Tag: Israel-Egypt Relations



Jerusalem Post, April 26, 2012

For all the attempts from all sides to belittle Egypt’s unilateral abrogation of its gas transaction with Israel, the move hardly augurs well. Regardless of all the whitewash prodigiously applied to it, this was the bad, hardly unexpected, outcome of a long sequence of inimical developments which Cairo at best just failed to stem or, worse, which it actively inflamed.

Both Egyptian and Israeli officials sought to pooh-pooh the deal’s scrapping as a business squabble. Both know it’s anything but. Indeed, the 20-year agreement signed in July 2005 was based no less than on the peace treaty between the states and was contracted by the two governments. Significantly, it was Cairo, not Jerusalem, which insisted on state involvement. Egypt unwaveringly preferred governmental auspices in order to minimize the semblance of normalization, whereby ordinary firms are free to negotiate directly.

Therefore, when Cairo now reneges on the contractual agreement, it means more than a soured business venture. Firstly, it’s a basic violation of a key peace treaty provision. That this is allowed to pass without much squawk indicates Israeli wishful thinking: if we pretend that things aren’t too awful, perhaps they might not get too awful.

At this juncture only the Israel Electric Corporation isn’t playing make-believe. Saying it like it is, the IEC notes that it can’t actually be materially hurt by Egypt’s contract termination because for over a year now no gas has been coming from the Sinai fields anyhow. No fewer than 14 pipeline blasts have irreparably disrupted gas supplies. Their eventual total discontinuance has forced the IEC to resort to massively costlier and more polluting liquid fuels instead.… Nonetheless, the manner in which this lifeless agreement was revoked and the pretexts used to justify its cancellation are particularly galling.

Ever since the Arab Spring’s advent and the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, Israel was systematically turned into Cairo’s bête noire. Egyptian politicos vie relentlessly for the distinction of the most anti-Israeli candidate in the running.

The Mubaraks now stand accused of having sold gas too cheaply to Israel in return for kickbacks. The truth is irrelevant in Cairo, if not altogether undesirable. Israel is cast as the villain and allegations of association with it serve to smear downfallen figures. Such incitement is hardly conducive to coexistence. The attacks on Israel’s embassy and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood indeed don’t point to a predilection for coexistence. This needs to worry us deeply.

Concomitant with Cairo’s negative attitudes is rampant lawlessness in Sinai, where Beduin tribes have made the peninsula a highway for illegal migration from Africa, human and drug trafficking and, most of all, terror operations.… Although Israel has allowed Egypt to increase the numbers of armed personnel beyond what the peace treaty stipulates, there seems no inclination on Cairo’s part to lay down the law and assert its sovereignty in Sinai.

Under these circumstances, the gas deal with Egypt was a goner anyway.… Like it or not, we are sliding frighteningly backward to pre-peace days. No trace of normalization with Egypt remains. The repealed contract underscores that.

Sam Ser

Times of Israel, April 27, 2012

Israel’s ties with Egypt went up in flames [last month], like so much natural gas burning in a sabotaged pipeline. Indeed, Egypt has sabotaged its ties with Israel—and the blowback will leave scars.

The sudden announcement of the cancellation of the deal to supply Israel with Egyptian natural gas had officials in both Jerusalem and Cairo rushing to “explain” away the thing as just some ho-hum business dispute. But the political implications quickly became glaringly apparent.

On the face of it, the Egyptians were merely frustrated by the economic conditions of the deal, as rising prices in the natural gas market have made the 2005 contract look more and more like a bargain for Israel and, therefore, an embarrassment for Egypt.… But even a bad deal can still be good in the end. This one brought Egypt billions of dollars from a dependable client on its own back porch. And the “losses” that Cairo politicians had originally bemoaned were soon mitigated when the Egyptians strong-armed Israel into a nearly 50% price hike.

It would be reasonable to assume, then, that Egypt could have worked out a compromise with Israel, if only a modicum of diplomatic good will were flowing together with all those billions of cubic meters of natural gas through the Arish-Ashkelon pipeline. Alas, there wasn’t.

If a long list of slights and insults—inaction in the face of Hamas arming itself through tunnels in Sinai, officially endorsed blood libels against Israel, public disdain for a peace partner that selflessly helped Egypt save water, grow more crops and lose less livestock to disease, etc.—were not enough to prove that point, then perhaps another incident [last month] will.

During a presidential election campaign already marked, in part, by candidates who use their anti-Israel stances to gain the public’s trust, Egypt’s military leader Muhammad Hussein Tantawi unleashed a threat to “break the leg” of anyone (read, “Israeli”) who approaches Egypt’s northern border. Field Marshall Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces and the country’s de facto leader, was enraged that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman had had the audacity to suggest, in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that the escalating lawlessness in Sinai and chaos in Cairo posed a threat to Israel.…

Tantawi’s bluster…is misplaced. Egypt should be rallying against the threat posed by armed Bedouin gangs that sabotage the natural gas pipeline, demand protection money from Sinai businesses and carry out bombings of tourist sites along the Red Sea. Egypt should rise up to thwart the incursion of Islamist terrorist groups into Sinai, whose attacks against Israel threaten the stability of the peace treaty. Egypt should marshal its forces to seal off the southern border—across which have poured…tens of thousands of African migrants who have flooded Cairo and snuck into Israel.… Egypt should be vigilant about the flow of weapons and drugs from Libya, to the west.

It isn’t, though. Instead, Egypt treats as an enemy the country that buys its natural gas, patronizes its resorts, improves its farms and establishes factories in its employment-starved towns. Egyptians regularly burn Israeli flags in the streets, so setting fire to a lucrative energy deal must have seemed just a minor step. But now it will have to sit in the ashes.


Washington Post, April 30, 2011

It’s been [six] weeks since the Obama administration granted Egypt its full $1.3 billion in annual military aid despite its government’s failure to meet conditions set by Congress for advancing democracy. In granting a waiver on national security grounds, administration officials argued that continuing the funding was more likely to encourage cooperation with the United States and progress on human rights than a cutoff would.

As it turns out, the administration was wrong. In a number of tangible ways, U.S.-Egyptian relations and the military’s treatment of civil society have deteriorated since the waiver was issued March 23. The threat to nongovernmental organizations, whose prosecution triggered the threat of an aid suspension, has worsened. Conditions for U.S.-backed pro-democracy groups elsewhere in the Middle East have deteriorated as other governments have observed Egypt’s ability to crack down with impunity.

Consider the situation of the three U.S. organizations whose offices were raided and closed by Egyptian security forces in December—the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. Before the waiver, senior Egyptian officials repeatedly promised U.S. envoys that the groups would be legally registered, their offices allowed to reopen and their property returned. The fine points of a settlement were under discussion. Once the waiver was issued, the process was frozen and communication ceased, according to Nancy Okail, the head of the Freedom House office in Cairo.

