Tag: 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty


Mosque Attack is a Testament to Egypt’s Impotence in Sinai: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2017— The terror attack Friday at a mosque in the small northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abd wasn’t especially sophisticated.

Why Does ISIS Kill Muslims?: Raymond Ibrahim, FrontPage Magazine, Nov. 27, 2017— On Friday, November 24, some 30 gunmen carrying the Islamic State flag bombed and stormed a Sufi mosque in Egypt's North Sinai, about 125 miles northeast of Cairo.

Egypt's Peace Interest: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Nov. 28, 2017— Forty years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel, and after a long hiatus due to the "Arab Spring" and ensuing "Islamic winter" that hit the country, Egypt has returned to playing a leading role in the region.

For How Long Will the Peace Treaty with Egypt be Robust?: Efraim Inbar, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2017— Israel is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.


On Topic Links


Islam and Freedom of Religion: Philip Carl Salzman, Frontier Centre, Oct. 25, 2017

In Egypt, Furious Retaliation but Failing Strategy in Sinai: Declan Walsh and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2017

Egypt-Israel Cooperation Likely to Increase after Sinai Massacre: United With Israel, Nov. 27, 2017

Remembering Anwar Sadat’s Legacy: Yehuda Yaakov, Boston Globe, Nov. 19, 2017







Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, Nov. 25, 2017


The terror attack Friday at a mosque in the small northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abd wasn’t especially sophisticated. Rather than advanced military skills, the gruesome scene was testimony only to the moral blindness and cruelty of the perpetrators. First, they set off two bombs inside the mosque, which was thronged with Friday worshipers. Then, when the survivors streamed toward the exits, terrorists waited outside in all-terrain vehicles, picking off those who emerged.


In that fashion, some 305 people were killed and 128 wounded. Based on assessments on social media, before the attack, Bir al-Abd was a town of some 1,500 souls, meaning that about one in three of its residents was a casualty. As of Saturday evening, there had been no claim of responsibility for the attack, but the immediate suspicion falls on Islamic State’s Sinai Province, the group formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Its leader, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Osama (his real name is Muhammad al-Isawi), took over after his predecessor, Abu Du’a al-Ansari, was assassinated in August 2016.


The pretext for Friday’s attack was likely the mosque’s affiliation with Islam’s mystical Sufi stream. It is known as the birthplace of Sheikh Eid al-Jariri, considered the founder of Sufism in the Sinai. The Islamic State, like al-Qaeda and other radical Sunni organizations before it, has denounced the Sufis. But for IS it isn’t merely about religious differences: In the past two years, the Sufis have worked in tight cooperation with Egyptian security forces in the peninsula in an effort to counter the Islamic State and curb recruitment among the local Beduin.


Recent months have also seen a clan war that has pitted several tribes (notably Tarabin) against the Islamic State. The spate of mutual killings, which has included beheadings (not only on the part of IS), may also be connected to Friday’s attack. Last May, tribesmen executed eight Sinai Province operatives in retribution for a car bomb the terror group detonated near a Tarabin encampment. Among the triggers for those incidents was Sinai Province’s effort to take control of smuggling along the border with the Gaza Strip and to stem the flow of cigarettes, which they forbid, into the Sinai. Those restrictions threatened the livelihood of the Tarabins, who responded with violence.


But beyond IS cruelty and inter-tribal strife, what this attack drives home – and not for the first time – is the extent of the difficulty facing the Egyptian army in its efforts to counter the Islamist insurgency in the Sinai. Indeed, the frequency of attacks in mainland Egypt has gone down of late, and even within the Sinai the military has been able to operate relatively unmolested. Yet, Egyptian intelligence has come up against obvious difficulties in its effort to gain a real foothold in the peninsula, including amassing sufficient human and technological assets to clamp down on terrorism there.


In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s attack, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi declared a new military onslaught against the perpetrators. Hours later, reports emerged of airstrikes against terror targets and dozens of dead among the insurgents. The question is what prevented Egypt from taking such action before the attack, and why previous efforts in the wake of earlier attacks did not yield significant gains.


Egypt has long refrained from embarking on an extensive operation, in the vein of the IDF’s Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank and Gaza in 2002. Perhaps the cost of such a campaign would be prohibitive, or maybe it’s that as long as terrorism is more-or-less confined to the northeastern Sinai, Cairo doesn’t care as much. Eventually, though, those same terrorists who decimated the small town of Bir al-Abd will target vacationers on the sunny shores of the Red Sea, and then in Cairo itself.





Raymond Ibrahim

FrontPage Magazine, Nov. 27, 2017


On Friday, November 24, some 30 gunmen carrying the Islamic State flag bombed and stormed a Sufi mosque in Egypt's North Sinai, about 125 miles northeast of Cairo. They managed to massacre at least 305 people, 27 of whom were children. "The scene was horrific," said Ibrahim Sheteewi, an eyewitness. "The bodies were scattered on the ground outside the mosque. I hope God punishes them for this."


Not only is this considered the deadliest terrorist attack in Egypt, but one of the strangest as well. As the NYT explains, "The scale and ruthlessness of the assault, in an area racked by an Islamist insurgency, sent shock waves across the nation — not just for the number of deaths but also for the choice of target. Attacks on mosques are rare in Egypt, where the Islamic State has targeted Coptic Christian churches and pilgrims but avoided Muslim places of worship." Indeed, whereas the bombing and burning of churches and the slaughter of Christians in Egypt at the hands of, not just ISIS, but Muslim mobs and murderers, is hardly an uncommon occurrence in Egypt, attacks on mosques in the name of jihad naturally are.


ISIS does not view its Muslim victims as true Muslims. One Muslim cleric from the region who requested anonymity best voiced the general view: "I can't believe they attacked a mosque." In the West, this selfsame shock of Muslim on Muslim terrorism is used to support the politically correct mantra that terror groups such as the Islamic State truly have nothing to do with Islam—otherwise they would not bomb mosques and kill fellow worshippers of Allah. Because the attack occurred late Friday—and, as of this writing, it is only Sunday, meaning still the weekend—capitalizing on this tragedy as a way to distance Islam from terrorism has not yet begun in the West; but, if precedent is any indicator, it soon will.


For example, last year during the closing days of Ramadan, a spate of terror attacks occurred in Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia—all Muslim nations; these were followed by a media outpouring of "told you Islam wasn't responsible for terrorism," or, to quote Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, "Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act. They [Islamic State] do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism." Speaking after the San Bernardino terror attack that left 14 dead, Barrack Obama agreed: "ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death… Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim." After the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, which left 130 people dead, the UK's Independent published an article titled, "Paris attacks: Isis responsible for more Muslim deaths than western victims." And the Daily Beast argued that, "Before the Paris horror, ISIS was killing Muslims on a daily basis. We Muslims despise these crazy people more than anyone else does…. But the number one victim of this barbaric terror group is Muslims. That's undisputed."


Along with distancing Islam from violence—real Muslims are not supposed to kill other Muslims in the name of jihad—this argument further clouds the issue of who is the true victim of Islamic terrorism: Why talk about the Muslim slaughter of non-Muslims—whether Western people, Israelis, or Christian minorities under Islam—when it is Muslims who are the primary victims most deserving of sympathy?


Killing 'fellow Muslims' doesn't make ISIS un-Islamic. The problem with this argument, however, is that the Islamic State does not view its victims as Muslims. Indeed, mainstream Sunni Islam—the world's dominant strand of Islam which 90 percent of the world's Muslims, including ISIS, adhere to—views all non-Sunnis as false Muslims; at best, they are heretics who need to submit to the "true Islam." This is largely how Sunnis view Shias and vice versa—hence their perennial war. While Western talking heads tend to lump them all together as "Muslims"—thus reaching the erroneous conclusion that ISIS is un-Islamic because it kills "fellow Muslims"—each group views the other as enemies.


A saying attributed to the Muslim prophet Muhammad even validates this: "This umma [nation] of mine will split into seventy-three sects; one will be in paradise and seventy-two will be in hell." When asked which sect was the true one, the prophet replied, "al–jama'a," that is, the group which most literally follows the example or "sunna" of Muhammad.


Overall, then, when Sunni jihadis slaughter Shias—or Sufis, Druze, and Baha'i—they do so under the exact same logic as when they slaughter Christian minorities, or European, American, and Israeli citizens: all are infidels who must either embrace the true faith, be subjugated, or die.


Concerning Sufis in particular, last January an ISIS commander situated in Sinai "outlined the group's hatred for Sufis and their practices, including the veneration of tombs, the sacrificial slaughter of animals and what he termed 'sorcery and soothsaying.'" The Islamic State has further referred to Sufism as a "disease" that needs to be "eradicated." Accordingly, a year ago, ISIS beheaded Sulayman Abu Hiraz, a Sufi cleric reportedly over 100 years old, on the charge of sorcery.


The argument that ISIS and other jihadi organizations kill fellow Muslims proves nothing. Muslims have been slaughtering Muslims on the accusation that they are "not Islamic enough" or the wrong "kinds" of Muslims from the start: So what can the open non-Muslim—such as the Western infidel—expect? Indeed, if anything, that ISIS kills other "Muslims" only further validates the supremacist and intolerant aspects of Sunnism, which is hardly limited to ISIS. Just look to our good "friend and ally," Saudi Arabia, the official religion of which is Sunni Islam, and witness the subhuman treatment Shia minorities experience. In the end, it's just jihad and more jihad, for all and sundry.






Prof. Eyal Zisser

Israel Hayom, Nov. 28, 2017


Forty years after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Israel, and after a long hiatus due to the "Arab Spring" and ensuing "Islamic winter" that hit the country, Egypt has returned to playing a leading role in the region. More specifically, in the Israeli context, Egypt is also an integral part of U.S. efforts to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.


For the most part, the Arab world has grown weary of the Palestinian issue. Most Arab countries are preoccupied with their own troubles, with problems that are more urgent and more important to them than helping the Palestinians resolve their internal disputes or the conflict with Israel.


For Egypt, however, this matter is neither distant nor irrelevant. From its perspective, pushing the peace process forward could help Egypt cope with a bevy of serious problems knocking on its doorstep. First, the threat of jihadist terrorism, which has hit the country repeatedly and just last week claimed the lives of hundreds of Sinai residents in a horrific slaughter at a mosque. In Egypt's view, Islamic State and its "Sinai branch" are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt proper. For Cairo, Islamic State is a terrorist organization that perpetrates attacks in the distant Sinai Peninsula, while the Muslim Brotherhood is a potentially lethal cancer eating at the heart of the Egyptian body.


Hamas is a sister movement of the Muslim Brotherhood and in the past has aided Islamic State in Sinai. Like Israel, Egypt recognizes reality and understands that Hamas will not suddenly disappear from the face of the earth. Egypt hopes that a peace process, preceded by an inter-Palestinian reconciliation process, would "contain" the Hamas threat and perhaps, in the long term, even pave the way for the Palestinian Authority to oust the terrorist organization from Gaza. The Egyptians are not naive, but their national interest is to lower the flames, and any progress or even discussion of peace can help them.


In contrast to his predecessor Mohammed Morsi, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi is determined to improve the Egyptian economy, a requirement for ensuring the country's long-term stability. But for this to happen, Sissi needs an atmosphere of peace. Even more importantly, he needs generous monetary aid from the United States – Russia, after all, can provide weapons, not dollars.


Egypt used to be leader of the Arab world. Now, though, it looks on longingly as Iran and Turkey try to claim the leadership crown for themselves. Egypt's return to the helm of the Arab world and Middle East depends on how it fares against Iran and Turkey, unlike in the past when it largely depended on conflict with Israel. This too, requires a diplomatic process.


These are all good reasons for Egypt to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians; it certainly will not be upset if a peace agreement is reached.






Efraim Inbar

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2017


Israel is celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. The move by Egypt, the largest and strongest Arab state, changed the dynamics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.


Sadat violated the Arab taboo against good neighborly relations with the Jewish state and opened the way for additional peace agreements. The defection of Egypt from the Arab military coalition eliminated the option of a two-front conventional war against Israel and saved the Israeli taxpayer billions of dollars. The heavy price paid by Israel to Egypt was total withdrawal from the Sinai and removal of settlements. But, in retrospect, it worked out well, turning Israel into “the land had peace for forty years.”


The peace treaty withstood many difficult tests: Israel’s strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1982, the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the 1987 Palestinian uprising, Israeli measures against the Palestinian terrorism campaign since 2000 and the Israel-Gaza wars. Even the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt (2012-13) did not cancel the peace treaty.


Unfortunately, Israeli expectations for normal inter-state and people-to-people interactions were not realized. The rooted cultural and religious barriers to having good relations with the Jewish state have been too difficult to overcome. In the Arab world, Israel is mostly seen as an alien body. For Egypt, this has not changed after 40 years of formal peace. In the absence of drastic change in the Arab educational systems, these perceptions of Jews and their state will continue. Hopes for peaceful relations with Arab countries – such as between the US and Canada – are fanciful dreams. This insight should be taken into consideration when calculating the Israeli price for Arab peace offers.


Moreover, the robustness of the peace treaty is not self-evident. History teaches us that most wars break out in violation of a peace treaty. The survival of the peace treaty seems threatened by several developments. We have to remember that the change in Egypt’s position toward Israel was a result of Cairo gradually preferring the US to the Soviet Union.


Egypt realized that the US had greater leverage on Israel in its attempt to gain back the Sinai. However, its pro-American orientation is not a constant. Nowadays, the US seems to have become a less desirable ally. Its international standing has deteriorated and its Middle East policy, under presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, favors disengagement rather than involvement.


At the same time, Russia has become more influential in the region. Egypt seems to sense the change and now buys Russian weapons. It also purchased two Russian nuclear reactors, which has created a long-term dependency upon Moscow. A change in Egypt’s foreign policy orientation also affects its relations with Israel. The region, whose character is changing due to the ascendance of Iran, also provides reasons to worry.


States in the region are aware of a projected American weakness and are left with only two choices when facing an Iran that cooperates with Russia. They can form an alliance to curb Iranian influence (the choice of Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf States) or get closer to Iran (the choice of Turkey and Qatar). Egypt is usually seen as part of the Sunni moderate camp that fears greater Iranian clout. Egypt is much more dependent upon financial support from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Nevertheless, Egypt supported Bashar Assad in Syria – an Iranian ally. If the Gulf region falls under Iranian influence, Cairo might have to adopt a different posture and also look for support in Tehran. This might put an end to the peace treaty with Israel.


Finally, the large growth of the Egyptian military and its modernization is a source of concern. The growth of the Egyptian air force, navy and land forces remains a mystery, particularly with no enemy on Egyptian borders in sight. The investments in logistics infrastructure from Cairo eastwards and the building of tunnels under the Suez Canal seem to have no reasonable civilian rationale. Moreover, the demilitarization of Sinai, the most important stabilizing element in the peace treaty, has been eroded, as Israel agreed to the infusion of Egyptian units into the Sinai to fight the radical Islamic insurgency.


While an Egyptian-Israeli military confrontation is unlikely, we see the emergence of conditions that make an Egyptian attack easier. Everything must be done by Jerusalem to preserve the peace treaty with Egypt, but Israel should still prepare itself for worst-case scenarios.




On Topic Links


Islam and Freedom of Religion: Philip Carl Salzman, Frontier Centre, Oct. 25, 2017—Islam is difficult for Westerners to understand because we view it through our own cultural categories. Our categories have been formed by the post-Enlightenment and post-industrial revolution in the West. Modern Western society has been organized on the basis of occupational specialization and division of labour. This is why we see our societies divided among distinct spheres of activity: familial, economic, political, cultural, and religious.

In Egypt, Furious Retaliation but Failing Strategy in Sinai: Declan Walsh and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, Nov. 25, 2017—After militants massacred 305 people at a packed mosque on Friday in a stunning assault on a sacred place, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi responded as he knows best.

Egypt-Israel Cooperation Likely to Increase after Sinai Massacre: Algemeiner, Nov. 27, 2017—After terrorists killed more than 300 people during prayers at a mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Friday, experts say that weaknesses in the Arab country’s counter-terrorism operations will likely lead to increased Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation.

Remembering Anwar Sadat’s Legacy: Yehuda Yaakov, Boston Globe, Nov. 19, 2017—Forty years ago — on Nov. 19, 1977 — Egyptian President Anwar Sadat embarked on a groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem. The 1979 peace treaty he later signed with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin set in motion the unmistakable dynamic of the Israeli-Arab rapprochement we witness today.


Sadat's Visit, the Peace Process and the Future of Israeli-Arab Relations: Charles Bybelezer, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 20, 2017 — Exactly forty years ago, on November 20, 1977, then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat addressed the Israeli parliament in what is considered a watershed moment in the Jewish state's history.

Israeli Attitudes Towards Egypt 40 Years After Sadat’s Visit: Prof. Efraim Karsh, BESA, Nov. 19, 2017— Forty years ago this month, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport for a two-day visit to Jerusalem, at the official invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

Series of Attacks in Egypt Targeting Coptic Christians Forces Churches to Close: Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News, Nov. 2, 2017 — Egypt has been one of the worst places for Christian persecution in recent months.

‘Journalist’ Ayat Oraby: Mainstream or Extreme?: Samantha Rose Mandeles, American Spectator, Nov. 14, 2017— On October 20, 54 Egyptian policemen were killed in a firefight with “militants” in the desert, 80 miles from Cairo.


On Topic Links


Video: Raymond Ibrahim on Egyptian President Sisi and Coptic Christians: Raymond Ibrahim, Youtube, Oct. 20, 2017

Sadat and Begin – the Peacemakers: Dr. Martin Kramer, BESA, Nov. 19, 2017

40 Years Since Egypt’s Pres. Anwar Sadat Came to Jerusalem, Israel: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017

Sadat and Me in Jerusalem 40 Years Ago: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Nov. 20, 2017






                          Charles Bybelezer

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 20, 2017


Exactly forty years ago, on November 20, 1977, then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat addressed the Israeli parliament in what is considered a watershed moment in the Jewish state's history. His call for peace with Israel turned on its head the conflict with the Arab world which to that point had played out in four major wars—in 1948, 1956, 1967 and just a few years earlier, in 1973. In all of these conflagrations, Egypt played a leading role as the region's most populous and important country and thus the torch-bearer of Arab nationalism, the predominant political system in the Middle East at the time.


In his speech to Israeli lawmakers, Sadat "declare[d] to the whole world that we [Egyptians] accept to live with you in permanent peace based on justice." Months later, on March 16, 1979, Sadat and then-Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin shook hands on the White House lawn after signing a formal treaty brokered by former US president Jimmy Carter.


The enormity of the event cannot be overstated both because since that time, Israel's southern border has remained relatively quiet, effectively removing an existential threat, thereby allowing Jerusalem to reallocate resources away from defense and towards building a prosperous country. It also paved the way for the signing of the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan, which secured Israel's eastern flank.


According to Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, "Sadat's visit was probably the most important moment up to that point in Israel's short existence. Out of the blue," he told The Media Line, "the president of Egypt decided to come to Jerusalem and very quickly did so—it was like a dream, we could not believe it was happening. The leader of the biggest Arab country with whom we fought only wars comes and says he wants peace."


Itzhak Levanon, another former top Israeli envoy to Cairo, described the feeling in Israel at the time as if "the Messiah was coming." He highlighted to The Media Line the risk that Sadat was taking, "as he faced a lot of antagonism within Egypt [and ultimately was assassinated by Islamic extremists in 1981]. There were two ministers who resigned and the Muslim Brotherhood was against the move. Most of the public sphere was also very critical of him. "So from the beginning there was a dichotomy between the two peoples," Levanon elaborated, a reality which in his estimation accounts for the "cold" peace that currently persists.


Despite the absence of meaningful co-existence, today there appears to be a renewed thawing in ties between the Jewish state and the Arab world, driven by a confluence of interests, primarily the shared desire to curb Shiite Iran's expansionism. Hence, the context and timing of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman's comments over the weekend, in which he urged the heads of Sunni Muslim states to publicly visit Israel. "I call on the leaders of the region to follow in [former] president Sadat's steps by coming to Jerusalem and opening a new page.… Sadat was courageous [and] stood against the tide [thereby] pav[ing] the way for [others to] recognize the importance of the strategic relationship with the state of Israel," Liberman wrote.


His statements came after IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot last week gave a much-publicized interview to the Saudi Elaph newspaper, in which he asserted that "[Israel is] ready to exchange experiences with Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab countries [as well as] intelligence information to confront Iran." For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long trumpeted that Jerusalem is on the precipice of a "new era" in its relations with Arab states.


This apparent rapprochement is occurring on the backdrop of efforts by US President Donald Trump to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, with multiple reports claiming that White House point men Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have started devising the parameters of a comprehensive deal that will incorporate regional countries into the mix. And herein, according to many analysts, lies the key to Israel's ability to unlock the full potential of prospective ties with the Arab world; namely, that so-called "normalization" can only occur when the Palestinian issue is resolved.


