls Gaza, is tied by the umbilical cord to its mother movement – the Muslim Brotherhood – who are Sisi’s loathed strategic enemies.”
Sisi has identified a process of Iranian infiltration into Gaza via its proxy, PIJ, “and is concerned by the growth of a forward Iranian post on the northern border of Egypt,” said Ganor.
Another source of concern for Sisi is the fact that ISIS in Sinai is linked to other Salafi-jihadist elements in Gaza. These security and political factors, as well as Egyptian concern over the prospect of a new armed conflict erupting between Israel and Hamas on Egypt’s border, have all led to “massive Egyptian intervention and a will to be active in what is taking place in the Strip,” said Ganor. Israel, for its part, is in favor of this intervention and has even requested it over the years.
Iran is trying to neutralize Egyptian influence in Gaza, Ganor noted, while looking to tighten its links with its Gazan proxies. Tehran is trying to transfer funds and weapons into Gaza. “It also seeks to instruct its proxies to disrupt every process that can lead to calm,” said Ganor. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, is an unlikely partner of Israel. But keeping on good terms with the Jewish republic since 1979 has been key for Egypt to secure crucial U.S. aid, preserve necessary security cooperation against terrorists and avoid incising Western criticism on its rights abuses.
The Egyptian leader, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is set to be re-elected next week, is utilizing Cairo’s good relationship with Israel to maintain warm ties with Washington and benefit from newly discovered oil riches of Eastern Mediterranean.
Egyptian policymakers have been working on maintaining peace with Tel Aviv since the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, where Cairo had learned that talks with Israel are easier conducted over negotiation tables than battlefields. During a Knesset speech in 1977, former President of Egypt Anwar Sadat said there was a “psychological barrier” between Egyptians and Israelis “that comprised 70 percent of the problem” of weak relations with Tel Aviv. Since his speech, and following the 1979 Camp David peace treaty between the two countries, Egypt has built upon its ability to use different foreign policy approaches.
Although the Egyptian society as a whole has concerns about Israel, the state remains objective in maintaining bilateral relations with the country (as it does with any other state), according to Dr. Saeed Elawindie, International Relations Expert at Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
Joel Beinin, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History and Professor of Middle East History at Stanford University, told The Globe Post that the current Egyptian regime has had good relations with Israel, especially on security matters. “Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, and Egypt have formed a [Sunni bloc] opposed to Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah. Israel has become increasingly an ally of that [bloc] although the Arab members of it are, to varying degrees, reluctant to acknowledge that,” he explained.
Egypt and Israel do share some views: the two countries have the same perception of Hamas, which was considered a resistance movement in the past but had later been recognized by both states as a terrorist organization.
Egypt and Israel have been sharing information about Hamas’ activities in a bid to protect the Sinai Peninsula crucial to Israel’s security.
According to a report published by the Atlantic Council, Egypt plays an important role in moderating unofficial discussions between Israeli and Hamas representatives. For example, Egypt’s mediation helped to secure exchange of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in 2011. Dr. Elawindie said Egypt does not see Israel as one of its top enemies anymore. “The relations are stagnant to this day due to flexible policies carried out by the new Egyptian regime of El Sisi who has changed perspectives on how to look at politics in the Middle East. Israel was the first classical enemy to Egypt, but today this has changed as it is no longer the primary enemy. Turkey is the primary enemy to Egypt nowadays,” Mr. Elawindie told The Globe Post.
Egypt’s participation in talks and negotiations on the Palestinian issue has served the country’s image domestically and throughout the Arab region, while also deepening its relations with Israel. Cairo is supporting a two-state solution, which President Sisi believes will bring an end to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. In a statement released by the Egyptian Presidency, he said: “Egypt would spare no effort to support this solution.”
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