The government, meanwhile, has begun pressing a new law on civil society groups that would stop all foreign funding for Egyptian NGOs, prohibit them from engaging in any work related to democratic politics and force many existing organizations to close. Other Arab governments have taken the cue: The United Arab Emirates last month shut the regional office of the National Democratic Institute.

The one concession Egypt made to the United States before the waiver was allowing a half-dozen American employees of the NGOs, who had been on trial in Cairo, to leave the country. But following the waiver, the government asked Interpol to issue warrants for their arrest. The trial of 14 Egyptian staffers left behind, meanwhile, continues, under harsher conditions. During their last court appearance, they were placed in a cage along with common criminals, and they have been threatened with having the charges against them upgraded to treason—which carries a death sentence.…

U.S. officials argued that an aid cutoff might cause a dangerous political backlash in Cairo. But since the waiver was issued, Egypt’s government-owned press, which is controlled by the military’s intelligence agency, has continued a toxic campaign of anti-Americanism. The State Department also argued that aid should continue because Egypt had stuck to the 1979 Camp David agreements with Israel. But after the waiver, the government unilaterally canceled a deal under which it was supplying Israel with gas.

Though Egypt has scheduled a two-round presidential election for this month and next, it remains unclear whether a promised transition to democratic civilian rule by July 1 will take place. One thing is certain: The Obama administration has lost much of its leverage over the Egyptian military—and its credibility with Egyptian democrats.


Washington Times, April 25, 2012

The Obama administration is doing its utmost to promote the fortunes of the Islamist parties in Egypt. A State Department official declared that with the rise of these radical groups after the Arab Spring, “people who once might have gone into al Qaeda see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism.” They see this as a victory. The problem is, so do the terrorists.

Last year, the White House began peddling the line that the uprisings in the Middle East were a repudiation of the al Qaeda model of seeking change through terrorism. The argument was that while America opposed violent extremism, the rise of nonviolent radical movements was just fine, and even commendable. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri quickly dismissed this claim, saying that from the terrorists’ point of view, it didn’t matter whether an Islamist victory came through violence or not. The means were unimportant except as they related to the end state: the imposition of hard-line Shariah-based laws and policies.

From Zawahri’s point of view, it makes no difference whether the caliphate is born of the ballot, bomb or bullet. The important thing is the victory of Islamism.…

The notion that there is a legitimate form of Islamism reflects a serious intellectual failing on the part of the Obama administration. President Obama seems to believe the Islamists are legitimized simply by participating in the political process. Some argue that the demands of electoral politics will moderate the Islamist parties, whose members will evolve from stern-eyed theocrats into social reformers. Others believe the only path to modernity is through embracing the Muslim Brotherhood’s barbarous values.

No matter what the source of the delusion, no political movement that exalts the Koran can peaceably coexist with the concept of freedom at the root of Western governance. Islamist notions of democracy are constrained by the strictures of their religion. Radical Muslims reject the humanistic values that gave birth to modern Western government; the self-evident truths regarding everyone’s inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are just so much infidel heresy to the Islamists.…

The Islamist parties in Egypt and elsewhere are promoting democracy simply as a means of consolidating their power. They see the process as a ratchet effect, with every gain they make as one more step toward erecting a Shariah-based theocracy. Increased power will not lead—and in fact, never has led—to moderation.… The model is the Iranian Revolution, in which a brief period of openness was followed by the ascent of Islamic hard-liners who snuffed out any hint of liberty and executed those who had the nerve to differ.

To anyone who believes in the Western concept of freedom, Islamism by its nature cannot be legitimate. The White House needs to answer the question: If Islamism is a legitimate political movement, should it come to America, and if so, how soon?

Barry Rubin

Rubin Reports, April 30, 2012

What might well be the most significant election in Middle East history is about to happen yet the situation and its implications are simply not understood abroad. On May 23-24, with a probable run-off on June 16-17, the most important country in the Arabic-speaking world is almost certainly going to choose a revolutionary transformation that will ensure continuous earthquakes of war, suffering, and instability for decades to come.

Of the dozen [Egyptian] candidates only three are important and the question is which of them will end up in the run-off: Muhammad Mursi, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party; Abdel Moneim Aboul Fatouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader who resigned to run for president; Amr Musa, a radical nationalist who…has proclaimed the Egypt-Israel peace treaty to be dead.…

The mainstream Western view of the election is bizarre and very damaging. In this fantasy, Aboul Fatouh is portrayed as the liberal candidate. If he wins, everything will be just fine and dandy. You can go back to sleep.

What evidence is adduced for this picture? Basically, none. The idea is that his moderation was proven because he defied the Brotherhood to run for the office. Yet the reality is the exact opposite. The Brotherhood refused to run a candidate at a time when it was following a cautious strategy.… By declaring his candidacy, Aboul Fatouh was in fact taking a more radical approach. Later, when the Brotherhood felt more confident after winning almost half the parliamentary seats it became more aggressive.

Most important of all, Aboul Fatouh is the candidate endorsed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatar-based anti-American, antisemitic hardliner. Qaradawi would never endorse anyone who was actually “moderate” much less “liberal.”

There are three factors likely to determine the outcome of the first round:

1. What proportion of Muslim Brotherhood (parliamentary) voters will support Mursi?… Will they stick with the Brotherhood for the presidency or will they go for Aboul Fatouh or even Musa?

2. Having no candidate of their own who will the Salafi support? Since their goal is to provide a more radical alternative to the Brotherhood, some—but not all—of the leaders will probably go for Aboul Fatouh.…

3. Who will support Musa? There is no nationalist bloc in Egypt today. Might Musa emerge as the…candidate uniting those voters (only 25 percent we should remember) who don’t want Islamism? No. The Christians and liberals don’t look at Musa as their man and will probably split their vote among three competing liberal candidates who don’t have a chance.

The result may well be an Islamist versus Islamist run-off. In any event, it is likely that by the end of the year Egypt will have an Islamist president, parliament, and Constitution. Laws will be drastically altered, women’s rights will disappear, and Hamas would be backed up if it attacked Israel. Once in power, an Islamist government would eventually appoint similar people to run the military, the religious establishment, the schools, and the courts. Those who don’t like it will head for the West in droves.

The alliance with America would be over, whatever cosmetic pretense of friendship remained and despite how much money the Obama Administration pumped in. And the whole region will be sent a signal that this is the era of revolutionary Islamism and jihad at a time when America is weak or even—as many moderate Arabs believe—siding with the Islamists.