Sadat himself emphasized during his visit to Israel that peace with Egypt could not be separated from the fate of the Palestinians. "In the absence of a just solution to the Palestinian problem, never will there be that durable…peace upon which the entire world insists," he affirmed. To this end, the subsequent agreement with Israel gave birth to the "Palestinian autonomy talks" that aimed to resolve the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which had come under Israeli control in the 1967 war. The Framework for Peace in the Middle East, a section of the 1978 Camp David Accords, called for elections in the territories and the formation of a Palestinian "self-governing authority" within one year…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Prof. Efraim Karsh

BESA, Nov. 19, 2017


Forty years ago this month, Egyptian president Anwar Sadat landed at Israel’s Ben-Gurion airport for a two-day visit to Jerusalem, at the official invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The entire world held its breath. Here was the leader of the largest and most populous Arab state, which had spearheaded repeated pan-Arab attempts to destroy Israel, visiting the contested capital of the Arab world’s foremost nemesis in an apparent acquiescence in the legitimacy of the Jewish State’s existence and its right to peaceful coexistence with its Arab neighbors. So profound was the general disbelief that the Israeli chief-of-staff, Lt. Gen. Mordechai Gur, warned the government that the visit was an Egyptian deceptive ploy, on the heels of the Egyptian-Syrian surprise attack of October 1973.


The visit proved to be the most important single political event in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, culminating in the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of March 1979 and the attendant shattering of the Arab world’s uniform rejection of Jewish statehood. And while Sadat’s successor, Hosni Mubarak, held a far more restrictive view of the agreement, the Israeli-Egyptian peace has successfully weathered many regional crises (from the 1982 Lebanon war, to the “al-Aqsa Intifada,” to the 2014 Gaza conflict), paving the road to the October 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty and the yet-to-be-completed Israeli-Palestinian peace process launched with the September 1993 Oslo Accord.


But how do Israelis view this momentous event from a forty-year vantage point? Do they appreciate its full historic significance and the impact it has had on their lives? Do they consider the price of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty worth paying? A recent survey held by Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) shows a rather mixed picture. While 81% of respondents viewed the agreement as conducive to Israel’s national security, 51% deemed the concessions made for its attainment (notably the evacuation of the oil-rich Sinai Peninsula and the demolition of the Yamit town) to have been excessive, compared to 46% of respondents who considered them commensurate with the agreement’s mammoth gains.


This apparent contradiction seems to be a corollary of Israelis’ keen awareness of Mubarak’s lukewarm perception of peace. While one can only speculate about Sadat’s own ultimate intentions – he was assassinated in October 1981 by an Islamist zealot – for Mubarak, peace was of no value in and of itself but was rather the price Cairo had to pay for such substantial benefits as US economic and military aid. As a result, Mubarak reduced interaction with Israel to the lowest possible level, while simultaneously transforming the Egyptian army into a formidable modern force and fostering a culture of virulent anti-Semitism in Egypt, a culture whose premises he himself evidently shared.


Though President Abdel Fattah Sisi has taken a different route, bringing Israeli-Egyptian relations to unprecedented heights, most Israelis seem to acknowledge the instrumental nature of the Egyptian perception of peace. Consequently, only 14% of the BESA survey regarded Egypt’s attitude to Israel as friendly (of whom 37% thought Israel “overpaid” for the agreement), while 68% viewed it as lukewarm and another 18% as hostile (of whom 44% and 68% respectively deemed the concessions made for the agreement as excessive).


Not surprisingly, perhaps, support for the agreement was found to be strongest among center-left voters, though it was actually the rightwing Likud Party that made this historic breakthrough. Ninety-two percent of Hamahane Hatzioni and Yesh Atid voters, as well as 88% of Meretz voters, believed the agreement to have enhanced Israel’s national security as opposed to 82% of Likud voters, 82% of Habayit Hayehudi’s voters, and 67% of Israel Beitenu voters. Support for the agreement within the ultraorthodox community was even lower, with 64% of Shas voters and 68% of Yahadut Hatorah voters viewing the agreement as conducive to Israel’s national security.


Likewise, the survey exposed the ambiguous attitude of Israel’s Arab citizens to the agreement, or indeed to possible Israeli reconciliation with the neighboring Arab states. While only 68% of Israeli Arabs viewed the agreement as conducive to Israel’s national security, compared to 83% of their Jewish compatriots, 17% of them deemed the price paid for its attainment to have been too low (compared to 1% of Israeli Jews). In other words, Israeli Arabs are more inclined than their Jewish counterparts (with the salient exception of Meretz voters) to have their state pay a higher price for a less favorable international agreement affecting its national security. This inclination is markedly higher among voters for the Joint Arab Party (compared to those voting for Jewish parties), with 22% of them considering the price too low.


The gap between Israeli Arabs and Jews notwithstanding, both communities are equally skeptical about the prospects for a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, with over 80% of respondents agreeing that there are currently no leaders of Sadat’s and Begin’s stature on either side of the divide who are capable of effecting a similarly momentous breakthrough. Hardly a heart-warming prognosis after nearly four decades of Egyptian-Israeli peace.






Perry Chiaramonte

Fox News, Nov. 2, 2017


Egypt has been one of the worst places for Christian persecution in recent months. A series of attacks targeting Christians and forced closure of churches have caused Egypt’s Christian population to call on authorities for help. The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by extremists. A third was closed because of fear of attacks. The statement was issued late Saturday.


It said clashes broke out Friday when ultraconservative Muslims tried to attack one of the churches, adding that a Coptic woman was wounded. Later that day, the mob attacked Christian homes, the statement said. “We have kept quiet for two weeks … but the situation has worsened. It seems as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for,” the statement said, referring to the repeated closure of the churches. The diocese urged authorities to end discrimination against Christians and “not to succumb to the fundamentalists.”


Minya Governor Essam Badawi denied the churches were closed for security reasons, saying they were “unlicensed houses” that lacked the documentation needed to “perform religious rites.” However, he confirmed there were two attacks on the houses of worship and that 15 people were arrested. He said police are searching for 11 other suspects. He said 21 churches in Minya are still open for services.


According to the International Christian Concern, a separate clash broke out on October 27, when a Muslim mob formed in the village of Exbat, following noontime prayer services and attacked St. George’s Church and other buildings owned by Christians. Security officials responded, thereby, closing the church.


“Following the Friday prayer, many Muslims gathered into a mob and began to attack us,” Sobhi, a Christian resident in Ezbat Zakaria, said in a statement to ICC, which was provided to Fox News. “They threw stones at our homes resulting in breaking the doors and windows of some houses, injuring a Coptic woman … they set three stables owned by Copts on fire. They then headed to the church (the building services) and tried to attack it, but the security guards who were assigned confronted them and prevented them from approaching the church.”


Egypt’s Coptic Christians, who make up around 10 percent of the population, long have been a target of Islamic extremists. Attacks on churches by Muslim mobs increased since the 2013 military coup that ousted an Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. Christians overwhelmingly supported the army chief-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, and extremists have used such support as a pretext to increase attacks against them.


The recent closures of the churches underscore the recent problems the Coptic Christian community has faced. Historically, most attacks on the Coptic community occurred in northern parts of the country, including the Sinai Peninsula. “Once again, Christians in Egypt are suffering for no other reason than their faith. As this event illustrates, Egypt’s Christians are not safe whether they are at home or at church,” Claire Evans, regional manager for ICC said in a statement provided to Fox News. “Closing the church does nothing to protect Christians. In fact, the mob wanted to close the church and deny the Christians the ability to exercise their right to religious practice.”


Christians in northern Sinai have been fleeing in droves in recent years because of the militant threats, and the community —  that before 2011 numbered up to 5,000 —  now has dwindled to less than 1,000, according to The Associated Press. There are no official statistics on the number of Christians in cities or across the country. The displacement underscores what many human rights activists have said about the failure of the Egyptian government in providing the minimum level of security to the Christians in this volatile region of northern Sinai, where the military has been battling for years against militants.


Also, local authorities often have refused to permit the construction of churches, fearing blowback from ultraconservative Muslims. That has led Christians to set up unauthorized houses of worship, which are sometimes attacked by Muslim mobs. Last August, parliament passed a law that for the first time spelled out rules on building churches, a step many Christians had hoped would speed construction. But critics fear that only the restrictions will be implemented.





Samantha Rose Mandeles

American Spectator, Nov. 14, 2017


On October 20, 54 Egyptian policemen were killed in a firefight with “militants” in the desert, 80 miles from Cairo. Local media reported the police were attacked by the Hasm Movement, a terrorist organization that the Egyptian government claims is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.


Governments around the world offered statements of sympathy to the Egyptian government over one of deadliest attacks against Egyptian security forces in many years. The U.S. State Department announced that it “condemns the terrorist attack,” “[offers] profound condolences,” and “stands with Egypt at this difficult time, as we continue to work together to fight the scourge of terrorism.”


But among some Islamist activists in America, there was jubilation. In a Facebook post, written on October 20, New York-based journalist Ayat Oraby applauded the killings, accusing the deceased soldiers and police of insolence and cowardice. In another post about one of the murdered soldiers, Oraby expressed “Joy at the death of that criminal!” Oraby accused the deceased soldiers of having previously been paid by Egyptian General (and now President) Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to murder unarmed Muslims during the infamous Rabaa massacre in 2013, during which supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood President, Mohamed Morsi, clashed with Egyptian police and military.


Oraby is a prominent figure. She serves as the editor-in-chief of Noon Al-Niswa, the “first Arab American Women’s magazine.” In 2013, Noon Al-Niswa held an event to celebrate its first printed issue after being an exclusively online publication. According to another Arabic-language online publication, the event was attended by self-styled “human rights activist” Linda Sarsour, former Deputy Secretary of Energy Randa Fahmy Hudome and New Jersey state senator Barbara Buono.


In her capacity as an editor, Oraby has won the Shirley Chisholm Award in journalism (awarded by New Jersey Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver), and been invited to speak on college campuses all over North America, including at Concordia University, University of Toronto, and Montclair State University. At her Montclair State talk, Oraby was billed as an “Activist, Journalist, Broadcaster & Advocate for Arab women.” What sort of activism does Oraby practice? In a 2016 Arabic-language video on her Facebook account denouncing Egypt’s Coptic Christian population, she declared that “the Crescent must always be on top of the Cross” and urged her audience to “Boycott the Christians economically.”


Oraby’s Facebook posts, meanwhile, include virulent anti-Semitism. She claims that Israel has taken over the Middle East, and that Egypt’s former president Gamal Abdel Nasser was “a Jew” and an “American Intelligence agent.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has a long history of commenting on hate speech issues. But when we asked CAIR’s national office and its New York branch to comment on Oraby’s extremism, they refused.


CAIR was founded and remains run by Muslim Brotherhood members. Its refusal to condemn this anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and pro-terror rhetoric is explained by Oraby’s own history of involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood. Oraby’s Twitter profile lists her as a member of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council (ERC), a Turkey-based organization that supports Egypt’s ousted Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi. Although Oraby claims she is “not with Muslim Brotherhood,” Oraby’s membership in the ERC indicates otherwise.  When ERC first formed, at least one Egyptian English-language paper announced, “MB supporters launch revolutionary council.” Another Arabic-language paper describes Oraby as an “active member of the Muslim Brotherhood.”


Furthermore, Oraby has lobbied Congress alongside MB activists who endorse the boycott of Copts, later showing up in a photo with them displaying the four-fingered Muslim Brotherhood gesture. Oraby has praised Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb as an “intellectual” and a “martyr.” And, both of her Facebook profiles feature pictures of Muhammad Morsi as the cover photo. She even captioned her personal page’s photo of Morsi with the declaration, “We still consider you to be the legitimate president of Egypt.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


Video: Raymond Ibrahim on Egyptian President Sisi and Coptic Christians: Raymond Ibrahim, Youtube, Oct. 20, 2017—In the video that follows, I discuss the situation of the Christian Copts of Egypt in the context of that nation’s president. The clip is from this year’s annual Coptic Solidarity conference held last June in Washington D.C.

Sadat and Begin – the Peacemakers: Dr. Martin Kramer, BESA, Nov. 19, 2017—It is now thirty-eight years since the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, most famously evoked by the three-way handshake on the White House lawn that changed the Middle East.

40 Years Since Egypt’s Pres. Anwar Sadat Came to Jerusalem, Israel: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, Nov. 19, 2017—The Israeli government on Sunday marked the fortieth anniversary of the historic visit by an Egyptian leader that marked the start of a new era of peace in the Middle East.

Sadat and Me in Jerusalem 40 Years Ago: Lenny Ben-David, JCPA, Nov. 20, 2017—Forty years ago, I worked in Washington as the Director of Research at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. My work focused on arguing against the Carter Administration’s push for an international peace conference in Geneva that would include the Soviet Union and radical Arab states and opposing American arms sales to Egypt.









The Evolution of Egypt-Israel Relations: No Longer a Terrorist Entity: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2016 — The Egyptian foreign minister brought a breath of fresh air to the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict when he stated unequivocally on August 21 that Israel could not be considered a terrorist state.

The Meaning of an Olympic Snub: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 15, 2016  — An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics.

What the Benghazi Attack Taught Me About Hillary Clinton: Gregory N. Hicks, Fox News, Sept. 11, 2016— Last month, I retired from the State Department after 25 years of public service as a Foreign Service officer.

Libya: Unified Against ISIS, Fragmented After: Rod Nordland & Nour Youssef, New York Times, Sept. 3, 2016 — Martin Kobler, the United Nations envoy to Libya, used to regularly joke that the only functioning government in Libya was the Islamic State.


On Topic Links


Not Just Sports: Mixed Sentiments in Egyptian Discourse about Israel : Omer Einav , Orit Perlov & Ofir Winter, INSS, Aug. 18, 2016

The Weakening of Wilayat Sinai: Yoram Schweitzer, INSS, Aug. 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton Forgets Benghazi, Claims ‘We Did Not Lose a Single American’ in Libya: Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, Sept. 7, 2016

Inside the Brutal But Bizarrely Bureaucratic World of the Islamic State in Libya: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Aug. 23, 2016




Zvi Mazel                                                            

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2016


The Egyptian foreign minister brought a breath of fresh air to the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict when he stated unequivocally on August 21 that Israel could not be considered a terrorist state. This further step toward closer relations between Egypt and Israel resonated throughout the Arab world, where accusing the Jewish state of terror against the Palestinians is a basic propaganda tenet.


Sameh Shoukry, meeting high school students in his office, was asked why Israel’s actions against the Palestinians were not considered terrorism. The exchange between the students and the minister was recorded and posted by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on its Twitter account. His answer was factual and devoid of the accusations against Israel, which are automatic in the Arab world. He is quoted as having said, “You can look at it from the perspective of a regime of force,” going on to explain that “certainly in accordance with its history it has a society in which the element of security is strong.” And then he added something startling, “From Israel’s perspective, since 1948 that society had faced many challenges that have instilled in its national security doctrine its control of land and border crossings.” In fact, said the Egyptian foreign minister, “there is no evidence showing a link between Israel and armed terrorist groups.”


This can be seen as a new way of viewing Israel and its place in the region in the face of Arab attitudes, the Islamic establishments and nationalist elites still refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy and opposing it furiously. For not only did Shoukry distance himself from qualifying Israeli activities as acts of terror, that is, illegitimate and deserving of unreserved condemnations; he mentioned the year 1948 – that is,the year of the proclamation of the State of Israel and the war of independence, both sources of the nakba or “disaster” of the Palestinians and of all Arabs – as a well-known historical fact.

And it was because of the challenges that resulted from that historical fact that Israel had to react forcibly ever since.

Shoukry’s words made headlines in Egypt – though many media outlets chose to ignore them, including those affiliated with the regime who were reluctant to deal with such potentially explosive declarations. Indeed, the following day a Foreign Ministry spokesman accused “several papers” of having distorted what had actually been said and of falsely reporting that the minister had declared that the killing of Palestinian children was not terrorism.


Furthermore, he said, those papers were guilty of incitement against the well-known views of Egypt, which has championed Palestinian rights in the past, the present, and would forever champion them. He stressed that the students had not asked specific questions concerning the killing of Palestinian children but had simply voiced a theoretical question as to why the international community did not define Israeli actions as acts of terror. The minister, the spokesman said, had replied that there was no legal international definition regarding acts committed by nations. In other words, the Foreign Ministry did not try to distance itself from what the minister had said, and simply accused the media of having distorted his words.


Taken in the context of the evolution of the relations between Egypt and Israel, Shoukry’s comments can be seen as yet another step toward closer links between the countries. It is well known that there is strong intelligence and security cooperation between Israel and Egypt based, among other considerations, on the common threat of Islamic State – Sinai Province. If it is not defeated in Egypt, it will attack Israel directly. In the past, the group has launched missiles across the border and was responsible for a cross border terrorist attack near Eilat in 2011 in which eight Israelis were killed.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly declares that he has frequent conversations with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Such is the background of the gradual rapprochement between the two countries: Egypt has sent an ambassador to Tel Aviv and the Embassy of Israel in Cairo is open again. Sisi has also said that he is ready to help promote negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and his foreign minister recently made a visit to Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s envoys regularly travel to Cairo for high-level talks. It can be safely assumed that they include a number of subjects and not solely the Palestinian question, which is far from being Sisi’s first priority.


There can be no mistake: The Egyptian president is behind all these moves. Sisi has launched an all-out effort to develop his country and put it on the path of sustainable economic growth. Cooperation with Israel is part of this vision. Sisi is a staunch Muslim but has always shunned religious extremism. He has been remarkably moderate concerning Israel ever since he became a public figure, that is, when he was appointed minister of defense by the since ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in the mistaken belief that this pious general would help bring about the rule of the Brotherhood with a complicit army.


Sisi refrains from attacking or even condemning Israel. It was made clear from the first interviews he gave the press even before his election to the presidency. It took several questions concerning his views on the Palestinian issue before he succinctly said that there should be a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.


At the same time the Egyptian president has been pushing for toning down extremism in Islam. He has demanded that the clerics of al-Azhar Mosque undertake a reform of some of the more extreme expressions of religious dialogue. The Education Ministry has also been tasked with removing from textbooks elements or episodes encouraging religious extremism, more specifically those extolling Jihad – such as the wars of Saladin and of Akba Ben-Nafea, who conquered large territories in Africa. Also expunged were some texts disparaging the Jews, but not all. Chapters dealing with the peace agreement with Israel were expanded; the new modern history book of Egypt has a picture of Menachem Begin next to Anwar el Sadat, together with significant extracts of the peace treaty.


In spite of these encouraging developments, there are those who are steadfast in their opposition to Israel. They are mostly to be found in the old elites – the Islamic establishment and what is left of the nationalistic and pan-Arabic movements. There is still a prevalent belief among the Egyptian public that Israel is an enemy bent on harming Egypt. When Sisi decided to build a second canal alongside the Suez Canal to double its capacity and let a greater number of vessels through, a number of articles “explained” that the move was intended to spike Israel’s projected Ashdod-Eilat railway, allegedly intended to draw traffic away from the canal. When Prime Minister Netanyahu toured East African countries some weeks ago, media in Egypt “explained” that it was in order to encourage agriculture in countries situated up river on the Nile, which would then need more water thus diminishing what will be left for Egypt. When parliament member Tawfik Okasha had “the temerity” to host the Israeli ambassador for dinner, he was expelled from the parliament.


And of late an Egyptian judoka was roundly berated for agreeing to a match with an Israeli opponent – and for losing. No wonder then that the Egyptian president is proceeding cautiously. Warmer relations with Israel are of paramount importance, but he has no wish for a confrontation with elites he needs to support his economic policy, especially since at the moment it has ushered in a measure of austerity which is highly unpopular. He has apparently chosen a more circuitous route. A few months ago he announced that he wanted to help restart dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, a perfectly legitimate long-term preoccupation for Egypt, which aspires to peace in the region…                                                                       

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




THE MEANING OF AN OLYMPIC SNUB                                                                        

Bret Stephens                                                                                                      

Wall Street Journal, Aug. 15, 2016


An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics. The Egyptian refused to shake his opponent’s extended hand, earning boos from the crowd. Mr. Sasson went on to win a bronze medal. If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and of Jews.


That’s not a point you will find in a long article about the Arab crackup by Scott Anderson in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, where hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia—a given of the landscape. Nor is it much mentioned in the wide literature about the legacy of colonialism in the Middle East, or the oil curse, governance gap, democracy deficit, youth bulge, sectarian divide, legitimacy crisis and every other explanation for Arab decline.


Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world got rid of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, ruinously expensive wars, misdirected ideological obsessions, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theory and the perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism.


As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essay in Commentary, historian Paul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed. Spain expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr. Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia, anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.


These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in 1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process. In his essay, Mr. Johnson called anti-Semitism a “highly infectious” disease capable of becoming “endemic in certain localities and societies,” and “by no means confined to weak, feeble or commonplace intellects.” Anti-Semitism may be irrational, but its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew-hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution. Anti-Semitism makes the world seem easy. In doing so, it condemns the anti-Semite to a permanent darkness.


Today there is no great university in the Arab world, no serious indigenous scientific base, a stunted literary culture. In 2015 the U.S. Patent Office reported 3,804 patents from Israel, as compared with 364 from Saudi Arabia, 56 from the United Arab Emirates, and 30 from Egypt. The mistreatment and expulsion of Jews has served as a template for the persecution and displacement of other religious minorities: Christians, Yazidis, the Baha’ i. Hatred of Israel and Jews has also deprived the Arab world of both the resources and the example of its neighbor. Israel quietly supplies water to Jordan, helping to ease the burden of Syrian refugees, and quietly provides surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to Egypt to fight ISIS in the Sinai. But this is largely unknown among Arabs, for whom the only permissible image of Israel is an Israeli soldier in riot gear, abusing a Palestinian.


Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbors. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs. This may be starting to change. In the past five years the Arab world has been forced to face up to its own failings in ways it cannot easily blame on Israel. The change can be seen in the budding rapprochement between Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which might yet yield tactical and strategic advantages on both sides, particularly against common enemies such as ISIS and Iran. That’s not enough. So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue. For Israel, this is a pity. For the Arabs, it’s a calamity. The hater always suffers more than the object of his hatred.





Gregory N. Hicks

 Fox News, Sept. 11, 2016


Last month, I retired from the State Department after 25 years of public service as a Foreign Service officer. As the Deputy Chief of Mission for Libya, I was the last person in Tripoli to speak with Ambassador Chris Stevens before he was murdered in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on our Benghazi post. On this, the fourth anniversary of the Benghazi tragedy, I would like to offer a different explanation for Benghazi’s relevance to the presidential election than is usually found in the press.


Just as the Constitution makes national security the President’s highest priority, U.S. law mandates the secretary of state to develop and implement policies and programs "to provide for the security … of all United States personnel on official duty abroad.”  This includes not only the State Department employees, but also the CIA officers in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. And the Benghazi record is clear: Secretary Clinton failed to provide adequate security for U.S. government personnel assigned to Benghazi and Tripoli.


The Benghazi Committee’s report graphically illustrates the magnitude of her failure. It states that during August 2012, the State Department reduced the number of U.S. security personnel assigned to the Embassy in Tripoli from 34 (1.5 security officers per diplomat) to 6 (1 security officer per 4.5 diplomats), despite a rapidly deteriorating security situation in both Tripoli and Benghazi. Thus, according to the Report, “there were no surplus security agents” to travel to Benghazi with Amb. Stevens “without leaving the Embassy in Tripoli at severe risk.” Had Ambassador Stevens’ July 2012 request for 13 additional American security personnel (either military or State Department) been approved rather than rejected by Clinton appointee Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy, they would have traveled to Benghazi with the ambassador, and the Sept. 11 attack might have been thwarted.


U.S. law also requires the secretary of state to ensure that all U.S. government personnel assigned to a diplomatic post abroad be located at one site. If not, the secretary — and only the secretary — with the concurrence of the agency head whose personnel will be located at a different location, must issue a waiver. The law, which states specifically that the waiver decision cannot be delegated, was passed after the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, when deficient security was blamed for that debacle under Bill Clinton's presidency.


When asked about security at Benghazi on Sept. 11, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly asserted her lack of responsibility. Initially, she said that she never read any of the reporting on security conditions or any of the requests for additional security, claiming that “she delegated security to the professionals.” More recently, she stated that “[I]t was not my ball to carry.” But the law says otherwise. Sound familiar? Her decision to allow the Benghazi consulate to be separate from the CIA annex divided scarce resources in a progressively deteriorating security environment. U.S. personnel assigned to Benghazi tried to overcome this severe disadvantage through an agreement that the security personal from each facility would rush to the other facility’s aid in the event it was attacked. The division of our security resources in Benghazi is the root cause of the “stand down” order controversy so vividly portrayed in the movie “13 Hours.”


Notably, one of the primary goals of Ambassador Stevens’ fatal visit was to begin consolidating our Benghazi personnel into one facility, which would have concentrated our security posture in Benghazi’s volatile and violent environment. There are no punitive measures for breaching these two laws. Mrs. Clinton will not have to appear before judge and jury to account for her failures. Is this why she felt these laws could be ignored? Because she is now the Democratic presidential candidate, only the American electorate will have the opportunity to hold her accountable…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Rod Nordland & Nour Youssef

New York Times, Sept. 3, 2016


Martin Kobler, the United Nations envoy to Libya, used to regularly joke that the only functioning government in Libya was the Islamic State. Unlike the country’s other three governments, it not only held territory but ran the courts, provided services to the public and ensured security — however harsh its rule. Fortunately, Mr. Kobler said recently, his joke is now out of date, with the Islamic State reduced to three neighborhoods in the coastal city of Surt, and its headquarters in the hands of militias supporting the new United Nations-backed government. “This is over now,” he said.


The problems of governing Libya, however, are far from over, particularly as its many remaining factions try to figure out what comes next at a potential second round of talks this month, presided over by the United Nations. Surt’s future will loom large in the discussions. Ever since Libya’s longtime ruler, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was deposed and killed in Surt in 2011, the country has been divided by tribal and militia rivalries. With a population slightly larger than that of Miami, Libya has no clear central government and scant possibility of exploiting its enormous oil reserves, the ninth largest in the world. That a United Nations-backed government in Tripoli was able to dispatch a militia force to subdue the Islamic State in Surt was the first piece of good governance news in five years of vicious internecine fighting.


But even victory in Surt remains worrisome. First of all, the militias have to finish clearing out remnants of the Islamic State from the three city neighborhoods. The militias are reported to be close to accomplishing that, which will then raise the question of what they will do next. They are from Misurata, a coastal city seen as a rival of Surt. While they were nominally doing the bidding of the new, United Nations-backed Government of National Accord, or G.N.A., it is not at all clear that they will continue to accept its authority. Then there are Libya’s other factions. The government in the eastern city of Bayda, with its Parliament in Tobruk, once enjoyed international support but now relies mostly on Egypt and some Persian Gulf allies. It is also suspicious of the intentions of the Misuratans, and angry about United Nations backing of the G.N.A.


The country’s most powerful military leader, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, based in Benghazi, has almost entirely cleared that city, the east’s biggest, of the Islamic extremists who once held sway there. But he, too, is deeply suspicious of the Misurata militias, because they are dominated by Islamists. While General Hifter has been named the Libyan National Army commander, politically he operates independently. That is true as well of the third faction claiming to rule Libya, a Tripoli-based Islamist militia grouping that has a Parliament separate from that of the G.N.A.


“The government has to implement state authority over who dominates this area,” Mr. Kobler said. That the Misurata militias were acting on behalf of the G.N.A. when they ousted the Islamic State from Surt was a very positive sign, he said. “It shows the strength of the G.N.A.,” he added. “The other two governments do not exist. A government should provide security, basic services. That is not the case from those two governments.” It is important as well, he said, that an international consensus is building to support the G.N.A., with the Arab League and the African Union calling on their members not to back other factions’ claims to legitimacy; the success in Surt bolstered that consensus. The same consensus does not seem to exist in many parts of Libya. The government based in Bayda has denounced the G.N.A. In Benghazi, General Hifter has boycotted the meetings that the United Nations has convened to bring all of the factions together, and he is by far the strongest military player. When Surt finally falls, said Ahmed el-Mesmari, the spokesman for the Libyan military in the east, the militias there will abandon the new Tripoli government.


“We don’t think anyone can control these forces,” Mr. Mesmari said. “They are anarchists and extremists. They are closer to Qaeda than they are to anyone else. They would be very hard to tame.”…


[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





On Topic Links


Not Just Sports: Mixed Sentiments in Egyptian Discourse about Israel : Omer Einav , Orit Perlov & Ofir Winter, INSS, Aug. 18, 2016—The match on the judo mat between Israeli Ori Sasson and Egyptian Islam el-Shehaby in the 2016 Olympic Games went beyond sports.

The Weakening of Wilayat Sinai: Yoram Schweitzer, INSS, Aug. 31, 2016—Wilayat Sinai, an organization identified with the Islamic State, has recently suffered a series of serious blows from the Egyptian army.

Hillary Clinton Forgets Benghazi, Claims ‘We Did Not Lose a Single American’ in Libya: Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, Sept. 7, 2016 —Glossing over the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that claimed the lives of four U.S. diplomats, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night claimed that “we did not lose a single American” due to military intervention in Libya. Speaking at a veterans’ forum hosted by NBC News, the former secretary of state said she stands by the 2011 decision to take action in Libya and that America suffered no casualties.

Inside the Brutal But Bizarrely Bureaucratic World of the Islamic State in Libya: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Aug. 23, 2016—When the Islamic State’s religious police arrived at his door, Ahmooda Abu Amood feared he would never see his family again. The two militants drove up in a beige sport-utility vehicle, Abu Amood said, the kind used to transport anyone who broke the rules to an office to pay a fine, to get a whipping — or to jail.











Sisi’s New Approach to Egypt-Israel Relations: Mohamed Soliman, Washington Institute, July 29, 2016— Since the Egyptian military’s entrance into political life and its toppling of former president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, there have been questions as to how Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government will deal with Israel.

Cairo and the Egyptians living in Israel: Haisam Hassanein, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 2016 — Egyptian-Israeli security relations are at their highest point since the signing of the peace treaty in 1979.

In Wake of Coup Attempt in Turkey, Lessons for the U.S. From Egypt’s Military Takeover: Eric Trager, Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2016— In the wake of the Turkish military’s attempt to seize power, U.S. officials have urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to use the incident as a pretext for a broad crackdown.

A Gloomy Egypt Sees Its International Influence Wither Away: Liam Stack, New York Times, Aug. 2, 2016— In a televised speech, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a general turned president, warned Egyptians that they lived in a broken country surrounded by enemies who would never leave them alone.


On Topic Links


Egypt Rankled by Hamas’s Burgeoning Ties to Islamic State: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Aug. 1, 2016

ISIS in Sinai Threatens Jews, Israel and Rome in New Video: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 2016

Egypt and Turkey Following the Failed Coup: The Interrupted Thaw: Ofir Winter &, Gallia Lindenstrauss, INSS, Aug. 2, 2016

Egypt’s Christians Lose Patience with Sisi as Attacks Spike: Heba Saleh, Financial Times, Aug. 2, 2016



Mohamed Soliman

Washington Institute, July 29, 2016


Since the Egyptian military’s entrance into political life and its toppling of former president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, there have been questions as to how Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government will deal with Israel. Many wondered if the government would continue the current trajectory of relations, as relations underwent a chill during the Military Council and Morsi years, in part triggered by the storming of the Israeli Embassy in Egypt during September 2011. Until recently, relations between Israel and Egypt relied on Washington as mediator in negotiations. However, Sisi’s government has significantly altered this dynamic.


The escalation of the political crisis between Egypt’s secular opposition and the Muslim Brotherhood had largely overshadowed Egypt-Israel relations during the Morsi era. However, the Morsi government still made several steps towards freezing the Egypt-Israel relationship: it sent Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to the Gaza Strip during Israel’s operation “Pillar of Defense” in November 2012 and attempted a rapprochement with Iran.


Shortly after the July 3 military intervention, Israel began unequivocally backing the new regime. Israel launched diplomatic missions in Washington and several major European capitals to support Egypt’s new political situation and prevent a diplomatic blockade on Cairo. Nor were these efforts unrewarded; Egypt-Israel relations have witnessed unprecedented growth during the Sisi regime, often driven by Sisi himself. When Sisi became the country’s de facto leader, his first challenge was the series of terrorist attacks against the military in the Sinai peninsula. Egypt’s security partnership with Israel immediately came into play; Sisi’s government coordinated with Israel, which gave Egyptian forces the green light to deploy in northern Sinai’s B and C Zones to fight armed Takfiri groups with heavy weapons, armored vehicles, and air incursions.


These actions went directly against what is stipulated in the security appendix of the Camp David Accords, and they demonstrated the flexibility and coordination between Egypt and Israel early in Sisi’s tenure. Confronting armed groups in the Sinai has remained one of the most important security issues shared by both countries. Israel itself has conducted a number of aerial intelligence missions to uncover terrorists’ hiding spots. However, in an attempt to avoid controversy Cairo has not made public the nature of its military-security partnership with Tel Aviv.


Sisi has also long been interested in personally involving himself with the peace process. In his first presidential address in 2014, Sisi stated: “We will work to achieve the independence of Palestine with its capital in East Jerusalem.” With this, Sisi seemed to stake his position on the contentious issue of East Jerusalem, dating back to former president Anwar Sadat’s opposition both of Israel’s annexation of the East Jerusalem territory and the claim of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. While Sisi’s support for East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine caused some diplomatic fallout with Israel, his insistence on a two-state solution also weakened the position his supporters were attempting to build against Islamist groups, Nasserists, leftists, and the Salafist Nour Party – all of whom catered to popular opinion by refusing to recognize the State of Israel and claiming all Palestinian lands as solely Arab.


With Sisi’s emergence as the uncontested leader, none of his supporting political factions have been able to pressure him to change his relatively positive rhetoric about Israel. Sisi has instead turned the former narrative on its head, insisting that Egypt-Israel relations are a necessity in light of their shared regional foe: Hamas, seen as an extension of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, Sisi has shifted Egypt’s role with Israel from that of an “existential struggle” to a partnership of necessity. During Israel’s “Operation Projective Edge” in Gaza, Sisi gained the perfect opportunity to adopt the image of peace mediator in the international community. Sisi benefitted from Israel’s refusal of international mediation for a ceasefire, which led Israel to resort to calling on Cairo to host negotiations with Palestinian factions and sign the ceasefire agreement. The image of Sisi as peacemaker helped in some part distract the international community from the government’s own challenges with domestic unrest.


Sisi’s movement towards public rapprochement with Israel is partially motivated by these experiences with massive domestic crises. Issues from economic stagnation to Egypt’s potentially decreasing share in Nile waters have pushed Sisi to reassert his regional leadership role. He has found an opening by presenting himself as a negotiator in one of the most sensitive international issues: the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. This position bolsters his domestic image as a strongman. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded favorably to Egypt’s shifting role as negotiator in the larger peace process, as it presents an alternative to the recent French Initiative. Moreover, further Egyptian involvement could reduce international pressure on Israel over its lack of serious steps towards negotiating with the Palestinians. Indeed, Sisi’s initiative does not cost Netanyahu anything other than more negotiations. Egypt has no clear conditions for negotiations, such as restricting settlement expansion in the West Bank…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





  CAIRO AND THE EGYPTIANS LIVING IN ISRAEL                                                               

                            Haisam Hassanein                           

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 2016


Egyptian-Israeli security relations are at their highest point since the signing of the peace treaty in 1979. A couple of months ago, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi renewed the call for resumption of the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, and even called for closer normalization between the two countries. Moreover, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry became the highest- ranking Egyptian official to visit Israel in 10 years. Amid the fanfare accorded Cairo’s recent closeness to Jerusalem, one issue that can really test Egypt’s intentions for closer normalization is the case of Egyptian citizens living in Israel, on whom the Egyptian authorities have long placed – and still place – heavy restrictions in terms of freedom of movement between the two countries.


Egyptian Muslims and Christians living in Israel are scattered all across the country, mostly in Arab villages and cities where they are married to Arab Israelis. There are three groups of Egyptians living in Israel. The first group is the illegal ex-pats whose main objective to save as much money as they can before returning to Egypt. The second group consists of permanent residents that pay taxes and enjoy full rights and benefits such as health care, social security and participating in municipal elections. The only difference between them and Israeli citizens is that they cannot vote in Knesset elections. The third group is those who have Israeli citizenship.


Those that acquired Israeli citizenship were motivated to do so despite the stigma surrounding it, including a possible lifetime ban on returning to their native country, primarily due to the advantages of holding an Israeli passport compared to an Egyptian one. A secondary reason is the hardships they faced as non-citizens in returning to Israel after going to visit their families in Egypt.


The history of non-Jewish Egyptians living in Israel for work and family purposes dates back to the late 1960s. Some Egyptians who went to Israel looking for jobs ended up settling down and obtaining Israeli citizenship or permanent residency after marrying Arab Israeli women. Following the Yom Kippur War (1973), they were not able to return to Egypt until the peace agreement between the two countries was signed in 1979. After the treaty they were able to return to visit their families, but not without great difficulty. As a consequence of the peace agreement, the Egyptian tourism industry began to experience a flood of Jewish and Arab Israeli tourists. This movement opened the door for some Egyptians who worked at tourist sites to get to know Arab Israelis and even marry them. Some of the couples decided to stay in Egypt, but after certain period of time, the Egyptian authorities asked some of those who held Israeli citizenship to leave, for unclear reasons.


As one Egyptian who has been living in Israel for more than 20 years put it, “I have thought about this matter many times. Every household leader is responsible for the people he takes care of. I look at what benefits my family; staying here is better for them. This includes advantages they have here in Israeli society such as social security and health insurance. It is enough when the individual gets older, he wouldn’t have to wait for any of his children or family to help him. So I live in Israel and my heart visits Egypt all the time.”


Egyptians in Israel are not separated from what is happening in Egypt politically. One Egyptian resident of Nazareth said, “After the revolution of 2011, we used to walk proudly in the streets. Arab Israelis tend to brag about the democracy they are enjoying here, looking at other Arabs in the region as living in darkness and under dictatorships. The revolution restored our pride.” Hence, in times of presidential elections, those registered with the embassy go and cast their votes. However, the number of these is few in comparison to the total number of Egyptians living in Israel. This is mainly due to mistrust between them and the Egyptian government. Due to the hardships they encountered in their native country due their association with Israel, some chose not to contact the embassy.


One of the Egyptians I met said, “The most important thing for them is to count our numbers since we exist here. But we don’t know them and they never tried to sit with us and hear about the issues we face when it comes to traveling to Egypt.” Being be able to get back to Israel is one of the biggest struggles for Egyptians living in Israel. According to the Egyptian Immigration, Passports and Naturalization Authority, Israel is one of 16 countries Egyptians cannot travel to without a permit from national security authorities.


As I was told bitterly, “The obstacle is on our way back, when it comes to issuing travel permits. The authorities do not take into consideration that we have children, families, jobs that could be lost and monthly obligations that await us. It is very ironic that issuing a travel permit from the Palestinian Authority or Israel only takes half an hour from the [Palestinian] Interior Ministry, while in Egypt it takes a month or two and in some cases, you do not get it. Some of us found a pricey option that forced us to go to a country like Jordan or Europe and from there travel to Israel.” This mistreatment and restrictions of movement by the authorities is mainly due to the deep, inherited belief that Israel is a continuing major threat to Egypt’s national security, regardless of the peace agreement…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





LESSONS FOR THE U.S. FROM EGYPT’S MILITARY TAKEOVER                                                                                  Eric Trager                                                                                                            

Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2016     


In the wake of the Turkish military’s attempt to seize power, U.S. officials have urged President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to use the incident as a pretext for a broad crackdown. “I think we’re all concerned…that this not fuel a reach well beyond those who engaged in the coup,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday. So far, the Erdogan government has declared a state of emergency; banned all Turkish academics from traveling; fired more than 1,500 deans at state and private universities; and suspended or detained some 50,000 soldiers, police officers, teachers, judges and other civil servants. More than 10,000 people have been arrested.


Yet U.S. officials’ ability to moderate Mr. Erdogan’s domestic political behavior is limited. This was true before the coup, as the Turkish president arrested journalists, inhibited Internet and social media access, reassigned more than 3,700 judges and prosecutors, and sidelined political opponents. Since the coup attempt has substantiated Mr. Erdogan’s paranoia, it would be nearly impossible to influence his behavior—and trying to do so risks undermining the broader U.S.-Turkey relationship.


There’s a relevant, real-world example of the limits of U.S. power in this sort of situation and the potential results of U.S. missteps. In crafting its approach to Turkey, the administration could learn from its actions after the July 2013 ouster of Egypt’s first elected president, Mohammed Morsi. After Mr. Morsi was overthrown, President Barack Obama called on Egypt’s military “to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process.” Meanwhile, however, over objections from some in Congress, the administration sought to maintain the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. sends to Egypt every year, as well as other aspects of the defense and intelligence relationship.


In trying to pursue U.S. values and interests simultaneously–encouraging our ally to end its repressive behavior while also continuing bilateral strategic coordination–the administration ultimately found that it could not walk and chew gum at the same time. The Egyptian government interpreted Washington’s call for inclusiveness as a call for re-empowering the Muslim Brotherhood, which had sworn to avenge the overthrow of Mr. Morsi. Washington’s attempt to forge reconciliation between the military-backed government and the Brotherhood failed for the same reason. And when the Obama administration responded to the Egyptian military’s crackdown against Morsi supporters by suspending a portion of the military aid in October 2013 “pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections,” it weakened bilateral relations in ways that are still apparent today.


U.S. aid to Egypt was fully restored in March 2015, but Egyptian officials continue to distrust the Obama administration. They view U.S. criticism of the Cairo regime’s dismal human rights record as supporting freedom for the Muslim Brotherhood, which it views as an existential enemy.


When it comes to Turkey, whose role on the global stage has grown in recent years thanks to its proximity to the conflict in neighboring Syria, Washington has even less leverage for shaping behavior: There is almost no military or economic aid to withhold. The Obama administration’s experience with Egypt suggests that even toothless calls for upholding human rights can be interpreted as acts of subversion when a government views repression as necessary for its own survival. Mr. Erdogan, already conspiracy-minded before last week’s takeover attempt, now sees himself in a kill-or-be-killed dynamic. He’s also in charge of a country whose cooperation is vital to the effort against Islamic State and that has taken in approximately 2.7 million Syrian refugees, which makes it all the more critical for the U.S. to not alienate Ankara, particularly not with statements that won’t change its behavior anyway.





INFLUENCE WITHER AWAY                                                              

Liam Stack                                                                                                 

New York Times, Aug. 2, 2016


In a televised speech, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a general turned president, warned Egyptians that they lived in a broken country surrounded by enemies who would never leave them alone. “Take a good look at your country,” he said during the speech in May. “This is the semblance of a state, and not a real state.” Egypt needed law and order and strong institutions if it was to reverse its downward spiral and become “a state that respects itself and is respected by the world,” he said. While rare in its bluntness, Mr. Sisi’s assessment is widely shared by Egyptians.


After five years of political and economic turmoil, a sense of gloom hangs over the country. Traditionally a leader of the Arab world, politically and culturally, and home to a quarter of its population, Egypt has become inward-looking and politically marginalized in a way not seen for generations. “In the past, Nasser was deciding war or peace. Sadat was deciding peace or war,” said Nabil Fahmy, a former Egyptian ambassador to the United States, referring to two influential former presidents: Gamal Abdel Nasser, a Pan-Arab icon, and Anwar Sadat, who made peace with Israel. “The Arabs were running after us when we decided to do something.” But no more, said Mr. Fahmy, who was foreign minister after the 2013 military ouster of Egypt’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. “Egypt is overwhelmed by our domestic situation.”


With searing regional crises in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and the battle against the Islamic State, Egypt is seen as having little productive role to play. Saudi Arabia and Iran, fierce regional and sectarian rivals, have rushed to fill the void, launching into a potentially dangerous competition for regional dominance. For Egypt, it is a sharp reversal, with no immediate prospects of reclaiming the country’s former status. Since it made peace with Israel in 1979, Egypt has served as the fulcrum of American influence in the Arab world. The Egyptian and American militaries have cooperated closely for decades, and Egypt went to war against Saddam Hussein alongside United States forces in 1991. Cairo long served as an important mediator between Israel and the Palestinians (and among Palestinian factions), though it began to abdicate that role by backing Israel against Hamas in 2014.


But Egypt’s withdrawal from regional matters has diminished its value to the United States, which has provided it with over $76 billion in foreign aid since 1948. “Egypt is primarily seen in Washington as a problem and not as a source of solutions,” said Issandr El Amrani, the North Africa project director for the International Crisis Group. “If it wasn’t for the military relationship and the Pentagon’s preference for having things like fast access through the Suez Canal, it’s clear there are elements of the Obama administration that don’t care much for Sisi and his regime and its domestic pattern of repression and human rights abuses.”


Egypt’s influence was long a product of both its military and cultural might. It was a beacon of Arab unity after the tide of European colonialism ebbed in the 20th century, helping build up its neighbors and founding the Arab League, a pioneering effort at regional cooperation that today is seldom effective. Its writers, artists and filmmakers became iconic in the region. Its judges and clerics decided important matters of Islamic law. Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and Arab League chief who ran for president in 2012, said he doubted there would be “any more foreign adventures,” given the “major problems we are facing.” That has to change, he added. “The role of Egypt is a must,” he said. “It is a necessity in order to build a balance with Iran and with Turkey.” But the only way to do that, he said, “is the reform of Egypt itself and rebuilding its soft power.”


Before it can rebuild, though, Egypt will have to address a long list of problems. It is at war with a local affiliate of the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula. The economy veers from one crisis to the next, hobbled by the collapse of tourism. The number of arriving tourists has dropped by 59.9 percent from last June, according to government figures. More than half the hotels in Sharm el Sheikh, a resort once favored by package tour operators and peacemakers alike, have closed, according to the tourism federation. Egypt has stayed afloat in part thanks to financial support from Persian Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia, which has given Cairo over $25 billion, though that lifeline is now threatened by plunging oil prices. Its alliance with the United States has been strained by disagreements over human rights abuses under Mr. Sisi and the removal of Mr. Morsi.


Mr. Fahmy, the former ambassador, said he considered quieting Western concerns over Mr. Morsi’s removal, portraying it as “defending the revolution,” to be one of the country’s foreign policy successes. Egypt’s relationship with Israel is also strong. But it has done little to respond to the growing list of regional crises. “At the top leadership level, Egypt just doesn’t have the bandwidth or the luxury of focusing on regional affairs,” Mr. Amrani said. Top officials are focused more on immediate threats, like lawlessness next door in Libya and the construction of a Nile dam in Ethiopia. In retrospect, Mr. Amrani added, Egypt may have played an outsize role in past years, as its close ties with the United States “boosted its role beyond its actual weight.”…                                                                                                                              

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


Egypt Rankled by Hamas’s Burgeoning Ties to Islamic State: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, Aug. 1, 2016—Cairo is fuming over increasing cooperation between the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Islamic State-affiliated forces in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula, The Times of Israel has learned, despite attempts in recent months to alleviate the tension between Egypt and Gaza.

ISIS in Sinai Threatens Jews, Israel and Rome in New Video: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 2016—Islamic State-linked terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula apparently released a new video this week that includes threats against Israel and Jews among its belligerent messages.

Egypt and Turkey Following the Failed Coup: The Interrupted Thaw: Ofir Winter &, Gallia Lindenstrauss, INSS, Aug. 2, 2016—The stream of reports on the attempted – and failed – military coup in Turkey sent Egypt from euphoria to great embarrassment within a matter of hours. On the evening of July 15, 2016, the Egyptian media outlets affiliated with the regime were quick to celebrate the removal of the Turkish president, who had refused to recognize the legitimacy of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and allowed the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to turn Turkey into a base of operations.

Egypt’s Christians Lose Patience with Sisi as Attacks Spike: Heba Saleh, Financial Times, Aug. 2, 2016—When 11-year-old Susana Khalaf’s family started replacing the wooden roofs of their houses with concrete, a rumour spread around the village that they were converting the buildings into a church. The false claims sparked anger among local Muslim residents, who responded by torching the homes of the Coptic Christian Khalaf family in the middle of the night.




Egypt Caught Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Yoram Meital, Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2016— On the 37th anniversary of the Israeli- Egyptian peace deal, security cooperation between the two countries is at an all-time high.

Has Egyptian President Abd el Fattah el Sisi Lost his Charm?: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, JCPA, Apr 21, 2016— Things are getting tough in Egypt for Abdel Fattah el Sisi who is suffering from a steep fall in popularity and open criticism in recent months.

Sailing Through the Straits: The Meaning for Israel of Restored Saudi Sovereignty over Tiran and Sanafir Islands.: Rex Murphy, National Post, May 1, 2016— For Israelis above a certain age, mentioning the name of Tiran and Sanafir islands is enough to send a thrill – or a chill – down their spines…

Community Loses a Leader as Rabbi Ron Aigen Passes Away: The Suburban, May 9, 2016— Earlier this week I received an email from the Dorshei Emet Congregation in Hampstead.   

Joyce Deitcher: Montreal Gazette, May 7, 2016— Passed gracefully from this earth at home surrounded by her loving family on Friday, May 6, 2016 at the age of 90.


On Topic Links


Why Washington is Placing its Bets on Egypt’s Dictator: Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, New York Post, May 7, 2016

ISIS Kills 8 Egyptian Police Outside Cairo: Ynet, May 8, 2016

An Unlikely Trio: Israel, Hamas and Egypt Align Against ISIS in Sinai: Rosie Perper, Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2016

Israel, Egypt Fight US Plan to Trim Troops in Sinai Multinational Force: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 4, 2016




Yoram Meital                                                        

Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2016


On the 37th anniversary of the Israeli- Egyptian peace deal, security cooperation between the two countries is at an all-time high. The two governments share an inimical view of Hamas rule in Gaza and both operate in various ways against Islamic State (ISIS) forces in Sinai. Nevertheless, opposition in Egypt to normalizing relations with Israel remains widespread.

Five years ago the current level of security cooperation would have seemed highly unlikely. The overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and the subsequent coming to power of the Muslim Brotherhood under Mohammed Morsi was seen in Israel as an extremely negative development. So much so that it necessitated a significant change in Israel’s national security estimates and alignment.

True, Morsi’s Egypt continued to honor its commitments under the peace treaty. But Israeli decision makers were gravely concerned at the burgeoning cooperation between Cairo and Hamas, and the increase in hostilities along the border with Sinai. Morsi’s overthrow in July 2013 and the return to power of the generals under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was enthusiastically welcomed.

The drastic change this brought about in Egypt’s attitude to Hamas (which the generals saw as a militant branch of the Muslim Brotherhood they had just ousted) and the uncompromising campaign it initiated against militant groups in Sinai were grist to the Israeli government’s mill. Israel quickly agreed to a significant increase in Egyptian forces in Sinai in areas which, according to the peace treaty, were supposed to be demilitarized.

The honeymoon that characterizes the security and intelligence relations between Israel and Egypt is a direct result of the Sisi administration’s perception of real and imagined threats on the Sinai front and in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the assumption that relations between the two countries are about to be upgraded in other spheres is no more than wishful thinking.

In Egyptian public discourse, Israel continues to be depicted as a hostile force and its policies are invariably presented in a negative light. A case in point highlighting the depth of opposition to normalization with Israel was the recent expulsion from parliament of the outspoken member Tawfik Okasha. Okasha had dared to invite the Israeli ambassador to his home and discuss politics over dinner. True, Okasha is something of a sensationalist who delights in provocation. But the fact that his meeting with the ambassador prompted such a severe sanction reflects the intensity of public opposition to normalization.

The fighting in northern Sinai against ISIS affiliates is high on the Sisi government’s list of priorities. Hundreds of miles of desert separate Sinai from Egypt’s Nile valley heartland. But the working assumption of the decision makers in Cairo is that the ISIS presence in Sinai undermines their efforts to restore internal security and rehabilitate the economy.

The same is true of Egypt’s attitude to Hamas in Gaza. From day one, the Sisi administration saw Hamas as an adjunct of its arch-enemy, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which it had declared a terrorist organization and which it blamed for dozens of terror attacks. In early March, Egyptian authorities accused Hamas of aiding and abetting members of the Brotherhood in the assassination last June of Chief Prosecutor Hisham Barakat. This grave charge was not retracted even after Hamas leaders condemned the killing and insisted that their movement does not interfere in Egypt’s internal affairs. On the contrary, the Egyptian media are awash with leaks from security forces accusing Hamas of aiding Jihadist groups in Sinai in attacks that have taken the lives of hundreds of soldiers and border police.

The Sisi administration’s iron fist policy toward Hamas is evident on the ground. The Rafah crossing point to Egypt, the only exit from Gaza that does not border on Israel, has been closed for most of the past two and half years. The Egyptian army has destroyed dozens of smuggling tunnels on Gaza’s western border with Sinai, evacuated thousands of Egyptian citizens from the border area, declared it a closed military zone and imposed severe travel restrictions throughout northern Sinai.

The far-reaching change in Egyptian policy came to the fore during Operation Protective Edge, the violent 49-day confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014. For the first time, Cairo blamed Hamas, and not solely Israel, for an armed clash between them. Moreover, in contacts over ending the fighting, Egypt rejected key Hamas demands, including the lifting of the tight closure it and Israel had imposed on the Gaza Strip. Its position on reconstruction of Gazan infrastructure and buildings destroyed in the fighting and the supervision of renewed inflow of construction materials and goods was closer to Israel’s than to that of Hamas.

The Sisi government did not deviate from its hardline on Hamas even when international and Israeli organizations warned that Gaza with its 1.8 million inhabitants was on the verge of a serious humanitarian crisis. In this context, various Israeli politicians proposed constructing a seaport in Gaza. The Israeli military was apparently ready to go along with the idea despite the obvious security challenge it would pose. But the Sisi administration was quick to pour cold water on the proposal, effectively preventing a study of its feasibility.

Recently, however, the Sisi government’s attitude to Hamas has been modified somewhat in light of Egypt’s close ties with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf State allies. Serious interests are in the balance. These major oil exporters granted Sisi’s Egypt financial aid estimated at around $30 billion, saving it from certain bankruptcy. While Riyadh and Cairo see eye to eye on Iran as a serious threat and share the same criticism of the Obama administration’s hesitant Middle East policy, they are divided on the future of the Assad regime in Syria and on Hamas, which Saudi Arabia wants to include in the regional camp it leads.

Over the past few months there has been a significant reduction in Arab aid to Egypt. This might go some way toward explaining the mid-March visit to Cairo by a high level Hamas delegation. However, from the talks it seems the inherent mistrust of Hamas has not abated and, besides a string of very general understandings, the delegation returned to Gaza empty-handed. For now, Egyptian policy makes it very tough for Hamas to function as a ruling establishment and hinders its preparations for renewal of the armed confrontation against Israel…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                                                                                                    




Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah

JCPA, Apr. 21, 2016


Things are getting tough in Egypt for Abdel Fattah el Sisi who is suffering from a steep fall in popularity and open criticism in recent months. The latest events to spark the unparalleled attacks against Sisi’s tenure are the agreement to cede the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir, commanding the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba, to Saudi Arabia and the questions arising from Egypt’s behavior in the case of the death of the Italian student Giulio Regeni, a PhD student at Girton College, Cambridge, who was researching Egypt’s independent trade unions. Abducted in Cairo, Regeni was found a few days later in a ditch with marks of severe torture on his body, allegedly the work of the Egyptian secret service.


Most of the Egyptian press and opinion makers did not comment on the Regeni case but limited themselves to reporting factually the deteriorating relations with Italy. The Italian government recalled its ambassador for consultations following the stuttering explanations given by the Egyptian government relating to the case.  But the transference of sovereignty of the two islands to Saudi Arabia has been the issue met with open anger and protests.


Since the beginning of the 20th century, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have disputed the sovereignty over the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir commanding the maritime traffic to Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Whether Tiran and Sanafir islands belong historically to Saudi Arabia or to Egypt is not the purpose of this paper. However, in a well-documented presentation, the Egyptian government said the case was a restoration of usurped sovereignty to Saudi Arabia, and in Sisi’s words, “We have returned to Saudi Arabia its rights.”


It is an accepted historical fact that in 1950 “under the prevailing circumstances of hostilities facing Israel, Egypt had invaded with Saudi benediction” (as stated by the official Egyptian version) and taken full control of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to use them as military outposts. The strategic position of the islands was twice put into practice when President Nasser of Egypt ordered in 1956 and then again in 1967 a maritime blockade denying Israeli ships, as well as all ships bound to and from Israel, to pass through the Straits of Tiran. It appears now, according to information released by the Egyptian government following the announcement made by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that the islands were part and parcel of the Wahhabi Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Negotiations had been conducted in 11 rounds of meetings between the disputing sides during the presidential tenures of Hosni Mubarak, Muhammed Morsi, and finally Sisi in order to reach the decision to return the two islands to Saudi Arabia.


The official explanations did not appease public opinion in Egypt. Short of accusing Sisi of betrayal, his critics reproached him for in effect selling the islands to Saudi Arabia in return for lavish economic assistance. Ahmad Sayyed AlNajjar, chairman of the prestigious state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper wrote, “The homeland is not a room for rent or a travelling station…”

AlNajjar added on Facebook, “Umm Rashrash (the Arab name for Eilat) remains a stolen jewel, and I am deeply convinced that we will get it back one day. From all our border areas, Sanafir and Tiran appear as a jewel Egypt defended with outstanding courage and shed blood and souls in order to keep the straits that command the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba in dire times of destiny. I say goodbye to our untouchable national borders because they are the blood and flesh of Egypt and the map of the heroic deeds of its people and the frontiers of its existence forever.”


Egyptians charged their once-popular president, Sisi, of surrendering the islands to win the Saudis’ favor. One cartoon showed the Sphinx wearing a Saudi kaffiya; On Twitter, a popular hashtag was “I feel like selling what to Saudi Arabia?” A media prominent person, Jaber AlQarmouty, stated that Sisi lost popularity because of his decision to hand over the two islands to Saudi Arabia and added, in a very unusual statement addressed to Sisi, “If the matter continues in this pattern, it is not going to be in your interest…” Turning to the issue of Regeni and the disastrous state of tourism following the ISIS terrorist bombing of a Russian civilian aircraft over Sinai, AlQarmouty referred to the Egyptian government’s bumbling press statements, “I doubt you agree with the Regeni and the Russian airplane files!”…


Politicians were quick to react and to accuse Sisi of a loss of legitimacy and that the act may even contradict the newly voted constitution. Others argued that the issue was “too important not be presented in a referendum according to article 151 of the constitution.” Amro AlShubaki, a political commentator, added that the executive branch should not be given “an open check… while deputies in parliament should fulfill their role in controlling the actions of government and its legislation in introducing a motion of non-confidence in the government because of misbehavior.”


No doubt that Sisi’s decision to cede the islands to Saudi Arabia became in the hands of the opposition a hatchet to throw against him in order to expose his shortcomings since the beginning of his tenure as president. His bitter opponent living in exile in the Emirates, General Ahmad Shafik, once a presidential candidate, published a pamphlet in which he pointed at Sisi’s failures in running Egypt’s foreign policy. Shafik pointed at Egypt’s failure to stop Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam on the Nile and the deterioration of Egypt’s relations with “the Italian people.” Shafik asked what caused such a situation and wondered whether the shortcomings were the result of slow governmental decision-making or the result of Sisi’s own decision-making.  Mocking Sisi’s arguments against his predecessor Morsi, Shafik asked to “go back to the people before making any decisions.”


In the end, Shafik published a correction to his statement – most probably under Saudi pressure — justifying the Egyptian decision to cede the islands to Saudi Arabia. Facing the growing anger against his policy, President Sisi, unlike in the past, chose to confront his detractors in an open speech in which he defended his policies and pointed at his opposition as being part of those who want to harm Egypt: the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists. Sisi concluded that the Egyptian army was the sole defender of Egypt while he had no political inclinations at all. Furthermore, Sisi declared that in any case the parliament will have to debate the issue; it is up to this institution to accept or to reject the agreement with Saudi Arabia…           

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman & Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum                                                                                     

BESA, Apr. 17, 2016


For Israelis above a certain age, mentioning the name of Tiran and Sanafir islands is enough to send a thrill – or a chill – down their spines, bringing to mind the proud refrain of a popular song, written in the tense days just before the Six Day War: “We shall make our way/ at nighttime or day/ with our flag, blue and white/ through the Tiran Straits.”


Indeed, the Straits were the casus belli back in 1967, when Gamal Abd al-Nasser cast all caution (and international norms) to the wind and closed them to Israeli shipping. Eilat is a strategic asset and the terminus of Israel's trade with much of Asia and Africa. Even the secretive Protocol of Sèvres signed by Britain, France and Israel in October 1956 had included an explicit reference to Israel's needs concerning the two islands. Israel captured the islands in the Six Day War, but the 1979 Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt enshrined Egypt’s commitment to international norms regarding the freedom of navigation and the islands were returned. One of the region’s neuralgic points was thus removed for many years from the headlines and from the field of conflict.


Will it now re-emerge again as a source of tension? The answer, at least for the foreseeable future, can be deduced from the circumstances of the dramatic announcement this week. It came as the culminating achievement of Saudi King Salman’s historic visit to Cairo, which cemented the vital relationship between these two pillars of regional stability and saw the promulgation of a long list of bilateral agreements on economic and strategic cooperation. Having played a major role in sustaining the present Egyptian regime against political and economic challenges, the Saudis were now in a position to finalize the restoration of their sovereignty over the islands, control of which they have ceded to Egypt back in 1949 in the context of the latter’s better ability to utilize them in the struggle with Israel – which has by now become irrelevant. Their legal case was apparently unassailable, and it was thus more a matter of when rather than whether they will actually assert their claim.


This came as no surprise to Israel. Back in July 2015, the “Cairo Declaration” issued during the visit of Salman’s activist son, Muhammad – serving as Saudi Arabia's Defense Minister – included an explicit reference to the need to settle certain questions of maritime demarcation between the two countries – which could only mean the two islands. Egypt took care to explain its decision to Israel and to allay any fears that this may have any effect on the freedom of navigation. The Saudis did so as well, according to Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, albeit in their own way, while asserting that no direct coordination with Israel can be expected (nor is it necessary).


Israel’s freedom of navigation in the Straits was guaranteed in the deal, said Ayalon. And indeed, the restoration of sovereignty serves to bolster the Saudi commitment to Egyptian stability – which goes a long way towards explaining the rage expressed by the Muslim Brotherhood at this breach of Egypt's “national rights.” With the need to confront Iran high above all other considerations in the Saudi and Egyptian national security playbook – and in Israel’s – any major step that helps bring together the “camp of stability” in the region under joint Egyptian-Saudi leadership will also serve Israel’s interests. Moreover, despite the disavowal of any direct contacts over this issue – and other important issues – over the years, the very fact that Saudi Arabia now undertakes to uphold in practice the obligations assumed by Egypt under the peace treaty means that Israel's place in the region is no longer perceived by Arab leader Saudi Arabia as an anomaly to be corrected. This is a far cry from “normalization” (tatbi`) – which remains a dirty word in the Arab dictionary. But it is nevertheless a welcome ray of light, demonstrating the benefits of cooperation and coordination in a region beset by so much violence.                                                                                                                                                                             




The Suburban, May 9, 2016


Earlier this week I received an email from the Dorshei Emet Congregation in Hampstead. Rabbi Ron Aigen was retiring after 40 years of service and a celebration was planned for him on June 2, followed by a potluck Shabbat supper two days later. “Could  I include this in my column?” I was asked. I planned to include an item this week and call the Rabbi to do a little retrospective on his career. Then today, while doing my groceries, a friend ahead of mine in line asked, “Did you hear about Rabbi Aigen?” I responded, “Of course, he is retiring and they plan to honour him.” Well that is not what she heard. “He died very suddenly last night!” I was told.