In the West, no one in power is prepared for this revolution, an upheaval that will rival or exceed the 1979 one in Iran for its impact.


Amir Taheri

NY Post, March 29, 2012

A year after Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power, many Egyptians feel that the real fight over their country’s future is just beginning. For decades, the army-led regime kept Egypt frozen; now all options are open, both good and bad. Which to pick is the question facing a 100-member commission formed to write a new constitution.

The commission consists of 50 members appointed by the newly elected parliament and 50 others chosen for their legal and academic expertise. Of the 50 parliamentarians, 25 belong to the Muslim Brotherhood, while its more radical Islamist rival, the Salafist al-Nour (Light), has 11.…

Even before its first meeting, the commission has run into trouble, with various parties threatening a boycott [the Coptic Church formally withdrew on Monday its six representatives from the committee. Upwards of 25 committee members, including liberals and secularists, also have reportedly withdrawn—Ed.] They claim the Islamists have rigged the process in order to turn Egypt into an “emirate” based on sharia, or Islamic law.…

No doubt the process by which the commission was formed was deeply flawed. In the recent elections, Islamists, hiding in coalitions with secular parties, collected 46 percent of the vote—but thanks to a peculiar electoral law won two-thirds of the National Assembly’s seats. Thus, Islamists claim 70 percent of the seats allocated to parliamentarians on the constitutional commission. They also want two-thirds of seats reserved for nonparliamentarians.

The maneuver is so brazen that even some Islamist groups find it hard to swallow. One party, al-Isalah al-Islamiyah (Islamic Authenticity), has walked out.… Further undermining the commission’s credibility is the fact that Egypt’s best-known constitutionalists, such as Atef al-Banna and Ahmad Kamal Abulmagd, haven’t been included. The union that represents Egypt’s judges and jurists calls the commission a travesty.…

The Muslim Brotherhood clearly is trying to pull off a constitutional coup d’etat, but the best way to counter it isn’t a boycott. That would narrow the options to a sharia-based “emirate” or prolonged military rule.… Secular parties’ decision to prepare an alternative draft constitution could help people understand that there are two visions of Egypt.…

The Brotherhood and its allies must be prevented from rushing the process in the hope that an ill-informed public will swallow whatever witches’ brew they dish out through the commission.… Four issues are central: 1. Sovereign power—Islamists claim that all power emanates from Allah. Egyptian democrats insist that political power belongs to the people; 2. Is Egypt an “Arab” state or a nation with a more complex identity of which Arabness (uruba) is a part?; 3. Should Egypt have a state religion, namely Islam? At least 83 percent of Egyptians see themselves as Muslims.…; 4. The legal equality of citizens, regardless of gender. Because Arabic is a gendered language, despots have always used the masculine case to deprive female citizens of rights.

In Egypt today, it would be impossible to impose a constitution that rejects sharia. But a constitution exclusively based on sharia…is a recipe for discord and the collapse of the democratic dream.

Jonathan S. Tobin

Contentions, March 16, 2012

President Obama faces a difficult task in trying to influence events in post-revolutionary Egypt. With its military rulers brutally abusing the human rights of their people and a rising tide of Islamism threatening to drag the most populous Arab nation into a morass of fundamentalism and violent conflict, maintaining the U.S. relationship with Egypt is inherently problematic. But as he did during the last days of the Mubarak regime last year, the president may have just managed to make a bad situation worse.

On the heels of the Egyptians’ attempt to imprison Americans seeking to promote democracy, Obama has directed the State Department to exercise a national security waiver that will enable $1.3 billion in military assistance to once again flow to Cairo despite legislation linking the aid directly to human rights concerns. It is believed the waiver was payment to the Egyptian military for its decision to allow seven Americans to leave the country [last] month. The ransom might have seemed reasonable to their families (especially because the father of one of those in peril was Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood). But the move will disillusion Egyptian democrats as well as send a signal to both the military and the Islamist majority in the new parliament that not only is Obama not interested in human rights but that the U.S. is willing to bow to blackmail.

Egypt has gotten billions in aid since the early 1980s, largely as a bribe intended to both keep the country out of the Soviet orbit and to preserve the peace treaty it signed with Israel in 1979. But with Egypt now moving away from an ice-cold peace with Israel to a situation barely distinguishable from belligerence, the same criteria no longer should apply to the annual grant of U.S. largesse. For too long, the aid was rightly seen by the Egyptian people as merely a baksheesh payment to Mubarak and his cronies that did nothing to better their lives. In continuing this practice now that a new group hostile to American interests has replaced the dictator, Obama has not only demonstrated his contempt for ordinary Egyptians but also told the Middle East it is the Brotherhood and not America that is the “strong horse” in the region.

If the United States is truly going to use its $1.3 billion present to the Egyptian military as leverage over the country, then it might have been advisable to employ it as more than a ransom payment. Egypt has opened up its border with Gaza, relieving the isolation of the Hamas government of the strip. The military has embraced the Muslim Brotherhood in an uneasy alliance rather than seeking to work with secular liberals. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to envision Egypt as either a bulwark against fundamentalism or a force for peace in the region.

By throwing away its one bargaining chip, the administration has lost its ability to have any impact on the situation. While it is reasonable to argue that a complete cutoff of aid would deprive Washington of any ability to influence Egypt’s rulers, by not even waiting until after a new presidential election is held to replace Mubarak, Obama has made it clear that both the generals and the Brotherhood will have a free hand in the coming months no matter what they do.…

Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2012

In Egypt’s upcoming presidential election, there are three main contenders. One is a septuagenarian dinosaur who served a decade as foreign minister in Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. Another was quoted in 2004 by Ikhwanonline—the website of the Muslim Brotherhood—calling for “Arab and Muslim peoples to prepare for Jihad, and boycott all forms of dealing with the Zionist-American enemy and the states that support it.” And then there’s the third guy, who’s the real hardliner.

Welcome to Arab democracy, post-Arab Spring. That third guy is Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a telegenic Salafist who admires Iran, wants to abolish the peace treaty with Israel, end trade with the West, and have women work at home. The Weekly Standard carried an instructive piece about him in September, warning that he had a good shot at winning the presidency. On Sunday, the New York Times got around to taking note of him, too, apparently since the State Department has also come around to thinking he could win.

Which brings us back around to candidate No. 2. He’s Khairat Al Shater, a multimillionaire businessman who was the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy head and de facto CFO until last week, when he resigned the Brotherhood (with its blessings) to run for president. Though the Brotherhood had pledged not to field a candidate, it’s doing so anyway out of frustration with the reluctance of Egypt’s military rulers to cede effective power more quickly. And that’s fine with the Obama administration, partly as a hedge against a possible Abu Ismail victory, partly because they’re OK with him.