Eight months after the community lost Rabbi Sidney Shoham, we now mourn Rabbi Aigen. In the invitation to the dinner in his honour is a photo of a very young Rabbi Ron, with the words “our new hire.” Next to it is a most recent picture, with the caption, “our senior scholar.”…


Funeral services will take place on Tuesday, May 10 at 10 a.m. at Congregation Dorshei Emet, 18 Cleve Road. Burial will be at the Congregation Dorshei Emet Reconstructionist Section, Eternal Gardens Cemetery in Beaconsfield. A reception for the whole community will be held at the synagogue immediately following burial. Shiva will take place at the synagogue on Tuesday and Wednesday, including Minhah Ma'ariv services, and will continue at the Rabbi and Carmela's home in NDG until next Monday…Our sympathies go out to the entire family and congregation. Rest in Peace Rabbi Ron.

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Montreal Gazette, May 7, 2016


Joyce Deitcher passed gracefully from this earth at home surrounded by her loving family on Friday, May 6, 2016 at the age of 90. Daughter of the late Ezra and the late Hazel Lozinski, she will be mourned and deeply missed by her husband of 70 years, Myer, her devoted children, Jordan and the late Enid, Rosalind and Avraham Leneman, and Don; her loving grandchildren, Yonatan, Shelli and Liran, and Aden; and her great-grandchildren, Boaz and Doron. She will be lovingly remembered by her extended family and friends. Many thanks to Mona for her wonderful care. The family would also like to thank all the good people she was fortunate to know who made her life so meaningful.

On Topic Links


Why Washington is Placing its Bets on Egypt’s Dictator: Eli Lake and Josh Rogin, New York Post, May 7, 2016—Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has been trampling human rights, the rule of law and freedom of the press since he became Egypt’s president two years ago. For almost as long, the international community has called on him to stop. But his critics in Washington recently changed their tune.

ISIS Kills 8 Egyptian Police Outside Cairo: Ynet, May 8, 2016—Militants opened fire on a microbus filled with plainclothes police in a Cairo suburb early Sunday, killing eight of them, including an officer, in an attack claimed by a local ISIS affiliate.

An Unlikely Trio: Israel, Hamas and Egypt Align Against ISIS in Sinai: Rosie Perper, Jerusalem Post, May 1, 2016—Israel, Hamas, and Egypt have aligned their strategies and formed an unlikely alliance against the Islamic State in Sinai, who are planning increasingly sophisticated and daring attacks in the region, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.

Israel, Egypt Fight US Plan to Trim Troops in Sinai Multinational Force: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press, May 4, 2016— Israel and Egypt have united to protest a decision by the United States to reduce its contingent in the Sinai Peninsula multinational force by a third. It’s unclear whether opposition by the two allies will move anyone in the White House, however.











So Much for Putin’s Syria ‘Quagmire’: Wall Street Journal, Mar. 14, 2016— After Vladimir Putin sent Russian forces to Syria in September, President Obama offered this prediction: “An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up [Bashar] Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work.”

Will the Syrian Ceasefire Last?: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 13, 2016— The cease-fire that came into effect in Syria on February 27 is a partial success. Humanitarian convoys have begun to get through to some of the areas besieged by government forces.

Hamas’ Terrorism in Egypt: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, Mar. 10, 2016 — In recent weeks, senior Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip claimed that the movement’s relations with Egypt have improved somewhat thanks to contacts initiated by Hamas leaders.

The Israeli-Egyptian Love Affair: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 29, 2016— Egyptian parliament member and TV talk show host Tawfiq Okasha let the genie out of the bottle.


On Topic Links


Don't Trust Putin's Syria Pullback: Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, Mar. 14, 2016

The Strategy Behind Russia’s Moves in Syria: Nikolay Pakhomov, National Interest, Mar. 15, 2016

Hamas Pleads With Egypt: Stop Destroying Terror Tunnels: Ariella Mendlowitz, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 14, 2016

Shin Bet: Palestinian Oversaw Anti-Israeli Terror Group in Cairo: Ynet, Mar. 6, 2016




Wall Street Journal, Mar. 14, 2016


After Vladimir Putin sent Russian forces to Syria in September, President Obama offered this prediction: “An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up [Bashar] Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work.”


As quagmires go, Mr. Putin will take it. On Monday he announced that Russia will begin withdrawing the “main part” of its forces in Syria having accomplished his strategic goals at little cost. Mr. Putin rescued Mr. Assad when Russia’s Middle Eastern client was in danger of falling and has put him in a much stronger position. Russia focused its bombing on Mr. Assad’s moderate Sunni opponents, not Islamic State. The bombing and Hezbollah’s ground forces have broken the opposition’s hold on Aleppo and consolidated a larger safe zone in the Syrian west for the Alawite regime.


Having established these facts on the ground, Mr. Assad is now well placed to exploit the U.S.-Russia brokered Syrian peace talks. Mr. Assad can continue his offensive against the opposition while making few diplomatic concessions. Mr. Putin has also consolidated his alliance with Iran while diminishing U.S. influence.


By withdrawing some forces, or at least appearing to, Mr. Putin is also hoping to coax concessions from the U.S. and Europe. The Russian wants the West to ease its sanctions against Russia for snatching Ukrainian territory, and he knows Mr. Obama is looking for a way get back to business as usual with Russia. The withdrawal announcement may be an attempt to give Mr. Obama diplomatic cover for one more “reset” in relations before Mr. Obama leaves the White House.


Russia’s intervention won’t end the Syrian civil war, and Islamic State still controls much of the country. But countering terrorism never was Mr. Putin’s goal. He wanted to show the world that Russia stands by its allies and to acquire new leverage in the Middle East and Europe. Any more such quagmires and he’ll be back sipping cocktails at the next G-8 summit.                  




Jonathan Spyer

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 13, 2016


The cease-fire that came into effect in Syria on February 27 is a partial success. Humanitarian convoys have begun to get through to some of the areas besieged by government forces. The death toll is sharply down.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the civilian death toll in Syria fell by 90 percent last week. This was accompanied by an 80% decline in deaths among combatants on all sides.


“Proximity” talks between the sides are set to commence in Geneva on Wednesday. The government has announced it will attend. The opposition High Negotiations Committee has yet to make a final decision but will probably also be there.

So does the cease-fire in Syria represent the beginnings of an endgame in the long and bloody civil war which has racked the country since mid- 2011? This is a war in which, according to a recent report by the Damascus-based Syrian Center for Policy Research, up to 470,000 people have died. Fully 11.5% of the population have been killed or injured, and 45% have left their homes.

As of now, there remains very little chance of the implementation of the plan as outlined in Vienna last November for the diplomatic process in Syria. According to this plan, within six months of the commencement of negotiations, the sides are to establish a “credible, inclusive and nonsectarian” transitional government. This government will then set about drafting a new constitution and holding free and fair UN-supervised election within 18 months.

The tentative success of the February 27 cease-fire notwithstanding, this plan still sounds utterly unrealistic.
Its main stumbling block remains the core disagreement between regime and opposition over the future role of President Bashar Assad. For the opposition, any role for Assad in the course of the transition remains utterly unacceptable. For Assad, riding high on the results of the Russian intervention which began in September last year, there is no reason to compromise or contemplate departure. On the contrary, the Syrian dictator bullishly (and absurdly) announced this week that parliamentary elections will take place across Syria on April 13.

Since the officially sanctioned diplomatic process remains somewhat other- worldly, and yet the cease-fire has not been a total failure, what direction are events likely to take? As of now, Syria has fragmented, and a host of related conflicts are taking place over its ruins. The Russian intervention has effectively removed from the table the possibility of the military destruction of the dictatorship.

For this to be achieved, an air force capable of besting that of the Russians, who guarantee Assad’s survival, would need to enter the fray. Such air power is possessed only by the US. Washington has absolutely no intention of acting as the air wing of the Syrian Sunni rebels, in a way analogous to that of the Russians vis-à-vis the regime. Since this is likely to remain the case, it follows that there is no longer any credible military threat to the continued existence of the Assad regime in its enclave in Damascus, in the western coastal area, in the cities of western Syria and in the areas linking them.

This being said, it remains the case that a regime reconquest of the entirety of Syria also remains unlikely. Assad, in a recent interview, declared this to be his goal. But it is unlikely that the actual forces that could conceivably achieve this goal for him – Russian air power and Iranian proxies on the ground – are interested in pursuing it.


Iran is withdrawing Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps personnel from northwest Syria. The immediate goal of preventing any threat to the regime has been achieved. The Iranian regime does not appear to wish to commit its own forces to the mutual slaughterhouse that a campaign to reconquer all of rebel and Sunni jihadist-controlled Syria would entail.

The Russians, too, appear wary of a long and grinding campaign of reconquest. With a devalued ruble and very low oil prices, it is not clear that they could sustain the necessary expenditure. Again, the goal of the Russian campaign appears to have been to preserve the regime enclave, not to enter an all-out assault for the reunification of Syria by military means.

Even Assad himself may be aware that an attempt at reunifying the country under his rule would bring back the original dilemma that caused his withdrawal in the first place. Assad does not possess sufficient forces to securely govern those areas that reject his rule. The Russian intervention has not altered this core reality. Russia wants to see the removal of Ukraine-related sanctions on it, and to be treated as a world power. Backing its allies and ensuring their survival forms a part of this. An ongoing bloody campaign of reconquest is unlikely to do so.

So if the disparate rebellion can’t beat Assad, and if Assad is unlikely to achieve or even try for a knockout blow against the rebellion, and if there is no basis for a negotiated settlement, doesn’t that mean that the diplomacy is doomed, the cease-fire bound to be short-lived, and a return to full blown conflict inevitable? Maybe, but not necessarily. It is worth remembering that there are two other vital players on the Syrian map, apart from the Assad regime and the Sunni Arab rebellion. The two other elements are the Kurds, and Islamic State. As of now, a Western-backed military alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces, is making steady headway against Islamic State. If this progress can continue, the prospect opening up in Syria will be for a Russian-guaranteed, Assad-ruled west, and a US-guaranteed east, in which Islamic State has either been destroyed or is in the process of eclipse.

On this basis, with neither side able to dislodge the other and neither side having an obvious interest in continued conflict (or with each side deterred by inescapable realities if they do), it is possible to imagine the beginning of a diplomatic process based on the emergence of a confederal or de facto divided Syria.

Such an outcome is, of course, not certain, but it is possible. If it does not emerge, the bloodletting in Syria is likely to recommence with full force in the future, and the current cease-fire to be remembered as little more than a brief respite.





Yoni Ben Menachem             

                        JCPA, Mar. 10, 2016


In recent weeks, senior Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip claimed that the movement’s relations with Egypt have improved somewhat thanks to contacts initiated by Hamas leaders. However, an announcement by the Egyptian Interior Ministry on March 6, 2016, sharply rebuffed such claims. In a press conference, the Egyptian interior minister, General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, declared that Egyptian security forces had arrested a network of 48 Muslim Brotherhood terror operatives responsible for the assassination of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat and that Hamas had played a “major role” in training the operatives.  


Barakat was killed by a car bomb directed at his convoy as it passed through central Cairo. A short time after the murder, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stated: “The order to kill the prosecutor general came from the prison cells of accused Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt,” while official Egyptian media claimed that the order had been given by ousted and jailed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The Balad Egyptian TV channel cited an Egyptian security expert who said the explosives used in the attack had been brought to Egypt from Qatar through diplomatic mail channels of the Qatari embassy in Egypt. Both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood maintain offices in Qatar.


On March 6, 2016, the Egyptian interior minister announced that Barakat’s assassination had been planned by Muslim Brotherhood leaders who had found political asylum in Turkey and that the terrorists had been trained by Hamas. Hamas, he said, had played a “major role” in training and preparing the perpetrators over a period of three months. That claim was bolstered by electronic communications between Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Turkey that were intercepted by Egypt.


The Egyptian operatives had been trained in northern Sinai and then brought into Gaza with the help of Bedouin residents. At the end of the training, they returned to Sinai where they prepared the explosives for the attack. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said the terror operatives who were apprehended also planned to attack several public figures as well as foreign embassies in Egypt, with the aim of destabilizing the country.


In its statement, the Interior Ministry asserted: “The Palestinian problem is one issue and what Hamas perpetrates is another. The connection with Hamas will be shown from its involvement in the prosecutor general affair.” Hamas was surprised by the Egyptian announcement. The movement’s spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, issued a statement denying the Egyptian claims. “The allegations,” it said, “are not true and not consistent with the efforts that have been invested in developing ties with Egypt.” This is not the first time Egypt has accused Hamas of terror activity within Egypt in cooperation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is Hamas’ parent movement.


Egyptian authorities say Hamas is also actively assisting Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State movement’s branch in northern Sinai, and that this aid involves training its operatives in Gaza and treating its wounded fighters in Gaza hospitals. In return, Wilayat Sinai helps Hamas smuggle weapons into Gaza from Sinai.


The timing of the Egyptian announcement on Hamas and Turkey’s connection with the prosecutor general’s murder is not coincidental. Egypt is now under pressure from Saudi Arabia to agree to a Turkish foothold in Gaza, linked to the easing of the blockade and the building of a floating seaport that would enable Turkish ships to reach the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians strongly oppose Turkey’s demand because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed by Egypt, and because of Hamas’ involvement in terror within Egypt. The highlighting of Turkey and Hamas’ connection with the Muslim Brotherhood terror gang that assassinated the prosecutor general helps Egypt rebuff the Saudi pressures.


Hamas is gravely perplexed by the Egyptian interior minister’s announcement. The movement pins great hopes on Turkey’s efforts to get Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza and build the floating seaport in return for normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations. What Hamas fears is that Egypt will torpedo Turkey’s efforts regarding Gaza so that it can tighten the blockade and control the Strip’s borders along with Israel. Hamas also fears that Egypt will decide to declare it, too, a terror organization, just as the Gulf States declared Hizbullah to be one on March 2, 2016. The Arab interior ministers’ meeting in Tunisia also came out in support of the move against Hizbullah.


About a year ago, the Egypt government responded to insistent pleading by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and some Arab states by canceling a court ruling in Egypt that had declared Hamas a terror organization. At this stage, however, the government will likely reinitiate such a move against Hamas. A lawsuit against Hamas was filed by an Egyptian lawyer and is due to be heard in the Alexandria Court of Urgent Matters on March 23, 2016.


Meanwhile, Egypt is rejecting Hamas’ requests for a permanent opening of the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only egress to the Arab world. Since Sisi took office Egypt has opened the crossing for only a few days each year. The aim is to pressure the Hamas government, which is working with radical Islamic forces to undermine the Egyptian regime.




Ben Caspit                                        

   Al-Monitor, Feb. 29, 2016


Egyptian parliament member and TV talk show host Tawfiq Okasha let the genie out of the bottle. Even though a shoe was thrown in his face by Kamel Ahmed, another parliament member, and despite the savage attacks directed at him in the Egyptian media and public forum in recent days, the sharp-tongued, brazen Okasha doesn’t get excited. His crime was defined by the media as “the crime of normalization,” for the fact that he invited Haim Koren, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, to his house for dinner on Feb. 24. Okasha even heaped praises on the ambassador and on the collaboration and normalization of relations between Israel and Egypt.


Okasha wouldn’t have dared to invite Koren without a wink from someone upstairs. He knows that Egypt’s higher stratums — from the president to the regime’s high echelons, the military, intelligence and the elites — view Israel as an important, powerful ally in regional struggles. But “the other Egypt,” the lower echelons, have not yet internalized this change. The masses, together with most of the politicians, public opinion leaders, journalists and writers still view the Jewish state as a type of satanic entity: the eternal, mythological and hated enemy. And they see no reason to moderate their view of the Jewish state at this time.


The peace agreement between Israel and Egypt was signed in March 1979, almost 37 years ago on the White House lawn, at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Menachem Begin, US President Jimmy Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. The agreement has survived many vicissitudes over the years and demonstrates impressive stability, but has no effect on the lives of the Egyptian masses. Normalization does not exist; Egyptian citizens were barred from visiting Israel by the mukhabarat (Egyptian secret service). Any flash or hint of any kind of cooperation with official Israeli sources, any clue of an Israeli presence in culture, films or literature immediately encounters a barbed-wire wall of invectives, vituperation and violence from all sides.


The stormy love affair between Egypt and Israel is dramatic and clandestine. Israel’s military censorship forbids dissemination of exact details of the deepening cooperation between the states. It was actually Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in an interview with the Washington Post in March 2015, who said that he speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently, sometimes several times a month. In reality, Sisi talks to Netanyahu even more than that, and not only to Netanyahu. On the list of Egypt’s close allies, Israel’s name is a front-runner. It is almost unprecedented how so many of the interests of the two countries have converged and complement one another. Even the list of enemies held by Israel and Egypt includes the same names, more or less.


It is very convenient for Sisi to secretly enjoy the fruits of Israel’s intelligence, experience and power, while publically allowing his nation’s masses to curse and abuse Israel as an anger-channeling tool and a type of demon or scapegoat that can be blamed for all of Egypt’s socio-economic problems. Nonetheless, it is clear that the closeness between Sisi and Israel’s highest echelons is not a superficial one. “Sisi understands the situation,” said a high-ranking Israeli security source speaking on condition of anonymity. “He knows exactly whom he can trust in the region and whom he can’t. He knows what’s good for Egypt and, under the correct circumstances, what’s good for Egypt is also good for Israel.”


Following the incident in which Koren dined at Okasha’s table, the Israeli ambassador told Channel 10 that he himself met personally with Sisi recently a number of times. This, too, is unprecedented. Until the Sisi era, Israeli ambassadors in Egypt were ostracized outcasts: They were holed up in an isolated embassy, totally cut off from the country around them. They spent their weekends in Israel in order to breathe some fresh air and mingle with other people. Suddenly, the Israeli ambassador has become a welcome, frequent guest in the Egyptian president’s premises. Sisi, who long served as a general, himself is well-acquainted with, and close to, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot. They once served in parallel positions in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Egyptian army. Thus, their cooperation extends over many years, and they share a common language and mutual respect. Sisi and his generals also share close relationships with the IDF higher-ups.


For the first time in many generations, intelligence information is almost totally shared between the sides, mainly with regard to the struggle against the Islamic State (IS) branch in the Sinai Peninsula. Israel and Egypt rely on one another in their joint struggle against Hamas and IS. “As far as the Egyptians are concerned,” a senior Israeli military source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “the Muslim Brotherhood is comparable to the Nazis. Hamas is perceived as an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood; thus, they are viewed as an enemy that must be destroyed. The Islamic State has joined this equation recently, and they share the exact same rubric.”


For many long years, Israel begged the Egyptians to block Hamas’ tunnels — tunnels that allowed Gaza to become a veritable storehouse of weapons, rockets and missiles. Under former President Hosni Mubarak, and also under his successor, Mohammed Morsi, Egypt almost didn’t lift a finger. Egypt's actions were half-hearted and had little effect on reality. By contrast, Sisi adopted this mission with great zeal, and the Egyptians destroyed all of the tunnels. Some were flooded with ocean water and some were blocked up. They did this out of unmistakable Egyptian interests: Intelligence information, some of which came from Israel, point to tight coordination between Hamas and Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in Sinai, which turned into a local branch of IS. Sisi declared an all-out war on IS, and he could not have made any achievements without the great assistance he received from Israel, in many different spheres. According to a high-placed Israeli military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, “The efficacy of the Egyptian army in its war against IS is gradually improving. This is true for intelligence, for preciseness and for rapid response. The Egyptians know that Gaza’s Hamas provides IS with military experts, they know that wounded Sinai IS operatives are treated in Gaza, they know that there is a direct, close connection between the sides. Thus, they try to block all passageways between the Gaza Strip and Sinai.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]


On Topic


Don't Trust Putin's Syria Pullback: Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg, Mar. 14, 2016—President Vladimir Putin's unexpected announcement that Russian troops would pull back from Syria shouldn't be taken at face value: He's made similar announcements in the past to show Western negotiating partners how constructive he can be. He always has a hidden agenda.

The Strategy Behind Russia’s Moves in Syria: Nikolay Pakhomov, National Interest, Mar. 15, 2016 —When the Russian bombing campaign started in Syria last fall, one could assume that Moscow's actions would begin to reveal more about the country’s foreign policy. This assumption is proving to be correct now, after President Putin announced the withdrawal of Russia's main forces. Moscow’s actions in Syria over the last half year have clarified both the guidelines of Russian foreign policy and how they help in dealing with very complicated problems of the Middle East.

Hamas Pleads With Egypt: Stop Destroying Terror Tunnels: Ariella Mendlowitz, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 14, 2016—Hamas on Sunday sent a delegation to Egypt in an effort to beseech Egyptian security officials to stop destroying its tunnels out of Gaza. These terror tunnels, employed by the terrorist group for nearly a decade, are used to store weapons, smuggle supplies, and infiltrate enemy territory – Israel – as well as carry out surprise attacks in which people are killed and soldiers abducted.

Shin Bet: Palestinian Oversaw Anti-Israeli Terror Group in Cairo: Ynet, Mar. 6, 2016—Israel arrested in January a Palestinian who allegedly moved to Egypt in 2007 in order to found a terrorist cell dedicated to attacking Israel, it was cleared for publication on Sunday. Najib Mustafa Nizal, 33, was a resident of Qatabiya until moving to Egypt, supposedly for school.




















Between Alliance and Rivalry: Egyptian-Israeli Relations Remain Solid, If Not Particularly Warm: Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Rubin Center, Feb. 16, 2016— The ill-advised declaration on February 6 by Infrastructure and Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz that Egypt had flooded some of Hamas’s Gazan smuggling tunnels at Israel’s request brought attention to an important development…

Three's Company: Israel, Turkey, and Egypt: Yossi Melman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2016— Last month, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, held a secret meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his counterpart, the director of Egyptian Intelligence, Maj.-Gen.Khaled Fawzy.

Hamas Is Fracturing, And Israel Should Be Worried: Jonathan Schanzer, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Feb. 25, 2016 — The al-Qassam Brigades, the so-called “armed wing” of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, is reeling from the recent execution of former official Mahmoud Ishtiwi at the hands of his fellow fighters.

No Hope for Gazans: Alex Fishman, Ynet, Feb. 23, 2016— Just like every year, the IDF is getting ready for another violent round of conflict in Gaza this summer.


On Topic Links


Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Gives Rare Egyptian Interview: Roee Kais & Itamar Eichner, Ynet, Feb. 24, 2016

Hamas Dances with the Devil: Paul Alster, IPT, Feb. 19, 2016

In Historical Shift, New Egyptian Textbooks to Include Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty: Breaking Israel News, Feb. 18, 2016

Egypt's "Security Threat": Churches: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 15, 2016




Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Rubin Center, Feb. 16, 2016


The ill-advised declaration on February 6 by Infrastructure and Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz that Egypt had flooded some of Hamas’s Gazan smuggling tunnels at Israel’s request brought attention to an important development: Israeli-Egyptian relations have over the last two years reached an unprecedented level of mutual understanding and cooperation, primarily on security issues.


To that end, Israel has allowed Egypt to introduce larger number of troops and heavy weapons into Sinai than allowed for in their peace treaty and Egyptian F-16s and Apache helicopters now operate against jihadi insurgents within sight of the Israeli border. The two countries are also likeminded regarding what they both view as the negative behavior of Hamas, the unwelcome efforts of Turkey to play a bigger regional role, and Iran’s power projection in the region.


Egypt’s approach to relations with Israel is two-pronged and contradictory. It is guided by a) strategic, political and economic interests and b) Egypt’s self-perception and view of “the other,” as understood by various domestic actors. It is this latter category that places fundamental limitations on the Egyptian-Israeli relationship, in addition to the continuing differences over the unsolved Palestinian-Israeli issue.


First, the half, or 3/4 full glass: The continued absence of war and extremely low likelihood of war for the foreseeable future. Egyptian military, political and economic elites have long understood that war was not in Egypt’s interest, while peace opened the door to vital American, and other Western aid and investment.


Following the gradual ascent to power of the Muslim Brotherhood following Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, Israel’s worst fears – the return of a hostile Egypt ‒ seemed on the verge of being realized. But for Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Brotherhood, it was a false dawn. The Sisi regime, in power since July 2013, has taken off the gloves, accusing Hamas of providing vital support to Islamist militants who are drawing the blood of Egyptian security forces in Sinai.


On the diplomatic level, the improved Egyptian-Israeli relationship is reflected in the fact that both countries are now again represented by ambassadors after a hiatus of some years.


Economically, on the other hand, the level of trade and investment remains low, and the whole issue of newly discovered natural gas fields in both countries suggests that they will be more competitive than cooperative on this matter in the future. On cultural and ideological levels, the dominant view among Egypt’s political classes has long been one that views Israel as an aggressive geopolitical rival and competitor. “Normalization” (“tatbi”) in the social and cultural realms remains a taboo for most Egyptians.


A recent study by Esther Webman of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies highlights another fundamental obstacle to warmer Egyptian-Israeli relations. The image of the Jew as villain, she demonstrates, has been adopted by competing political and religious factions in Egypt and other Arab countries in order to explain the changing circumstances and catastrophes that have befallen Arab societies, particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring.


Examples from Egypt abound: During the Tahrir Square protests of 2011, anti-Mubarak signs included the drawing of a Star of David on the forehead of president Mubarak. Muslim Brotherhood journalists protesting Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s coup in 2013 declared Sisi to be Jewish and that Egypt was now under Zionist occupation. Similar rhetoric has been directed against the Muslim Brotherhood by the pro-Sisi camp, which has created elaborate anti-Semitic conspiracy theories regarding the Brotherhood. They range from the claim that both parents of its founder, Hasan al-Banna were Moroccan Jews and Freemasons, to the Brotherhood’s supposed adoption of the plans of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to undermine Egyptian society.


Overall, the gap between Egypt’s self-image and its capabilities is yawning. Israel’s success holds up a mirror to Egypt’s regional and domestic weaknesses, reinforcing long extant tendencies to view Israel in a negative light. Hence, the prospects for long-term improvement in Egyptian-Israeli relations will continue to be inhibited by socio-cultural and political-ideological factors that touch on the fundamental core identity and self-image of the Egyptian polity, even as the two countries quietly deepen cooperation in the security and intelligence-sharing areas. And, of course, peace between Egypt and Israel remains a comforting constant in the turbulent Middle East.                 



Yossi Melman               

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2016


Last month, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, held a secret meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his counterpart, the director of Egyptian Intelligence, Maj.-Gen.Khaled Fawzy. During the meeting, Brennan promised to increase CIA aid to Egypt to bolster its struggle against Islamic State terrorist activity in Sinai.


Brennan’s visit is yet another indicator that the US administration is making an effort to improve relations with Cairo following a few cool years that were the result of President Barack Obama’s opposition to Sisi’s ouster two years ago of president Mohamed Morsi, who, sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood, was chosen in free and democratic elections.


The Paris-based website Intelligence Online recently reported that, up until now, the Egyptian military has mainly relied on support from Israel and France: France, by supplying Egypt with satellite images; and Israel, with intercepts. The most important signals intelligence body in IDF Military Intelligence is Unit 8200. The Shin Bet and the Mossad also have units that specialize in eavesdropping and the deciphering of information. The Shin Bet also has a special unit that for a number of years has been actively involved in the prevention of terrorism originating in Sinai.


Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen’s fiveyear term is scheduled to end in just three months’ time and it’s not clear yet whether his term will be extended for another year, as is permitted by law. Cohen is a familiar figure in the Egyptian intelligence community, as he visited Cairo a number of times during and after Operation Protective Edge to discuss activity related to Hamas and Gaza.


According to the division of labor of the three branches of Israeli intelligence, the Mossad is responsible for contacts with counterpart intelligence organizations. In the past, there were numerous reports in the media about meetings between Mossad leaders and their Egyptian counterparts, and visits from both sides in both countries were common events. Gen. Omar Suleiman, for example, was known to have visited Israel.


It’s no secret that since Sisi came into power, Egypt and Israel have been coordinating on an extraordinarily high level regarding security issues. As part of the two countries’ joint struggle against Hamas and Islamic State, Israel has allowed Egypt to bring many more troops into the Sinai Peninsula than is stipulated in the peace agreement they signed together in 1979. Egypt and Israel are keen on this cooperation, due to their shared fear of Iran’s increasing strength and its attempts to destabilize Sunni regimes in the Middle East, both directly, through its intelligence agents, and indirectly, through Hezbollah. In the past, Egyptian security services captured a number of Iranian and Hezbollah terrorist networks.


Nonetheless, this intimate relationship is not just a strategic asset but also an obstacle, as it makes it difficult for Israel to progress in its efforts to reach a settlement with Gaza and to improve its relationship with Turkey. It’s in Israel’s best interests to ease the plight of the residents of the Gaza Strip, and to put an end to the siege (or their sense of siege). The people of Gaza are currently receiving most of their supplies and goods from Israel. Every day, about 800 trucks pass through the border crossings. But the border is effectively closed to the movement of people, except for humanitarian reasons, such as for medical treatment; religious reasons, such as for Christians on Christmas, or Muslims going on pilgrimage to Mecca, or students going to study at universities.


The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is closed almost all year round. In all of 2015, the Rafah crossing was open to people for a total of less than 30 (nonconsecutive) days. What this means is that the people responsible for restricting Gazans and who are imposing a tight siege on Gaza are actually the Egyptians, not the Israelis.


But this fact has not made things easier for the Israeli authorities. The Israelis’ concern is that in the end, this sense of suffocation will become so great that, against its will, Hamas (Ismail Haniyeh, the vice chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, said this week that his organization has no desire for conflict with Israel) will fire rockets or carry out some other act of terrorism, such as an offensive using the tunnels they’ve been digging under Israeli territory.


The IDF leadership is of the opinion that Hamas does not want to engage in a war against Israel, and that it fears Israel’s strength, which is acting as a deterrence. This, however, is not preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities and digging tunnels, some of which apparently have come very close to, or possibly even infiltrated, Israeli territory. Hamas is building outposts along the border and producing longer-range rockets with enhanced precision.


What the upper echelons at the IDF fear is that, in the face of this deterrence, and despite the Hamas leadership’s (political and military, local and international) desire to avoid another conflict with Israel, one small incident could create a spark that would ignite the whole area, and then the situation might escalate into a full-fledged war in 2016…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



                   Jonathan Schanzer                                                       

Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Feb. 25, 2016


The al-Qassam Brigades, the so-called “armed wing” of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, is reeling from the recent execution of former official Mahmoud Ishtiwi at the hands of his fellow fighters. Several members of the Hamas fighting force resigned in protest, arguing that Ishtiwi was killed because of internal arguments within Hamas rather than immoral behavior, as was first reported. The schism has produced a new breakaway faction—the Free Qassam Members (al-Qassamiyoun al-Ahrar) which is openly speaking out against the al-Qassam Brigades leadership and calling for an investigation.


The schism amongst Hamas fighters comes at a difficult time for the group. Leaders from the group’s Politburo, its main policy-making body, are also squabbling. It doesn’t help that these figures are scattered across the Middle East, in places like Turkey, Qatar, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and beyond. The exile stems from Hamas’s fallout with Iran and Syria in 2012 over the slaughter in Syria. Hamas had been operating out of Damascus since the 1990s, but elected to leave after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with Iranian assistance, began its mass slaughter of Syrian Sunnis and Palestinians in Syrian refugee camps. The rupture not only forced Hamas to relinquish its Syrian headquarters; it also led to a cutoff in Iranian funding.


Yet, not all Hamas members have accepted the divorce with Iran as final. Tehran has continued to provide the al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza with rocket technology to wage war with Israel, and possibly weapons for the group’s underground operatives in the West Bank. Last week, Hamas sent a high-level delegation to Iran to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s 37th anniversary. The delegation included Osama Hamdan, the group’s Lebanon–based head of international relations, Khalid al-Qaddumi, the permanent Hamas representative to Iran, and Politburo member Mohammed Nasser. Their very presence suggests that Iran could yet again gain vast influence over the Palestinian militant group, particularly its armed wing.


But Hamdan and company don’t lead the Hamas Politburo. That distinction goes to Khaled Meshaal, who has been operating out of Qatar since his exile from Syria. Qatar has become a key funder for the group in recent years. The former emir, Sheikh Hamad, was the first world leader to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where he pledged $400 million in 2012. Qatari aid continues to flow today, including through channels approved by Israel to contribute to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after the devastating war with Israel in 2014.


Qatar’s assistance, while crucial to the survival of Hamas, is not without its controversies. The Free Qassam Members, who have pledged their allegiance to Meshaal, claim that Ishtiwi’s executioners targeted him for contacting Hamas leaders abroad. This seems to suggest a growing and open rift between the military and political wings of the movement.


Hamas’s various leaders and factions, at the very least, are having trouble communicating. This was made clear with the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June 2014. That attack was planned and financed by a Hamas leader, Saleh Arouri, in yet another center of gravity for the group—Turkey. It is questionable whether Arouri conferred with his Hamas colleagues before ordering the operation. If he did, his colleagues somehow didn’t foresee that the attack could lead to a brutal war. And brutal it was, lasting 50 days, with Israel responding to Hamas’s nearly 5,000 rocket attacks with punishing reprisals.


The summer 2014 war was one from which the Gaza Strip has yet to recover. Nearly two years later, the Hamas government is under fire from its own constituents for failing to rebuild. The Hamas government has grown cautious—amid the current wave of stabbings and attacks in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip remains uncharacteristically quiet.


True, Hamas exhorts its followers in the West Bank to strike Israelis, but the group is cheering for a war it won’t have to fight. And yes, the al-Qassam Brigades are believed to be digging underground commando tunnels for the next war. But Israel’s leaders have signaled, knowingly or not, that this activity is unlikely to prompt a full-blown conflict.


Thus, while its founding charter has not changed, Hamas appears to be lacking direction. Its military wing and a gaggle of political leaders in exile are locked in a competition. Add to that the public frustration with the Gaza-based government leadership, and it’s hard to pinpoint which faction or which leader is actually steering the organization.


One could argue that this is a positive development for Israel, or even for the overall security of the Middle East. To be sure, a fractured Hamas is a weakened one. But a fractured terrorist organization can also be more unpredictable. Hamas lacks command and control. A single faction could launch a war that the rest of the organization does not want—and one that Israel or Western intelligence might be less likely to predict.




                 Alex Fishman     

                                                          Ynet, Feb. 23, 2016


Just like every year, the IDF is getting ready for another violent round of conflict in Gaza this summer. The IDF chief of staff has created a deadline for the IDF to be prepared, focusing on equipment updates and training. No one knows the timing or what will be the direct cause of the next flare up, but it is clear that this near-yearly ritual illustrates the inescapable reality. Yet, this is not only the Israeli mindset.


The residents of Gaza who have left the Strip and spoken to Israelis reveal that this fatalistic mindset is also on the other side. In their opinion, a military confrontation is a certainty. They also believe that it will be a lot more aggressive, that Israel is sick of playing these games with Hamas, and that Israel will do everything to eliminate the organization. Meanwhile, Hamas is planning to surprise Israel with its firepower, and will hit Israel's civilian population in order to break both the status-quo and the blockade. When the two populations are convinced that a flare up will happen, the leadership will not fail to disappoint.


But it seems that the next round being cooked up may surprise the leadership since they will not be in control of the events. It is likely that the confrontation won't start because of some mistake, provocation, or some sort of planned military action based on political logic. There is a high probability that the timing and the intensity of the confrontation will be determined by the Gazan population, which will blow up in Hamas's face, and will spillover onto Israel, the West Bank, and even into Egypt.

Gaza has turned into a human transit camp which every day tests the limits of its population. In Israel, we often see the infrastructure crisis in Gaza – electricity and water shortages, and broken sewage systems. But that only scratches the surface: Gazan society has started to disintegrate.


The number of suicides has reached unprecedented levels. The number of instances of murder within the family has grown: for instance, there is a phenomenon whereby women are stabbing their unemployed husbands. Every third person is on anti-depressants. There has been an increase in drug use and the overall scope of crime has increased, mainly prostitution, as well as the phenomenon of teenagers marrying much older men who are able to support them as a second or third wife. On the other hand, there is no money, young people aren't getting married, and the average age of marriage is rising.


The Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for transfering aid money to the Strip, is not transfering funds for health or education in an organized fashion. In Gaza, there is no proper psychological treatment. There is a rise in the number of children born with deformities – deformities linked with incestual marriages. Due to the current world wide refugee crisis, UNWRA is receiving less money, and fewer families are able to keep their heads above water.


On top of all of this is the constant fear of Israeli airstrikes. For the Gazans, there is no sanctuary – they have nowhere to run, and they have no influence over events. They are mad that Hamas has built for themselves what amount to underground cities, while they are left without bomb shelters.


Young people who are caught trying to cross the fence into Israel say they do it because there is no food at home, or because they are escaping violence in the family. 50 percent of the youth in Gaza have said in different surveys that they want to leave Gaza forever. The IDF is keenly aware of the phenomenon: students who obtain entry permits into Israel through Erez crossing kiss the ground when they leave the Strip. For them, they are free from jail. The ethos of return has been broken – let them leave.


Until the middle of 2015, families who could afford it got themselves smuggled out through the tunnels into Egypt or Libya, and from there take a boat to Europe. Hundreds of Palestinians drowned along the way. The Egyptians succeeded in destroying most of the tunnels, and the route has been cut off.


Now, the number of people falsifying documents "proving" they are sick has grown, and these people are being taken from Gaza to the West Bank for "treatment," but never return. Several people in Gaza have already set themselves on fire in protest. In Tunis, this action led to the "Arab Spring." Gaza is also starting flare up. While it is true that the population is religious, traditional, and more willing to accept its fate, the pot is still about to boil over. When the human time-bomb explodes, there will be no warning, and the shrapnel will hit us all.



On Topic


Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Gives Rare Egyptian Interview: Roee Kais & Itamar Eichner, Ynet, Feb. 24, 2016 —Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren gave a rare interview to Egyptian journalists in his residence in Cairo on Tuesday, and surprisingly, the transcript of the interview was published, and what's more, the journalists were not afraid to expose the fact that they had spoken to the representative from Israel.

Hamas Dances with the Devil: Paul Alster, IPT, Feb. 19, 2016 —The Gaza-based Hamas terror organization has more than its fair share of problems at the moment. Quite likely against its better judgment, it is becoming increasingly reliant on a controversial and dangerous relationship with Sinai Province, the vicious ISIS affiliate in Sinai.

In Historical Shift, New Egyptian Textbooks to Include Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty: Breaking Israel News, Feb. 18, 2016—A history textbook to be used in Egyptian schools will discuss the country’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel for the first time, Israel’s Army Radio reported.

Egypt's "Security Threat": Churches: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 15, 2016—On February 1, Tharwat Bukhit, a Coptic Christian member of Egypt's parliament, announced "there are approximately 50 churches in Egypt closed for reasons of security."
















On  November 28, 2015, Tawadros II, the 118th Coptic Pope, the leader of the worldwide body of Egyptian Orthodox Christians, travelled with a delegation of other Coptic clerics from Cairo to Jerusalem in order  to preside over the funeral for Anba Abraham, the Coptic Orthodox Metropolitan Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Near East  since 1992.


This was the first time since the end of the Six Day War in June, 1967, that the head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church has set foot in Jerusalem. Spokesmen for the Coptic Orthodox Church insisted that this was “an exceptional situation” and was not significant of any coming change of the church’s stance on Jerusalem and the Palestinian cause.


Friends of Israel have being trying hard to turn this event into a “gesture” suggestive of a new chapter of reconciliation between the Coptic Church and the State of Israel – perhaps, ultimately, between the people of Egypt and the people of Israel. However, more than pinch of skepticism is needed here.


***Who Are the Copts?


The word “Copt” is a corruption of the Greek egyptos:  it refers to native Egyptian people who claim, with some plausibility, to trace to a missionary journey of St. Mark that took place during the reign of Emperor Nero (54 to 68 AD.) The language in which the Copts worship is the ancient language of the Pharaohs, while the world around them speaks Arabic, the language of the 7th century conquerors.


There is no reason to belittle their leader’s title of Pope – that is, the Father of  the church community – which is every bit as venerable as the claim to the same title by the Bishop of Rome.


It is generally reckoned that about 10% of Egyptians are Christian. The World Council of Churches calculates that the actual Coptic population living in Israel and the Palestine Authority is about 2,500.


Following the Council of Chalcedon (451), called to resolve differences over the nature of the relation between and among the Three Persons of the Trinity, the Copts turned their backs on the upstart theological princes of Rome and Constantinople and stayed with the Pre-Chalcedonian  Camp, where we find the other main churches indigenous to the Arab world. The unexpectedly rapid conquest of the Christian world by the Muslims in the 7th and 8th centuries was made possible by these divisions among the Christian kingdoms of the time.


In our own time, Copts  have experienced growing persecution at the hands of the Muslim majority of Egypt, who, with the co-operation of  ill-disposed academics and  poorly-informed journalists in our part of the world, have given currency to the myth that Christianity is a Western religion, imposed on the indigenous Muslims of the Middle East.


***Christian Communities and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t.


We can no longer pretend that the answer to the problems of the Middle East is democracy. We have already seen the fruits of democracy in Muslim nations like Iraq, where, since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Christians have been brutally persecuted to the point that perhaps one-third of them have fled their homeland; and in Afghanistan, where a decade after the West overthrew the Taliban, committing billions of dollars and thousands of lives, the last public church has been destroyed, even as Christians suffer under blasphemy and apostasy laws enforced by the government installed and maintained by the West.


For nearly a half-century prior to this moment, November 28, 2015, Coptic Popes   had banned visits to  Jerusalem by members of the Coptic flock–  as a gesture of solidarity with the side that lost the Six Day war, and with it, custody of the Holy City. Apart from this larger issue, there are bad feelings between the Coptic leaders and the Israeli government on account of the latter’s recognition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s title to a monastery of its own which was built many centuries ago on the roof of the Holy Sepulcher and which today is surrounded by a virtual village of transplanted Ethiopian people looking to be found by the Lord in the End of Times as closed as possible to the site of His Resurrection – as close, that is, as is possible given the possession of the Sepulchre itself by the syndicate of Roman Catholic  Greek Orthodox and Armenians who have custody of the Sepulchre itself.


The Coptic Pope’s ban has been far from airtight, however:  during Easter celebrations last year, some 5,000 Copts made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem; most of these, however, are residents of countries other than Egypt. It is the dream of every Copt to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem before one’s death, and for centuries the Copts did.


The painful truth is that most Christians of the Arab world have no desire to break ranks with Muslims against the Jews. For these Christians, contempt for Jews is founded in theology. For two millennia, these churches have taught that God’s rejection of the Jews follows from their collective act of “deicide.”  The evident consequences of this evil act include the destruction of their Second Temple, the end of their communities in the Holy Land and the Diaspora.