Mr. Shater, the Times reports, “is in regular contact with the American ambassador, Anne Patterson, as well as the executives of many American companies here, and United States officials have praised his moderation as well as his intelligence and effectiveness.” About Mr. Shater’s intelligence and effectiveness, there’s little debate. But as the quote from Ikhwanonline suggests, “moderation”—except perhaps in the broader company he keeps—is another matter.

So, on the subject of Israel, Mr. Shater noted that the killing of Hamas’s [founder] Ahmed Yassin was “a heinous crime corresponding to the perfidious nature of the Zionist enemy.” As for negotiating with Israel, he called it “mindless”: “The only way” to deal with the Jewish state, he insisted, “is jihad.” He faulted “the enemies of Islam” for trying to “distort and remove [jihad] from the hearts and minds and souls of Muslims.” He blasted the U.S. for preventing “the Islamic nation in its entirety” from eliminating “the usurper Zionist enemy.”

Of course that’s just Israel, and what else is a leading Muslim Brother supposed to say? Still, given that the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is a cornerstone to U.S. policy in the Mideast, it might at least call into question the wisdom of the U.S. becoming comfortable with a Shater presidency.

Then there’s Mr. Shater’s ideas about governance in general, spelled out in a lengthy talk he gave last year in Alexandria about the history, philosophy, methods and ambitions of the Brotherhood.… A few sentences in Mr. Shater’s talk will come as music to Western ears: He calls for an independent judiciary, rule of law, economic development and the peaceful rotation of power.

But that has to be understood in the context of Mr. Shater’s broader aims: “Restoring Islam in its all-encompassing conception; subjugating people to God; instituting the religion of God; the Islamization of life.” His notion of an ideal citizen is a cadre: “Every individual in the Society should be…a walking Quran.…” More important…he is adamant that the Brotherhood’s goals must remain fixed and unyielding. “No one can come and say, ‘let’s change the overall mission’.… No one can say, ‘forget about obedience, discipline and structures’.… All of these are constants that represent the fundamental framework [and] method…of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is not open for developing or change.”

What Mr. Shater is advocating, in other words, is the creation of flexible democratic political structures within the rigid framework of a quasi-totalitarian society.… And like all totalitarian visions, it even comes with its own Guardians of Virtue: “The Revolution,” he says, “needs to become perpetual,” with a core group of “one or two million” to safeguard the revolution from its enemies. In the old Soviet Union, that job was done by the KGB. In Iran today, it’s the IRGC.

Is this vision of a regime really compatible with American values and interests? People in the Obama administration seem to think so. Hang on, wasn’t there a third candidate? Amr Moussa, dinosaur, is looking better all the time.

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, March 29, 2012

Thirty-three years ago this week, on the White House lawn to the cheers of thousands, Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signed the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

Will the peace treaty survive the current upheavals in Egypt? That was the question posed earlier this week to a panel of experts from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, who convened at Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Assessments ranged from mild to downright pessimistic.

Dr. Liad Porat of the Begin-Sadat Center says that Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Leader Dr. Mohammed Badi regularly speaks about the evils of Israel, and teaches that Jews and Israelis can never be trusted. Badi’s disciples will do everything possible in every international forum to make Israel’s life difficult, Porat says. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood has been cautious, Porat points out, and won’t necessarily abrogate the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty even if the Islamists in parliament gain control over Egypt’s foreign and defense policies (which are currently still controlled by the military).

Professor Hillel Frisch is even more sanguine, arguing that Egypt’s dire economic situation will prevent the leadership from embarking on a military build up or a war with Israel. Frisch notes that Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have fallen from $120 billion to $60 billion in the past year alone; GDP growth is down from five percent to one percent; and there are major shortages in some basic commodities. Clearly, Egypt cannot afford to spend billions on its military or risk a war.…

Begin-Sadat Center director Professor Efraim Inbar agreed with Porat that the Brotherhood has been cautious and with Frisch that there is a low probability of war with Egypt at any time in the foreseeable future. But, Inbar warned, the Islamist leaders of Egypt are new and inexperienced in foreign and defense matters, and may be prone to mistakes. They view the demilitarization of Sinai, for example, as a national insult, and some Brotherhood leaders are agitating to change this. For Israel, this would be a red line, Inbar said. The demilitarization of Sinai is the very linchpin of the peace treaty! Additionally, the continued “Somalia-ization” of Sinai—the peninsula is becoming a lawless free-fire zone for terrorist groups of all types—could also trip Israel into war in the Sinai and with Egypt too, Inbar warns.

Taking a broader look around the Mediterranean basin, Inbar cautions that the Mediterranean is in danger of becoming an Islamic sea. Islamic-oriented governments have come to power, or threaten to come to power, in Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, Inbar points out. Inbar counsels caution and patience for Israel. Jerusalem should do nothing to exacerbate an already flammable situation, he says, while quietly re-building its defenses in the south of the country.…

Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon, who was spirited out of our Cairo embassy six months ago as rioters ransacked the premises, notes with sadness that the peace with Egypt can only be expected to get colder and colder. He checked, he says, and unlike Israel, no government or public organization in Egypt is holding even the smallest panel discussion or ceremony to mark the Egypt-Israel treaty anniversary this week. How sad.

Zvi Mazel

Jerusalem Post, March 28, 2012

Some 300,000 Beduin live in the vast Sinai peninsula—nearly three times the size of Israel—and more than a quarter of them still lead a nomadic existence. The country is difficult of access, harsh, mostly mountainous and desert wilderness. Egypt has been finding it increasingly difficult to maintain its authority there.…

Beduin tribes who settled [in Sinai] hundreds of years ago lived according to their own traditions and enjoyed a relative autonomy, mainly left alone by the central government. They have their own judicial system based on ancient customs and traditions which ensure the homogeneity of their society.… Even today, the uneasy coexistence between the Egyptian and Beduin judicial systems goes on.

When Sinai was under Israeli rule—from the Six Day War in 1967 to the evacuation of Sinai in 1982 according to the peace treaty—it laid down the basis of a tourist infrastructure which was later developed by Egypt and which turned the peninsula into one of the main sources of foreign currency. Israeli authorities enjoyed good relations with the Beduin and tried to improve their lot.

Once returned to Egypt, there was greater attention paid to the peninsula…[as] its tourist potential was being recognized. Efforts were made to develop the northern part of Sinai while new tourist infrastructure was built in the south. Special regulations were passed to prevent foreigners—i.e. Israelis—from purchasing land. The Beduin, however, were not part of that economic boom.