It should be noted that this paradigm of lethal hatred of Christians by Jews is promoted without any attention being given to the fact that Israel is today the only state in the region where Christian numbers are increasing, and where the Christian portion of the whole population has held steadily for half a century.


***“First, the Saturday People, Then the Sunday People.”


Just as surely as the extirpation of the Jews was prepared and then accomplished after 1949 by all the Arab regimes that had been humiliated by Israel’s survival, so today  extirpation of all  Christians from the region remains the declared goal of all branches of Muslim opinion.  The spirit of this campaign has found expression over recent years in a motto, “First, the Saturday People, then the Sunday People” (which, being translated means, Kill the Jews first, then the Christians) which appears on walls everywhere in the Middle East, and is even found in the Arab quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem. (See my essay, “After Saturday Comes Sunday, Bayview Review, December 21, 2011.)


Given this threat of liquidation closing in on both Jews and Christians living in the Middle East, solidarity of Christians with Jews everywhere ought to be advancing. Instead, ever since the early days of the Arab Spring, the principal spokesmen for all the local churches have been competing with one another to prove which is the most hostile to Zionism.


Particularly difficult for Christian friends of Israel to stomach has been the fact that as Muslim mobs were descending upon the dwindling Coptic Christian minority of Egypt, burning churches and despoiling church-goers, official spokesmen for that church were  trying to persuade us that this was all the work of the Masons and the Jews. The Coptic Pope, Shenouda III, denounced Western churches for following the guidance of Nostra Aetate and seeking “reconciliation” with the irredeemable Jews. He reminded his  countrymen that the Jews were “Christ-killers … because the New Testament says they are.”


The incumbent Pope’s visit to Jerusalem has been denounced by both secular and Christian Egyptians for weakening the resistance front against normalization with Israel. One senior Coptic voice, speaking in Arabic to Russia Today, suggests  that, in light of the close relationship between the late Archbishop Abraham and Pope Tawadros II,  the visit is  an ” ordinary” matter.


This does not indicate a change in the church’s stance on the Palestinian cause and which represents the majority of Egyptian Christians. In fact, this visit supports the Palestinian cause and several Palestinian officials actually keep inviting Arabs to visit Jerusalem.


No doubt,  Islamists will use the visit to further incite animus and hatred against the Copts wherever they can be reached – including here in Canada;  and Egypt’s deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli political class are already condemning the Pope’s visit. But there is every reason to believe that in time for the Easter season of 2016 Copts everywhere will be assuming  that they have now a green light for what has previously, in principle, been impermissible.


***The New Political Situation of  the  Copts in Egypt.


But perhaps the most important factor at work here is the new political situation in Egypt. During the brief tenure of President Mohamed Morsi (June 2012-July 2013), the Islamists declared open season upon the infidel Copts; entire villages of  Christians were laid low and throughout the land  their homes, businesses and churches were torched and violated. Subsequently, Egypt’s Christians conspicuously supported Morsi’s ouster.


Since becoming President, Sisi has made repeated calls for greater religious tolerance and reform in Islamic discourse. “We talk a lot about the importance of reforming religious discourse,” said President Sisi in a televised speech to Islamic scholars in December 2015, but “In our schools, institutes and universities, do we teach and practice respect for the other?….God did not create the world for the ‘ummah’ [nation of Islam] to be alone. [He didn’t create it] for one community, but for communities. [He didn’t create it] for one religion, but for religions.


This last thought is, of course, ultimate blasphemy  in Muslim eyes.


President Sis has shown great boldness in declaring solidarity with the Copts against what he regards as the enemies of Egypt’s peace. Most recently, together with Muslim cabinet members, prominent media personalities and public figures, President Sisi attended the Christmas services at Cairo’s St. Mark Cathedral, the seat of the Coptic Orthodox Church —  something absolutely  unprecedented in the history of the Egyptian Republic. There and then he offered a public apology for what the Copts have suffered in the months before he overthrew President Morsi. “We have been late in restoring and fixing what has been burned, “ he proclaimed. “ Everything will be fixed. … Please accept our apologies for what happened.”


Now there is ein mensch.


We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.


Iran’s Old-New Role in the Region: Rami Aziz, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2015 — In examining Iran’s attitudes toward the Arab world in light of the Iranian nuclear deal, it is important to remember that Iranian interests in the Arab world have a long history beyond the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Egypt and the Hamas "Cockroaches": Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 26, 2015— Egypt's President Abdel Fatah Sisi has once again proven that he and his country will not tolerate any threats from Hamas or other Palestinians.

Trading Peace in Egypt and Israel: Oren Kessler, Foreign Affairs, Aug. 23, 2015 — This year marks the tenth anniversary of an Egyptian-Israeli economic partnership that has quietly pumped billions into Cairo’s vulnerable economy.

Israel: An Unexpected Surprise: Haisam Hassanein, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 16, 2015 — Good evening. It is my pleasure to speak to you on this evening that represents the end of one chapter in our lives, and the start of another.


On Topic Links


Islamic State Branch Says Caliphate’s ‘Soldiers’ Bombed Cairo Courthouse, National Security Building: Thomas Joscelyn, Long War Journal, Aug. 20, 2015

Russia, Egypt Set to Sign Deal For Nuclear Plant, Jordan as Leaders Visit Moscow: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2015

Egypt Turns to Russia to Combat Terrorism: New York Times, Aug. 26, 2015

Egyptians and Their Leaders are Warming to Jews, Israel: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 6, 2015




Rami Aziz                              

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2015


In examining Iran’s attitudes toward the Arab world in light of the Iranian nuclear deal, it is important to remember that Iranian interests in the Arab world have a long history beyond the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

From Persia to the Islamic Iran, the country has consistently demonstrated its desire for the land and wealth of the Arab states and the rest of the region. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s views are only the most recent expression of this desire.


In his July Id al-Fitr speech, Khamenei stated that, “Whether or not the draft text of the nuclear agreement is ratified, Iran will not relinquish its support for the government of Syria, the oppressed people of Yemen and Bahrain, or the loyal fighters of Lebanon and Palestine.” Khamenei’s words underscore longstanding Iranian policy, with Iran’s effective occupation of the three Emirati Islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa, along with Iran’s indirect meddling through proxy forces such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, the Houthis in Yemen and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement in Palestine.


Nor have Iranian actions suggested a policy different from that outlined by the ayatollah. Iran has proven particularly obtrusive in Bahrain, where according to Sky News Arabia, Bahrain Interior Minister Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa recently accused Tehran of opening terrorist training camps, sheltering wanted individuals and smuggling explosives, weapons and ammunition into the country.


Moreover, it is clear that at least some Iranian officials are presenting Iranian expansionism in the context of ancient Persian territorial goals. Rouhani’s advisor and former intelligence minister Ali Younis, in a forum titled “The Iranian Identity” held in Tehran this March, stated that, “Today, Iran has once again become an empire as it has been throughout history. This empire’s capital is Baghdad, the center of our civilization, culture and identity today as it was in the past.” These remarks are a clear reference to an attempted restoration of the pre-Islamic Sassanian Empire, which occupied Iraq and took the city of al-Mada’in (Csestephon) as its capital.


Younis continued in this vein, stating that “the entire Middle Eastern region is Iranian… we will defend all of the region’s people because we consider them part of Iran. We will stand against Islamic extremists who label others as infidels as well as the neo-Ottomans, the Wahhabis, the West and the Zionists.” All of these examples confirm the aspirations of the Islamic Republic of Iran to take on a new role in the region through which it can achieve its undying dreams of past glory. And these sentiments have created noticeable effect on Arab states’ understanding of and responses to current Iran-centric issues such as the nuclear deal.


For many in the Arab world and greater international community, the ayatollah’s statements suggest little interest in neighborly cooperation and a state policy incompatible with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s outward presentations of Iran’s goals. Gulf Cooperation Council General Secretary Abdullatif al-Zayani and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry have responded by denouncing Khamenei’s remarks, describing them as contradictory and damaging to the establishment of good relations. Non-Arab states have also expressed concern, with US Secretary of State John Kerry describing Khamenei’s words as “disturbing” to Al Arabiya.


Many facets of Arab media have recognized Iran’s expansionist tendencies and the Iran nuclear deal’s potential boost of them. Writing in the Egyptian government newspaper al-Ahram, former Egyptian foreign minister and ambassador to the United States Nabil Fahmy has written several articles presenting different aspects of this issue. In the articles, Fahmy calls on the Arab states to safeguard their own interests and end their reliance on the West – represented by the United States. Fahmy’s article alludes to the growing lack of confidence between the countries of the region – particularly the Gulf countries – and the United States, previously considered their first line of defense against Iranian aggressions.


It is unfortunate that the Iranian state has not followed a policy of neighborliness supported by many Arab states and even Iranian politicians like President Rouhani, since Iran and Arab states’ close proximity in the region can produce nuanced economic and territorial relationships. Iranian and Arab heads of state have exchanged a variety of visits in the past decade. Economic considerations also demonstrate the complicated ties between Iran and Arab states. Despite Iran’s occupation of the Emirati islands, the Emirates tops the list of Arab trade with Iran by exchanging $17 billion in trade in 2014. Prior to the most recent batch of sanctions, imposed on Iran in 2011, the Emirates’ trade with Tehran was even higher, reaching a record $23b.


Both Kuwait and Bahrain also engage in trade and economic cooperation with Tehran, although the volume of trade is somewhat less significant than that of the Emirates. During the Morsi presidency, Egypt also engaged in trade with Iran, although this quickly ceased after his overthrow, and Sisi’s decision to not invite President Rouhani to the opining of the extended Suez canal demonstrates the poor quality of relations…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




EGYPT AND THE HAMAS "COCKROACHES"                                                                                   

Khaled Abu Toameh

Gatestone Institute, Aug. 26, 2015


Egypt's President Abdel Fatah Sisi has once again proven that he and his country will not tolerate any threats from Hamas or other Palestinians. The crisis that erupted between Sisi's regime and Hamas after the removal from power of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi two years ago, reached it peak in the past few days with the kidnapping of four Hamas operatives in Sinai.


The four men were snatched from a bus shortly after crossing from the Gaza Strip into Egyptian territory on August 19. Reports said that unidentified gunmen stopped the bus and kidnapped the four Hamas men, who are wanted by Egypt for their involvement in terrorism. Although initial reports suggested that the kidnappers belonged to a salafi-jihadi group based in Sinai, some Hamas officials have accused Egyptian security forces of being behind the abduction. The Hamas officials even issued veiled threats against Sisi and the Egyptian authorities, and said that they held them fully responsible for the safety of the Hamas men.


A statement issued by Hamas warned the Egyptian authorities against harming the four men. "These men were the victims of deception and their only fault is that they are from the Gaza Strip," the statement said. "This incident shows that the criminals are not afraid to target our people." Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk said that his movement holds the Egyptian authorities fully responsible for any harm caused to the abductees. He said that the kidnapping raises many questions and its circumstances remain unclear.


Hamas claims that salafi-jihadi groups in Sinai have informed its representatives that they did not kidnap the four men. According to Hamas officials, the abduction took place near the border with the Gaza Strip — an area where the Egyptian army maintains a large presence. Sources in the Gaza Strip, however, have confirmed that the four men belong to Hamas's armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam. The sources said that the men were apparently on their way to Iran for military training. The sources pointed out that the four had received permission from the Egyptian authorities to leave the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing. The visas, however, are supposedly for civilians, not for Hamas operatives.


Hamas's threats against Egypt have, meanwhile, enraged the Egyptian authorities as well as some top journalists in Cairo. Egyptian authorities responded by refusing to give permission to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and some leaders of his movement to travel to Qatar and Lebanon through the Rafah border crossing. The Hamas leaders were hoping to hold talks with some of their colleagues in those two countries about the possibility of reaching a long-term truce with Israel.


The Egyptians' refusal to allow the Hamas leaders to leave the Gaza Strip has further strained relations between the two sides. Hamas representatives in the Gaza Strip were quoted as accusing the Egyptian authorities of "conspiring" against the movement and all Palestinians. In Cairo, Egyptian security officials denied any link to the kidnapping of the four Hamas men. However, the denials have fallen on deaf ears and no one in Hamas seems to believe the Egyptian authorities. Even worse, Hamas representatives continued over the past few days to issue warnings and threats against Egypt.


As in the past, each time tensions rise between Hamas and Egypt, the Egyptians unleash some of their senior journalists against the Islamist movement. Since President Morsi's removal from power, the Egyptians have displayed zero tolerance when it comes to Hamas. They are particularly fed up with reports about Hamas's increased involvement in their internal affairs and links to terror groups in Sinai.


During the last war between Israel and Hamas, several Egyptian journalists and public figures openly expressed hope that the Israelis would destroy the movement for once and for all. Other journalists in Cairo, who are openly affiliated with the Sisi regime, have even urged their government to launch attacks against Hamas bases in the Gaza Strip.


This week, and in wake of the renewed tensions between Hamas and Egypt, Egyptian journalists resumed their rhetorical attacks against the movement. The question that most of these journalists asked was: What are Hamas members doing on Egyptian soil in the first place? The journalists accused Hamas of exploiting Egypt's humanitarian gestures to smuggle its men out of the Gaza Strip.


One of these journalists, Dina Ramez, who is known as a staunch supporter of President Sisi, launched a scathing attack on Hamas, calling its members and leaders "cockroaches." Referring to the Hamas threats against Egypt, Ramez said: "Has anyone ever heard of cockroaches or ants that could threaten lions? These cockroaches belong to Hamas, which is threatening Egypt following the abduction of four of its men. I want to ask the Hamas cockroaches a simple question: What were your four men doing in Sinai? Haven't you denied in the past the presence of any Hamas men in Sinai? So where did these men pop up from? I dare you to approach the border with Egypt. We have confidence in our army and our response will be painful. It will be a strong and deterring response against any cockroach that dares to come close to our border or threaten Egypt."


Regardless of the identity of the kidnappers, the incident shows that Sisi and the Egyptian authorities continue to view Hamas as a threat to Egypt's national security. The incident also proves that Hamas does not hesitate to take advantage of Cairo's humanitarian gestures to smuggle its men out of the Gaza Strip. Obviously, the four Hamas men were not on their way to receive medical treatment or pursue their studies in Egypt or any other country.


That they are members of Ezaddin al-Qassam speaks for itself. Instead of dispatching its fighters to Iran and Turkey, Hamas should have allowed medical patients and university students to leave the Gaza Strip. But Hamas does not care about the well-being of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Rather, it cares about sending its men to Iran and Turkey to receive military and security training. This practice by Hamas is something that the Egyptian authorities have come to understand, which is why they are refusing to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. The question now is whether the international community will understand Hamas's true intentions and plans — namely to prepare for another war against Israel.                                                              



TRADING PEACE IN EGYPT AND ISRAEL                                                                              

Oren Kessler                                                                                                        

Foreign Affairs, Aug. 23, 2015


This year marks the tenth anniversary of an Egyptian-Israeli economic partnership that has quietly pumped billions into Cairo’s vulnerable economy. The free-trade framework known as Qualifying Industrial Zones, or QIZs, is one of the few points of economic normalization to have grown out of Israel’s 1979 peace agreement with Egypt and subsequent deal with Jordan. Given the flagging Arab economies and regional instability, the success of QIZs has implications far beyond the bottom line.


Essentially, QIZs are industrial parks through which participating countries—specifically Egypt and Jordan—can export goods under the flag of the U.S.-Israeli free-trade agreement. Egypt is now home to 15 QIZs and Jordan to 13, which together account for some $1 billion in exports a year. QIZs differ from other free-trade zones in that they are not the purview of a single country. Rather, they are jointly operated by Israel and either Egypt or Jordan, with oversight from Washington. Moreover, their products all have a single destination: the United States.


QIZs are the brainchild of Omar Salah, a Jordanian businessman—who, like 70 percent of his countrymen, is of Palestinian descent—seeking to capitalize on the optimism that followed the 1993 Israeli-Palestinian Oslo Accords and the following year’s Israeli-Jordanian peace deal. He was particularly keen to find a way to take advantage of a free-trade agreement that the United States had signed with Israel eight years prior.


Rebuffed by Jordanian officials as “naive,” Salah traveled to Washington to lobby the State Department, White House, and U.S. trade representative, whose interest finally piqued that of Salah’s own government in Amman. The QIZ agreement was signed into law by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1996, and stipulated that at least 35 percent of the product content of QIZ exports to the United States must come from Jordan, Israel, or the Palestinian territories, whereas the rest could come from anywhere in the world (but would be funneled through the QIZs). At least 11.7 percent of the material (later reduced to 8 percent) had to be Israeli. Everybody won: Jordan now had duty-free trade with the world’s largest consumer market and Israel had achieved the first economic agreement with any of its neighbors, one with labor costs 40–70 percent lower than its own.


Inspired by that example, Egypt followed suit in late 2004 with its own QIZ deal with Washington, which went into force in early 2005. In the decade since, Cairo has tripled textile exports to the United States, and Egyptian QIZs now supply fabrics to American brands such as Gap and Levi Strauss. All told, the QIZs house nearly 700 companies, export nearly $1 billion in goods to the United States (according to State Department figures), and provide a livelihood for nearly 300,000 people. Roughly half of Egyptian exports to the U.S. now come from QIZs.


Egyptian cotton is famously high quality, and textiles are a pillar of the country’s export economy. Still, that economy remains hobbled by a soaring population, low foreign-exchange liquidity, rising inflation, and a growing terrorist menace that has curbed tourism. In response, Egypt has doubled down on the QIZ program. In February, Cairo announced plans to double its QIZ textile exports within three years—something it seems serious about doing—and in May it proclaimed that more industrial areas and product sectors were in the works.


As for Jordan, the kingdom has less than one-tenth Egypt’s population, and its economy is correspondingly smaller. Like its more sizable neighbor, however, the kingdom faces daunting economic challenges, including scarce natural resources, six percent inflation, and the burden of housing, feeding, and employing some 600,000 Syrian refugees. For Jordan too, the QIZ has been a blessing. In the decade after the program’s founding in 1997, the kingdom’s exports to the United States spiked from $15 million to $1.2 billion. This success led to the Jordanian-U.S. free-trade agreement of 2000, Washington’s first with an Arab state. That agreement has partially overshadowed Jordan’s QIZ program, but it still rests largely on the infrastructure created by it. Today, Jordanian QIZs outfit brands from Walmart to Calvin Klein to Victoria’s Secret. They employ 43,000 people, most of them women.


To be sure, the QIZs achievement is not unqualified. Critics note, accurately, that a significant portion of the zones’ investment comes not from local investors but from other Arab states and Asia. Much of the revenue, they say, accrues to a few big firms. In Jordan, a majority of the QIZ workforce is foreign, and labor-rights groups have highlighted potential abuses.


The loudest criticism of all comes from the overwhelming majority of Egyptians and Jordanians who still oppose normalizing ties with Israel. For years after the Egyptian-Israeli QIZ agreement, for instance, the Egyptians balked at joining their neighbors in joint trade roadshows in the United States. Oddly enough, it was in 2013, during the short-lived presidency of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Mohammed Morsi, that the cash-strapped Egyptians finally asked their Israeli counterparts to hit the road together. That joint marketing strategy has continued, and earlier this year, North America’s largest textile trade show held a gala dinner in Las Vegas to mark ten years of the Egyptian-Israeli QIZ. Bilateral cooperation now extends beyond the QIZs: Israel recently signed preliminary deals to sell natural gas to Jordan and Egypt.


These are small steps. Yet in the era of ISIS, civil war in Syria, and turmoil over the Iranian nuclear program, it is encouraging to witness some Middle Eastern entrepreneurs promoting a daring idea: that decades-long enmities can fade, and that doing business with old foes may even pay off.




ISRAEL: AN UNEXPECTED SURPRISE                                                                           

Haisam Hassanein                                                                                                       

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 16, 2015


Good evening. It is my pleasure to speak to you on this evening that represents the end of one chapter in our lives, and the start of another. I’d like to invite you all to take a moment to reflect about the beginning of your adventure in Israel. Do you remember receiving your acceptance letter? You were probably excited to come to Israel. Then, you started telling people you were coming to Israel, and maybe you started to get a little nervous. Everybody is in this room has had a friend or a family member who warned him not to come to Israel.


There’s war there! Aren’t you afraid of being blown up? Do they even have water there? Do Jews speak English? If you think you heard a million reasons why not to come to Israel, I heard a million and a half. Growing up in Egypt, my entire country had opinions about Israel, and none of them were positive. All we knew was that we had fought bloody wars, and they were not like us. My exposure to Israel was through music and television. On the radio, there were anthems about the destruction Israel had caused. In the movies, Israelis were spies and thieves, and in spite of the fact that our countries struck a famous peace accord in 1979, the Israelis, I was told, were our worst enemies.


A recent Egyptian action film called Cousins, a box-office hit, told the story of an Israeli spy who married an Egyptian woman and had a family with her, only to kidnap her and her children to Israel. When I told my mom I was coming to study in Israel, she was understandably terrified that I would get a girlfriend. I arrived to Israel knowing only what I had learned in the movies and in the media. So, at the airport, when the security official asked why I decided to come here, I half-joked, “I always heard the Jews are bad people, and I came to see this for myself.”