The new hotels in Sharm e-Sheikh and along the Eastern coast were staffed by thousands of employees recruited in Cairo; El Arish vacation resorts were built for the wealthy. Meanwhile the Beduin kept on tending their flocks and doing the most menials jobs; they had to turn to protests, sometimes violent, to get their villages linked to the electricity grid and obtain a steady water supply.

Resentment against Egypt’s central government, especially the ministry of the interior, the police and security services built up and soon boiled over. Extremist Islamist organizations found a fertile ground among disgruntled Beduin, who founded a jihadist group which came to be known as “Tawhid and Jihad,” leading to terror attacks on Sharm e-Sheikh and Taba in 2004 and 2005, after which thousands were arrested.…

Ordinary Beduin started banding together to hold protests and demand not only the release of their parents but more social justice; they wanted low cost housing and scholarships for their children; they also wanted the lands where they had been living or roaming for hundreds of years to be registered in their names. In 2007 the governor of North Sinai promised that action would be taken on all those issues, but little if anything was done.

Meanwhile, radical Islamist movements were pouring money into the peninsula, ensuring greater and greater collaboration with the Beduin. Smuggling in and out of Gaza brought it more and more revenues, while drugs and African immigrants were being introduced illegally into Israel.… It is probably largely thanks to the Beduin that arms and missiles from Sudan—and now from Libya—flowed and keep on flowing into the Gaza strip.

Beduin groups grew stronger and bolder. Under cover of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations in January 2011 they conducted a daring raid on the al-Marg jail north of Cairo and freed Hamas leader Iman Nofel and the head of the Hezbollah cell in Egypt, Sami Shehab. The raiders were equipped with state of the art weapons and drove modern vehicles. This extremely complex operation could not have been planned and executed without the combined help of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

With the fall of Mubarak there was a general relaxation of law and order throughout Egypt, but nowhere as badly as in Sinai. Fearing for their lives secret agents and regular security people melted away. Last July Beduin attacked a police station in El Arish in broad daylight. Another group declared it was setting up an Islamic Emirate in North Sinai.… The pipeline bringing gas to Jordan and to Israel has been sabotaged 13 times—so far.

Sinai is turning into a terror stronghold.… Last August a terror attack on Road 12 left eight Israeli dead.… Israel watches with growing concern as the peninsula is turning into a lawless territory used by Hamas and other jihad organizations to plan and carry out attacks against its southern border. It could—and will—probably get worse when the Muslim Brothers form the next government.…

(Zvi Mazel is a former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt
and a fellow at the
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.)



Jerusalem Post, March 13, 2012

After four days of conflict, the present round of clashes with terrorist organizations in Gaza appears to have come to an end. Most parties had a vested interest in avoiding an escalation.

Israel’s objectives were limited to containment of the fallout resulting from the targeted killing of Zuhair Qaisi, head of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip. Qaisi was viewed as a “ticking bomb” who was preparing an attack from the lawless Sinai similar to the one he engineered last August.

The aims of the PRC, Islamic Jihad and other “muqawama” or “rejectionist” terrorist organizations heavily funded and backed by Iran have been and remain kidnapping and/or murdering Israelis and drawing Israel into direct conflict with post-Mubarak Egypt. And it was precisely these aims that Israel wanted to foil by killing Qaisi.

However, Israel had no interest in a major escalation that could result in many unintentional civilian casualties in Gaza, especially considering the Palestinians’ policy of firing rockets from population centers and using civilians as human shields. And though the three Iron Dome rocket-defense batteries stationed in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Beersheba provided important protection to tens of thousands living within rocket range of Gaza, prolonging the conflict would have increased the risk of Israeli casualties.

Hamas, which holds the most control in Gaza, also had no interest in escalation, although this could change down the road. The terrorist organization is in flux, moving away from its old alliances with Iran and Syria and trying to align itself with Sunni states, particularly Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s mother organization, is rising to power. Hamas has a vested interest in showing Egypt and other “moderate” Sunni states that it is capable of maintaining stability in Gaza.

This is particularly true considering the fact that Egypt, which has undergone tremendous political turmoil since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, has troubles of its own—particularly tensions between the military junta and the Islamists.… Indeed, Egypt played a key role in facilitating the present cease-fire. Intelligence chief Murad Muafi and other Egyptian military figures provided vital liaison between Israel and the terrorist groups in Gaza.…

But the cease-fire is fragile. On Tuesday morning, several mortar shells were fired at southern Israel from Gaza. And the PRC and Islamic Jihad, which have demonstrated that they have many rockets, will continue to plan attacks against the “Zionist entity.” [on Thursday, a Grad rocket launched in Gaza was intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system; a shorter-range Kassam rocket exploded near the town of Netivot. No casualties were reported in the attacks—Ed.]

More disturbing is the very real possibility that the political interest of Hamas and Egypt to maintain calm in Gaza could change. Egypt’s increasing radicalism in the post-Mubarak era was evidenced on Sunday when the Egyptian parliament, now practically controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, moved toward a vote to halt the reception of more than $1 billion in US aid each year.… On Monday, the Egyptian parliament voted to expel Israel’s ambassador and halt gas exports to Israel. The vote was taken in a show of hands on a declaration by the Arab Affairs Committee that Egypt would never be a friend, partner or ally of Israel.

Reducing American aid is seen as an attempt to block US influence over Egyptian policies. This might give Egypt a freer hand in the coming years to abrogate the Camp David Accords and adopt a more antagonistic position vis-à-vis Israel. Unfortunately, as the fragile cease-fire takes effect and over a million Israelis in the South begin to return to normal life, there are already signs of the next round of clashes on the horizon.

Rick Moran

FrontPage, March 13, 2012

The majority Islamist Egyptian parliament moved on several fronts in the past few days to flex its muscles and challenge the authority of the military-appointed government. The Muslim Brothers, represented by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), and their Salafi allies, who make up 70% of the members in parliament, have decided to engineer a “no confidence” vote in the government of Prime Minister Kamal Al Ganzouri, force the withdrawal of the Israeli ambassador from Cairo, and will vote to refuse $1 billion in aid from the US government. These actions, which took place on the eve of the first day of candidate registration for the presidential elections, threaten to instigate a political crisis in the country—as well as with the United States and Israel.

The Islamists are making a move to challenge the military because of two recent incidents that have angered the Egyptian people and made the government even more unpopular than it was previously.

The first incident occurred on February 1 when a huge riot broke out following a soccer game in Port Said. Authorities said that 79 people died and hundreds were injured when fans of the home team swarmed the field after a rare win, attacking opposing fans and players, and overwhelming the small number of riot police who were deployed for the game. The next day, riots broke out in Cairo and elsewhere that killed two and injured more than 900. The people blame the military for the pitifully inadequate security at the stadium. Most of the dead died of asphyxiation when people trying to exit the melee were blocked by a locked gate. There were also questions about how fans had been able to bring knives and other weapons into the stadium.

The second incident that has angered parliament and the Egyptian people was the lifting of the travel ban on the 16 Americans who are on trial for illegal funding of the NGOs they worked for. Parliament believes that the government caved in to American pressure and threats from Congress to deny Egypt the $1.3 billion in aid the US gives to Egypt every year. It was this incident that precipitated the confrontation in parliament with the military government and presages political turmoil.…

The lifting of the travel ban especially seems to have outraged the citizens of Egypt due to interference in the judicial process by the military, as the original judge in the case has alleged. This initiated an intense questioning of ministers in parliament, as lawmaker after lawmaker called for a vote of no confidence. “I wish members of the U.S. Congress could listen to you now to realize that this is the parliament of the revolution, which does not allow a breach of the nation’s sovereignty or interference in its affairs,” said the parliament’s speaker, FJP member Saad el-Katatni.…

The no confidence vote is a process that should take about two weeks…but it is unclear that, even if the parliament is successful, there will be any changes to the government. The military has sole authority to name the prime minister and his cabinet, which means that even if they are voted out, the military could appoint the same people.

One observer of Egyptian politics, Mazen Hassan, a political science professor at Cairo University, said, “It [the no confidence motion] has the perfect bits and pieces by which [parliament] can gain popularity.” Indeed, the parliament voted two other measures that promised to be very popular.…

Both measures are largely symbolic, but represent an ominous sign of things to come. First, the parliament, by a show of hands, accepted a report by the Arab Committee that called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, the recall of the Egyptian ambassador from Israel, and a halt to the sales of natural gas to the Jewish state. The Islamists also introduced a measure that would cut the $1.3 billion in aid from the US to Egypt. Both issues are a challenge to the military government, which has reserved the power to make such decisions. But the popular sentiment expressed in both resolutions will strengthen the hand of the Brotherhood going into the presidential elections. It may also get the military to compromise on the make-up of the government, putting some Islamist ministers in power if the no confidence vote is successful.

The report from the Arab Committee is an interesting document for those who still believe that the Muslim Brotherhood can be trusted.… [It asks] the military to “review all relations and agreements” with Israel, which is described as Egypt and the Arab world’s “number one enemy.” “Revolutionary Egypt will never be a friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity [Israel], which we consider to be the number one enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation,” says the report. That seems clear enough for anyone.… The report also endorses the Palestinian resistance “in all its kinds and forms” against Israel’s “aggressive policies.” Presumably, this means supporting the blowing up of civilians in terrorist attacks and launching rocket barrages into towns and cities.…

As with the vote on Israel, the measure introduced to refuse US aid is not really in the purview of parliament to consider—at this point in time. Once a president is elected, parliament will write a new constitution where it is expected that the power of the president (and the military council that backs him) will be reduced and the power of the legislature increased. The Brotherhood may very well take such decisions about Israel and the US out of the hands of the president and write them into parliament’s powers. Obviously, regional stability will ride on the outcome of that tug-of-war.…

These moves by the Islamists in parliament are the opening gambit in what promises to be a tense jockeying for power and influence in the Egyptian government over the next several months.… Much will depend on how the military sees the future of Egypt and whether it would be amenable to giving up some of its influence in order to achieve a peaceful, stable society. No one is betting on that outcome. Nor is anyone wagering that the Muslim Brotherhood will moderate its views toward Israel or the US.

Zvi Mazel

Jerusalem Post, March 14, 2012

Egyptian policy regarding Israel these days is a troubling indication of the instability in the country. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is on a collision course with the new political forces and particularly the Muslim Brothers.

On the one hand Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi did approve last week the appointment of a new ambassador to Israel, but on the other the lower house of the newly elected parliament adopted a declaration stating that Israel was the No. 1 enemy of Egypt.…

At the same time, it is due to Egypt’s strenuous efforts that the present round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza was brought to an end. Without these efforts it is doubtful that the flare-up could have been halted without an IDF ground operation from Israel which could have ignited the whole region. The Supreme Council thus demonstrated its pragmatism and the fact that it is well aware of the importance of the relations with Israel—and with the United States.…

As for the Muslim Brothers, their electoral successes have not been followed by a new awareness of political reality. The rhetoric of their leaders against Israel has not been dampened, and their tirades have whipped the crowds into a frenzy, leading to the shameful attack on the Israeli Embassy in September and perhaps to the repeated assaults on the pipeline—13 so far—bringing Egyptian gas to Jordan and to Israel. Stopping the flow has already cost Egypt more than a billion dollars in lost revenues.

The lower house of the Egyptian parliament is powerless to implement its demands regarding the ambassador or the gas, since it has no executive powers.… However, it is a clear indication of what the Muslim Brothers have in mind and what they will try to do when they form the next government at some point after a president is elected in June.…

There are some steep hurdles before the end of this transition period. First, a special committee of 100 people must be appointed to draft the new constitution. Then the constitution must be approved by referendum. Only then are presidential elections to be held, it is hoped with the first round taking place on May 23-24. Should no candidate get 50 percent of the vote, a second round will be held. Final results are expected by mid-June; coincidentally, the verdict in the Mubarak trial is due at the same time.…

The character of the new constitution and president will both have far reaching implications for the nature of relations with Israel. True, Israel and Egypt have common security interests and the dialogue between the relevant services are ongoing, but would a government led by the Brotherhood put a stop to these vital exchanges? What about trade relations, and the sale of natural gas to Israel? What about the existence of Qualified Industrial Zones, which in cooperation with Israel let Egypt export its products—and especially cotton—to the United States without having to pay import duties? Should the agreements be revoked, the entire Egyptian textile industry would be at risk of collapse.

Then there are Sinai, Hamas—which is the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood—and last but not least, Iran, long seen as an enemy by Hosni Mubarak but which is now trying to ingratiate itself with the new regime. So many questions…and so few answers.

(Zvi Mazel, a Fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,
is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.)

Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, March 15, 2012

Reality: Those who are, or will soon be, governing Egypt view themselves as being at war with Israel for all practical purposes. It matters relatively little that there is still a peace treaty. In Cairo, there are no thoughts of peace.… The same applies to the Egyptian government’s attitude to the United States.… It is a disaster that U.S. policymakers and journalists have not even begun to recognize, much less counter.…

Here’s the latest example. The Egyptian parliament voted unanimously to demand the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador and the halt of all natural gas exports to Israel. Isn’t going to happen? Well, not this month. Of course, the military junta is still in control, but it won’t be by the end of June. And then the deluge begins.