I expected to find that people here were unfriendly, and especially unhappy to meet Egyptians. I was pleasantly surprised to find just the opposite. I was invited everywhere, from Shabbat dinner, to Ramadan Iftar meals, to plays and even to political gatherings. And the diversity I found here was as surprising as the warmth of the people.  On my very first day here at the university, I saw men in kippot and women in headscarfs and hijabs. I saw soldiers walking peacefully among crowds of lively students. I learned there were people of every kind on campus, and that the university had a space for all of them – Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druse, Beduin and even international students. I discovered that the diversity of the Tel Aviv University campus was reflected in Tel Aviv too.


How fascinating is it to be in a country where you can to go a beach and see a Muslim woman, a gay couple kissing, and a Hassid sharing the same small space? Where else can you find a Christian Arab whose apartment is decorated in posters of Mao and Lenin? Where else can you see a Beduin IDF soldier reading the Koran on the train during Ramadan? Where else can you see Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews arguing about whether or not Ashkenazi families had kidnapped Yemenite babies in the 1950s? To be sure, my experience here has been defined by the unexpected…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





On Topic


Islamic State Branch Says Caliphate’s ‘Soldiers’ Bombed Cairo Courthouse, National Security Building: Thomas Joscelyn, Long War Journal, Aug. 20, 2015—The Islamic State’s branch in Egypt has claimed responsibility for a bombing near two government buildings in Cairo earlier today.

Russia, Egypt Set to Sign Deal For Nuclear Plant, Jordan as Leaders Visit Moscow: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 2015 —Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were set to sign a deal for the construction of a nuclear power plant at a meeting on Wednesday in Moscow, a source close to the negotiations said, according to a report by Russia’s state news agency, Sputnik International.

Egypt Turns to Russia to Combat Terrorism: New York Times, Aug. 26, 2015—Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Wednesday called for a coalition to combat terrorism in the Middle East.

Egyptians and Their Leaders are Warming to Jews, Israel: Jerusalem Post, Aug. 6, 2015 —It’s been a particularly challenging summer for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Within one week in late June and early July, his attorney general was assassinated in the upscale Cairo suburb of Heliopolis and an Islamic State affiliate launched a two-day siege in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid.






We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication.


Egyptian Historian: Drop the Palestinians, Normalize With Israel: Ari Soffer, Arutz Sheva, June 1, 2015— A prominent Egyptian historian took to national television last week to make an unusually open and robust case for Egypt to "drop the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel."

Egypt's Religious Freedom Farce: Oren Kessler, National Interest, May 21, 2015 — President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt presents himself as an Islamic reformer.

Egyptian Bishop: Security Services Complicit in Anti-Christian Violence: Raymond Ibrahim, Coptic Solidarity, May 4, 2015 — In a 25-minute interview on Arabic satellite TV with Dr. Mona Roman, Coptic Christian Bishop Agathon fully exposed the plight of his Christian flock in Minya, Egypt—a region that has a large Coptic minority that is steadily under attack.

The Last Seven Jews in Egypt: Mina Thabet, Real Clear World, May 15, 2015 — Egyptian Jews are having to face the ugly truth that their community appears bound to vanish.


On Topic Links


Israel and Egypt Grow Closer, but Anti-Semitism Remains Part of the Equation: Sean Savage, JNS, June 8, 2015

Egypt Dismisses Human Rights Report as Politicized, Biased: Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2015

Why I Am Suing Al Jazeera: An Open Letter From Mohamed Fahmy: Egyptian Streets, June 3, 2015

Turkey: Muslim Brothers' Protector: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 9, 2015





Ari Soffer                                                                                                            

Arutz Sheva, June 1, 2015


A prominent Egyptian historian took to national television last week to make an unusually open and robust case for Egypt to "drop the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel." In a lengthy interview with Egypt's Mehwar TV on May 28 – segments of which were translated by MEMRI – historian Maged Farag insisted it was time for Egyptians to leave "the old ideology and cultural heritage on which we were raised" – namely, rabid anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism – in favor of a more rational focus on Egypt's own national interests.


"What I'm saying is that we should pay attention to the interests of our country," he told his interviewer. "There are no such things as eternal enmity or eternal love. There are only eternal interests. We should identify our country's interest. Churchill once said that he was ready to cooperate with the Devil in the interest of his country. As a man who knows a little bit about history and about international relations, I believe that it is in our interest to maintain normal relations with Israel."


Noting that in practice there already is close cooperation on security, political and other issues between the two countries' respective governments, Farag asserted: "The state is not the problem. The problem lies with the people, who still live the old ideology and the cultural heritage on which we were raised. Our generation was raised upon hatred and upon these people being barbaric…" Indeed, despite Israel and Egypt successfully maintaining an official peace treaty since 1979, popular sentiment inside Egypt is still largely – though not exclusively – anti-Israel. Anti-Semitism is also rife in the country, which is the most populous Arab state in the world.  Egypt was home to around 80,000 Jews in 1948, but expelled most of them and seized their property as part of a wider campaign of ethnic-cleansing carried out by Arab states in "revenge" for the defeat of Arab armies by the nascent State of Israel in 1948.


Key to that outdated mentality was Egypt's continued support for the "Palestinian cause," Farag posited. Since Egypt had achieved a just peace with the State of Israel, there was no rational or logical reason for it to maintain any hostility towards the Jewish state, he said – particularly when the Palestinians themselves "have no interest" in actually ending the conflict, short of annihilating Israel altogether. "For over 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought upon Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense. We have been preoccupied all our lives with the Palestinian cause. "The Palestinian cause is Palestinian," he continued. "Egypt's problem has been resolved."


Referring to the Sinai Peninsula – which Israel captured during the 1967 Six Day War, and handed over to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace treaty – he added: "The occupied land has been liberated. End of story, as far as I'm concerned. Let us now live and care about the interests of my country." "Am I supposed to shackle myself to the Palestinian cause? Let the (Palestinians) resolve it… We have tried to help them many times." "They don't think it is in their interest," he said of the Palestinians themselves. "They don't want to resolve their own problem."


Farag also brushed off criticism of a recent visit he paid to Israel, during which he posted pictures of himself at famous Muslim, Christian and Jewish sites, as well as other Israeli attractions. He retorted that he was "not afraid" of openly visiting a neighboring country, and noted that many other Egyptians work and have relations with Israel and Israelis, but simply don't admit to it. "I still don't understand what the big deal is. I met many Egyptians there, and many Egyptians have visited Israel. I don't understand why my visit there made people so angry," he said.


Farag also busted a common Egyptian myth that a large sign exists outside of Israel's Knesset declaring the country's attempt to expand "from the Nile to the Euphrates." "This is not true. There is no such thing," he informed viewers. "We all know that this is not true, but people keep saying this to heat up the hostility."


His vision for Israeli-Egyptian relations is one of total cooperation – citing by way of example the relationship between Germany and France, who until the latter half of the twentieth century had been at war on and off for hundreds of years. "Normal relations require, first of all, cultural exchange," he explained. "I must not fear the other. So long as I fear the other, nothing good can develop. We should not fear (Israel). We should visit there. There should be tourist exchange, and economic exchange. There are Israeli companies that specialize in modern drip irrigation. They have very advanced irrigation technology. We have a water problem. We have a shortage of water. Why can't we take advantage of their technology, of their thought, and of the results of their research?”


"They used this technology to cultivate the desert, so why can't we use it here? Why can't I benefit from someone who used to be my enemy? I'm not looking to force him to become my friend. I want him as a partner in developing agriculture and industry in Egypt." Challenged by his interviewer as to how Egyptian schools should teach about the numerous wars between Israel and Egypt, he stated simply: "We should teach that there were wars in '48, '56, '67, and '73, and that these wars came to an end, that we signed a peace treaty, and we should set our eyes on the future. That's it.  Israel exists, whether we like it or not, and it will continue to exist, whether we like it or not. So let's just accept this."                                        






Oren Kessler                                                                                                                                  

National Interest, May 21, 2015


President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt presents himself as an Islamic reformer. He has challenged the sheikhs of Al-Azhar University—Sunni Islam’s preeminent religious institution—to promote moderation, and took the bold step (by Egyptian standards) of wishing worshippers a merry Christmas in Cairo’s Coptic cathedral. The moves are commendable, but do little to alter an unfortunate reality: while Egypt’s penal code prohibits “insulting heavenly religions or those following it,” the law is enforced for just one faith: Sunni Islam.


Egypt takes religion seriously. By law, Egyptians are only allowed to practice one of the three recognized monotheistic religions: Islam (implicitly Sunni Islam—the faith of the overwhelming majority), Christianity (representing some ten percent of the population) and Judaism (today, Egypt has exactly seven Jews, down from 75,000 in 1947). Still, Egyptians may only practice the creed they’re born into—the government does not recognize Muslim conversions to Christianity, and conversion from either faith to Judaism is nonexistent—unless the target faith is Islam.


The latest annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, issued earlier this month, found that while the majority of Egypt’s blasphemy charges were levied against members of the Sunni majority, the bulk of prison sentences were doled out to Christians, followed by Shiite Muslims and atheists.


In June 2014, shortly after Sisi’s election, a court in Luxor sentenced four Christians to up to six years in prison for posting photos to Facebook deemed insulting to Islam. The same month, a journalist (a Muslim who had begun practicing Christianity in an unrecognized conversion) was given five years in jail for supposedly offending Islam by reporting on anti-Christian violence in Upper Egypt (some of the charges were later dropped, but he remains imprisoned). The punishments for these alleged verbal slights against Islam come as mob attacks against Coptic churches regularly go unpunished.


Meanwhile, slander of the Jewish faith and its adherents is a fixture of contemporary Egyptian life. Anecdotal and statistical evidence puts Egypt in the running for the world’s most anti-Semitic nation: with 98 percent of the public expressing unfavorable opinions of Jews, it exceeds even the accomplished records of its Arab neighbors. The story of Egyptian Judeophobia is a long one, but today, Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are mainstays of Cairo book kiosks, and foreign journalists are beaten and sexually assaulted on imaginary charges of being Jewish. Mainstream, otherwise liberal actors appear in grotesque Judeophobic entertainment, and Sisi’s election nearly a year ago has done nothing to slow the flow of anti-Jewish calumnies on public and private television.


Jews and Christians, however, at least enjoy the nominal right to live according to their beliefs. Woe to anyone who follows neither of the three state-approved faiths: atheism remains grounds for ostracism, and members of Egypt’s Shia community are treated like lepers. Late last year, the Religious Endowments Ministry launched a campaign to warn imams of the “growing threat” of the Baha’i creed, lest citizens fall prey to “deviant thoughts that destroy the minds of young people.” Baha'is—at most a few thousands out of the country’s 82 million people—“threaten Islam specifically and Egyptian society in general,” the ministry said, which last month expanded the campaign to counter atheism and Shia Islam.


Egypt is, by any measure, a conservative country. A comprehensive Pew poll conducted in 2013 found three-quarters of the country’s Muslims want to live under sharia, while an earlier survey found eight in ten endorse stoning adulterers and maiming thieves. Nearly nine in ten favor the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. Views among Christians, while less austere, are also less than liberal. Marriage is only through the Church, while divorce requires permission from the Coptic Pope and is exceedingly rare. Even when granted, divorced parties are almost always prevented from remarrying.


Egypt’s Sunni Muslims need not worry—the country’s demographics ensure their faith will forever exert a stronger cultural pull than any other. Still, it’s bad enough that Egypt gives its citizens three religions to choose from. A government claiming to uphold religious diversity must do more to protect those choosing the unpopular creed or none at all. One of best gauges of a country’s freedom is the security the majority affords minorities. For Sisi’s Egypt to credibly claim the mantle of religious pluralism, it must extend that protection equally.                





SECURITY SERVICES COMPLICIT IN ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE                                                 

Raymond Ibrahim

Coptic Solidarity, May 4, 2015


In a 25-minute interview on Arabic satellite TV with Dr. Mona Roman, Coptic Christian Bishop Agathon fully exposed the plight of his Christian flock in Minya, Egypt—a region that has a large Coptic minority that is steadily under attack. While several important points were made, most notable was that the Egyptian State itself is often behind the persecution of and discrimination against Christians.


According to the frustrated-sounding bishop, local governmental authorities—including the State Security apparatus—are not just ignoring the attacks on Copts, but are often the very ones behind them. For example, when the Copts were having a serious council meeting with government officials about the possibility of building a church, one of the authorities actually contacted the Islamic sheikhs of the village asking whether they "stand with the Coptic church or with the State?" If the latter, each Muslim household was instructed to send one family member to protest against the proposed building of a church—so that security can then point to the mob and, as usual, just tell the Copts, "Sorry, no can do."


Other times, State Security is complicit: Male and female Christian minors—currently 21 from just Minya alone said the Coptic leader—are habitually abducted by surrounding Muslims. At the moment, the youngest Christian girl abducted had just started elementary school. Whenever any of these attacks occur, Copts, working with the church, prepare bundles of documents, including photos and other verifications, incriminating the culprits. These then are placed into the hands of top officials, to make sure they don't get "lost" or "misplaced" by underlings. The bishop named many of these top people—at no small risk to himself—and said he even put such proofs and documents into the hands of the Director of Intelligence himself. "Absolutely nothing was done," said the despondent Christian.


He discussed the difficulties that Copts encounter whenever they want to build a church—due to their dearth, some of the current churches serve tens of thousands of Christians—or even make simple repairs. By way of example, he explained how the Virgin Mary Church in Safaniya village has no bathrooms or running water. Christians "tried time and time again to get approval to build bathrooms, to no avail." The bishop lamented how elderly and sick people sometimes urinate on themselves during service, while mothers must change their crying babies' diapers right on the pews. In response, authorities told the bishop to "Go and ask the Muslims of your region if they will approve the building of a church, or bathroom, or anything—and if they do, so will we."


It should be noted that Islamic law specifically bans the construction or repair of churches. Clearly frustrated, the bishop added: "We as Copts are human beings. And envy takes us when we see our Muslim brothers build mosques where they will, how they will, at any place and at any time. And the State helps them! But as for us, we cannot build anything and that which is already open is being closed…. We, the Copts, are citizens with rights; and we see Muslims get whatever they want, while we are always prevented."


The Coptic bishop also said that sometimes Christians are punished whenever they go and "bother" authorities about their treatment. For example, when a Coptic delegation went to make a formal complaint, one of them was immediately kidnapped. His kidnappers demanded and received 120,000 Egyptian pounds for his release. Police were notified—even told where the exchange of money for hostage was to take place—but did absolutely nothing. The bishop referred to this incident as a "punishment" while Dr. Roman, the Coptic hostess, called Minya, Egypt a "State of Retribution" against those Copts who dare refuse to suffer quietly," adding, "Al-Minya is apparently not an Egyptian province; it is governed by ISIS."


Finally, Bishop Agathon made clear the despondency he and the average Christian in Egypt feel, repeatedly saying that, no matter which official they talk to, "nothing will change." If anything, the plight of Egypt's Christians has gone "from bad to worse," said the bishop: "We hear beautiful words but no solution." Dr. Roman concluded by imploring Egyptian President Sisi, saying: "I've said it before: President Sisi is very meticulous and aware of the nation's issues. Why, then, is it that the Coptic plight in Minya is being ignored? Why is he turning a blind eye toward it?" Bishop Agathon concluded by saying that "Copts are between a state anvil and aggressor hammers," meaning that, the state serves only to keep its Christian citizens in place while Islamic radicals pound away at them.                                  




THE LAST SEVEN JEWS IN EGYPT                                                                                         

Mina Thabet                                              

Real Clear World, May 15, 2015


Egyptian Jews are having to face the ugly truth that their community appears bound to vanish. As recently as 1947, Egypt's Jewish community numbered up to 80,000. Today, by most accounts, there are just seven Egyptian Jews left, most of whom are elderly women in need of daily medical care. The last time I met Nadia Haroun, one of the last survivors of Egypt's Jewish community, was in November 2013. I remember that day because I met her at the same time as her older sister Magda, the community's leader.

Jews represent the oldest religious community in Egypt, which has faced a wave of propaganda, defamation and hate speech over the years. That legacy is still felt today through stereotypes and slurs that persist in everyday language. I was criticized for writing an article in Arabic entitled, "We are sorry, Jews." Some wondered how a Christian could defend Jews, who some blame for taking part in the crucifixion of Jesus. Ironically, many of those critics are Muslims extremists, some of whom themselves discriminate against Christians.


Unfortunately, Egyptian history is full of violations of the essential rights of minorities and vulnerable groups. On Nov. 2, 1945, anti-British, anti-Zionist (and anti-Jewish) demonstrations took place in Cairo on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. A synagogue was burned down, 27 Torah scrolls were desecrated, and among the buildings damaged or destroyed were a soup kitchen, a home for the elderly, a shelter for poor transients, the Jewish hospital, the quarters of the Art Society and several Jewish public buildings.


After the 1948 war, a hostile environment against Jews worsened, as they were suspected of acting as a "fifth column" for Israel. After the 1952 coup, Jews were subject to detention, deportation and sequestration. In the mid-1950s, then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser initiated his policy of nationalization, which had a devastating impact on the Jewish community, as it controlled a broad sector of the Egyptian economy. American diplomats noted that sequestration decisions were filed against 539 Jews by name and 105 companies, in addition to Jews covered in the sequential orders filed against British and French nationals.


In November 1956, the regime modified its citizenship and nationality laws in order to keep Jews and other minorities from becoming Egyptian citizens. The situation became more complicated at the end of November, when at least 500 Egyptian and stateless Jews had been expelled from Egypt, not including a considerable number of Jewish citizens from Britain and France. Most of the them were heads of families, and they were ordered to leave the country within days. In most cases, the individual served with a deportation order was responsible for supporting his family, so all members of the family would have to leave the country. This measure led to the mass migration of Jews, who nearly vanished from Egypt.


A small number of Jewish families stayed in Egypt, among them leftist activist Chehata Haroun and his family. According to Haroun's daughter, Magda, when her father tried to fly her older sister to Paris for medical treatment, Egyptian authorities would only approve an exit visa with no return, so his daughter died without treatment and he never left the country. When he died in 2001, his family had to bring in a French rabbi to perform the ritual prayer for him, because there was no rabbi in Egypt. The same happened with Nadia, who died in March 2014. I had the honor of attending her funeral. Egyptian state officials did not attend, even though they typically attend funerals of Al-Azhar sheikhs or bishops from the Coptic Church. Nadia left her older sister Magda alone to carry the burden of Egypt's Jewish community.


On the first anniversary of Nadia's death, Magda went to her older sister's grave along with her current Christian husband and her Muslim daughters from a previous marriage to perform their rites. She found that a group of youth had desecrated her sister's grave. They also insulted her and Judaism. I can't imagine how Magda felt about that. It's very hard for anyone to see their beloved insulted in life and death, just because they had a different religion.


Despite the fact that Egypt has some of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world, they have been left vulnerable to desecration and vandalism. Cemeteries are not the only neglected part of Jewish legacy in Egypt. According to Magda, there are about 12 Jewish synagogues in Cairo and Alexandria left without maintenance. The majority were closed because there is no one left to pray there. There are also registers belonging to Egypt's Jewish community, which are part of history that need to be digitalized and safeguarded. The original written Torah also needs to be restored and kept in a museum, along with other parts of this dying community's heritage.


Magda once told me about her deepest fear – that after she is gone, what remains of Egypt's Jewish heritage will be lost. I remember her comments at her sister's funeral. She looked in my eye and said, "'It's your history, Mina.' Then she turned to one of her friends and said, 'It's your history, Mohamed.'"


About six decades of propaganda and hate speech finally led to the end of this country's Jewish community. The same hate speech led to the forced evictions of the Baha'i from Sohag in 2009. The same hate speech led to the brutal murder of four Shia men in June 2013. The same hate speech led to a swell of sectarian violence against Christians, with dozens of churches burned down, and dozens more Christian homes and stores looted since 2011.


Hate speech and lack of equal protection under the law inside create a hostile environment for minorities. Since 2011, at least 40 incidents of sectarian violence have occurred in Egypt. Most of these followed hate speech, which incited the perpetrators to commit the attacks. Since 2011, sectarian violence has taken the lives of at least 100 Egyptians, where the absence of accountability and protection for vulnerable groups has become all too common. We should learn from our mistakes. We should start preserving our Jewish heritage and restore our synagogues. We should face down hate speech and discrimination. We should stop sectarian violence and bring its perpetrators to justice.






On Topic


Israel and Egypt Grow Closer, but Anti-Semitism Remains Part of the Equation: Sean Savage, JNS, June 8, 2015 —As the Middle East grapples with the fallout of the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions and the rise of terror groups like Islamic State, Arab states have sought increased cooperation with Israel in areas such as military and intelligence in order to confront ongoing threats.

Egypt Dismisses Human Rights Report as Politicized, Biased: Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2015—The Egyptian government on Tuesday dismissed a report that accused it of widespread human rights violations as politicized and lacking in objectivity and accuracy.

Why I Am Suing Al Jazeera: An Open Letter From Mohamed Fahmy: Egyptian Streets, June 3, 2015—In June 2014, Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, which he is currently appealing, on charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, broadcasting false news and operating without an equipment and operational license.

Turkey: Muslim Brothers' Protector: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 9, 2015 —What do Syria, Egypt and Libya have common? They are all at various degrees of cold war with Turkey, which they accuse of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist terrorists in their countries.