The mechanics of this step are especially significant. The parliament’s Arab affairs committee issued a report that stated: “…the Zionist entity (Israel)…[is] the number one enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation.…” It’s rather difficult to be at peace with your “number one enemy” isn’t it.… And in this report and successful resolution, Israel is referred to as an “entity” and not a state thirty years after the two countries made peace and “ended” their conflict. That’s the same term used by Iran, Hamas, and Hizballah. And the report calls for a total boycott of Israel, which would mean that even if there would be an Israeli embassy in Cairo no Egyptian official would meet with its personnel.…

In a sense, then, this is a declaration of war. Oh, it isn’t a formal war with the Egyptian military building up its forces in eastern Sinai or launching a cross-border attack. But war nonetheless.…

And there’s something else here that shouldn’t be taken for granted. The vote was unanimous. There is not a single Egyptian in parliament that would dare say, “Wait a minute! Is this wise? Is this accurate? Didn’t we get back the Sinai as a result of peace, which means the reopening of the Suez Canal and the operation of our oilfields there? Aren’t we in danger of sliding into a disastrous war? Haven’t we been down this path before? Don’t we want to avoid foreign adventures and focus on dealing with our social problems and economy? Shouldn’t we try to maintain a good relationship with the United States?”

Nobody, or close to nobody, will say such things, even the few who dare think them will not dare speak them. This is how the hysteria and demagoguery build into war, bloodshed, and catastrophe.…

And the West doesn’t have a clue that there is a volcano steaming away, throwing rocks into the air, rumbling, and getting ready to blow. When I talk to Western diplomats and journalists they keep saying something like: But it doesn’t make sense for Egypt to become a radical state eager for a confrontation with Israel. It isn’t in their interests given all the country’s internal and economic problems.

The Western governments, media, and “experts” are still pretending that good old material interest will solve everything and keep everyone moderate.… The opposite is true. Since the new rulers cannot solve or even reduce those things, extremism is precisely the answer to their political problems. Whip up hysteria, ensure mass support, and get people to forget or ignore their “real” problems. There is an Arab expression often used as the battle cry of this method: Let no voice rise above the din of battle. Or, to put it another way, Shut up! We’re busy trying to kill Jews here!…


On Saturday, Egypt’s electoral commission released the final results of the country’s first “free” elections in decades, with Islamist parties winning nearly three-quarters of the House seats. Leading the way, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood captured 47 percent, or 235 seats in the 498-seat parliament, followed by the Salafist Al-Nour Party with 25 percent, or 125 seats. Egypt’s oldest secular party, the Wafd, garnered a mere 9 percent of the vote. The legislature will now be tasked with forming a 100-member committee to write a new constitution.


State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland claims the Brotherhood-led coalition of Islamists has assured the US that “all major parties will support human rights, tolerance, rights of women and will also uphold Egypt’s existing international obligations.” How comforting for Israel given that the Brotherhood’s deputy leader, Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, weeks ago referred to the Jewish state as “an occupying criminal enemy,” and confirmed in an interview his party would not recognize Israel “under any circumstance.”


But that is not all: Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie last month hosted Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, at the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters. Haniyeh said during his visit that “Hamas’ presence with the Brotherhood threatens the Israeli entity.” Then there is Dr. Mahmoud Saad al-Katatni, director of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party until resigning on January 21 to serve as speaker of the new Egyptian parliament. Al-Katatni affirmed in December that “A long time has passed since the Camp David accord [the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty] was signed and like the other agreements it needs reevaluation.…”


And what to make of the Middle East Media Research Institute’s (MEMRI) recent report regarding virulent anti-Semitic writings appearing on the Brotherhood’s website, Ikhwanonline.com? MEMRI found that, “The website…contains articles with antisemitic motifs, including Holocaust denial and descriptions of the ‘Jewish character’ as covetous, exploitative, and a source of evil in human society.… In addition to antisemitic content, articles on the site also include praise for jihad and martyrdom.… Among these are articles calling to kill Zionists and praising the September 9, 2011 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.…”


None of this, however, prevented US president Barack Obama from this month dispatching Deputy Secretary of State William Burns to Egypt to meet with Brotherhood political attache Mohamed Morsi. Thereafter, Morsi “hailed” the new ties with the United States, and, in apparent reference to Israel, said that previous US behavior had been “biased and not in [Egypt’s] interest.” Morsi implored Washington to adopt “a positive position concerning Arab and Muslim causes.”


The Obama administration is clearly repeating its oft-stated policy of “engaging” radicals, despite the strategy’s abysmal failure to curb Iran’s Mullahs from developing nuclear weapons, or impede Syrian president Bashar Assad from murdering thousands of anti-regime civilians. The reason being, extremists cannot be appeased. Rather, they must be confronted in strength.


Israel hopefully learned this lesson following Hamas’ ascendance through “democratic” Palestinian elections in 2006. The Jewish state should prepare accordingly.—Charles Bybelezer, Publications Chairman, CIJR


Mortimer B. Zuckerman

US News, January 20, 2012

…The euphoria of the “Arab Spring,” the instant Twitter-style transition from dictatorship to democracy, [has been exposed] for what it is: an illusion. Yes, the dictatorship of one kind has gone, but democracy in the sense we understand it is, shall we say, somewhat delayed.…

Last year in the Middle East was the most dramatic it has known for many. The series of uprisings in Egypt were marked by the emergence of Islamic forces.… They scored dramatic political gains in Tunisia and Libya, too. Leaders who perceived themselves as invincible fell, one after the other, the most dramatic being the end of the rule of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

The United States could not decide whether to support a regime that was disagreeable, but yet a strategic ally, or abandon it because it ignored fundamental American values like freedom and democracy (which means not just fair elections and majority rule, but respect for the rule of law, equal rights for women, tolerance of minorities, and freedom of expression). Alas, with the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the cause of freedom in Egypt is set back since, in the battle between the army and the conservative Islamic extreme, the Islamic bloc won by an overwhelming majority.… There is likely to be at least a two thirds majority for an Islamist constitution. What we are witnessing is a democratic election of a dictatorship.

The White House completely miscalculated in Egypt, as it did in Gaza. It seemed only to care for the mechanics of the electoral process rather than the meaning of the results. Washington vacillated on who its Egyptian allies really are. We had long shared with the Egyptian military understandings on national security, ours with an eye to maintaining peace in the region. That relationship is now pretty much lost.

Americans, in their perennial innocence, have demanded that the generals turn over power to the civilians whomever they may be, just as they did to the Persian shah, just as they did after Israel’s pullout from Gaza when they hadn’t a clue about the danger posed by Hamas. Our ingenuous attitude has been tantamount to handing over Egypt on a silver platter to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, who ironically are coming into power as democrats.

Their new foreign policy will include opening the blockaded border with Gaza, ending normal relations with Israel, and opening them with Hamas and Iran in such a way as to alter the balance of power in the region against U.S. interests. Indeed, one of the few things that unites the political parties in Egypt is an anti-Western foreign policy. Cairo has already allowed Iran’s warships to transit the Suez Canal; failed to protect pipelines supplying energy to Israel and Jordan; endorsed the union of Hamas and Fatah; and hosted conferences in support of “the resistance,” that is, terrorism.…

Democracy in Egypt without the Muslim Brotherhood may be impossible, but so is democracy under its leadership. It is one thing for the Muslim Brotherhood to run in an election; it’s another to imagine what they will do if they gain power, for the Islamists will replace secular dictatorship with Islamic dictatorship, leaving only the army to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state. The young men and women of Tahrir Square toppled the regime. Then along came a second wave, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder, Hassan al-Banna, once declared, “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated.…”

Cairo will now be painted in Islamic colors, but this is not a clash between the secular and the religious. It is a clash between freedom and tyranny.

Isi Leibler

Jerusalem Post, January 18, 2012

It is profoundly disconcerting to read media reports of the unseemly competition between the US and Western governments to curry favor with the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of its electoral victory in Egypt. There are chilling parallels between such behavior and the disastrous European policy of appeasing the Nazis which paved the way for World War II.

What those attempting to embrace the Muslim Brotherhood fail to comprehend is that this organization represents one of the most fanatical and dangerous of the radical Islamist groups in the region, with a dark record of violence and terrorism imbedded in its DNA. It is rabidly anti-Western, anti-Christian and anti-Semitic, is committed to imposing sharia law and a global caliphate—and willing to employ any means to further its objectives.

To this day, the Brotherhood credo remains: “Allah is our objective, the Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our way and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”

In Brotherhood eyes Osama bin Laden was a “sheikh” and they condemned the US for assassinating him. A few weeks ago the current Brotherhood leader, Muhammad al-Badi, proclaimed that the genocidal Hamas, which the Brotherhood spawned, should be regarded as a role model for Islamic piety. If the terms evil and criminal have any meaning, they would surely apply to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Today, aware of the desperate need for US and Western economic support, it tactically moves into a duplicitous “stealth jihad” mode, speaking with a forked tongue and feeding the foreign media with self-portraits of moderation that are totally divorced from reality. It reassures Western politicians and media that it will adhere to all prior international treaties. But its deceitfulness is exemplified by subsequent announcements that as the peace treaty with Israel was never endorsed by the people, it must be submitted to a referendum. The Muslim Brotherhood to this day repeatedly vows that it will never recognize a Jewish state and fully endorses the murderous policies of Hamas.

Despite all this, the US administration, mindlessly seeking a rationale to engage with the Brotherhood, has welcomed the “democratic” elections in Egypt, stressing the need to respect the will of the people while disregarding the radical Islamic and fascist nature of the Brotherhood. According to The New York Times, the administration is promoting the line that the Brotherhood seeks to “build a modern democracy that will respect individual freedoms, free markets and international commitments, including Egypt’s treaty with Israel.” Apologists…refuse to face the reality that, akin to Hamas in Gaza and the Nazis in Germany, both of which gained a parliamentary majority in their respective elections, once in power the Brotherhood will destroy the opposition, impose sharia law and intensify the persecution of Christian Copts and all infidels. In the course of time they could make Mubarak’s autocracy seem like a liberal paradise.

Foreign Relations Committee Chair Senator John Kerry, who formerly described Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime as “reform-minded” and enthusiastically supported “engaging” Iran, is not renowned for excessive wisdom in his observations concerning the Middle East. Now, in relation to the Brotherhood, he says that “the US needs to deal with the new reality…and it needs to step up its game” and “figure out how to deal with democratic governments that don’t espouse every policy or value you have.” He even suggested that the Obama administration should emulate President Reagan’s policy of “outreach” to the Soviet Union. Yet Reagan continuously assailed the undemocratic behavior of the Soviet Union, repeatedly referring to it as the “Evil Empire.” His tough approach was a major factor in the ultimate collapse of Communism.

Even more staggering were recent reports in the Indian media alleging that the Obama administration is employing Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, as an intermediary to mediate in secret talks with the Taliban. This evil man, previously denied entry into the UK and the US, openly supports the global caliphate, issued a fatwa (Islamic religious ruling) in 2003 calling on the faithful to kill US troops in Iraq, and endorses Hamas and suicide bombings (which he describes as “martyrdom in the name of God”).… He prays for Allah to kill all Jews, saying “count their numbers and kill them down to the last one…do not spare a single one.” For the US to have direct dealings with such a person is mind-boggling.…

There are chilling parallels today with the late 1930s, when Czechoslovakia was pressured to make way for “peace and stability.” We must remind the world that appeasing the Nazis had the opposite effect and merely empowered Hitler, encouraging him to make additional demands which culminated in war. We were then very fortunate to have a leader of the caliber of Winston Churchill, whose determination ultimately brought about the downfall of Nazism and prevented the total collapse of Western civilization. Alas, President Obama is no Churchill.…

Robert Wistrich

JTA, January 13, 2012

…The Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of longstanding authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa. In Egypt itself, the two largest Islamist groups—the Brotherhood and the Salafists—won about three quarters of the ballots…while the secular and the liberal forces took a battering.

The Brotherhood…is an organization founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher, Hassan el Banna, back in 1928.… The Muslim Brotherhood has always been deeply anti-Western, viscerally hostile to Israel and openly antisemitic—points usually downplayed in Western commentary on the so-called Arab Spring. Indeed, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories promoted by the Brotherhood and its affiliated preachers are in a class of their own.

This is especially true of Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradawi, undoubtedly the most celebrated Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world. The still vigorous 84-year-old, often misleadingly depicted in the West as a “moderate,” flew in from Qatar to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Feb. 18, 2011 to lead a million-strong crowd in Friday prayers, thereby ending 50 years of exile from his native land. He…offer[ed] the hope “that Almighty Allah will please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem].”

Two years earlier, in a notorious commentary on Al-Jazeera TV (January 28, 2009), the “moderate” Qaradawi had provided religious justification for both past and future Holocausts: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption.… The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them—even though they exaggerated this issue—he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them.… Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.” In other words, the loathing of Jews, the Holocaust and the destruction of Israel by Muslims were linked by Qaradawi as things mandated by G-d himself.

Regarding Israel and the Jews, fundamentalist Muslim attitudes have not deviated since the 1940s. Islamist ideologues, despite their virulent anti-Westernism, have had no problem drawing on Western sources for their radical anti- Semitism—whether these libels come from “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” forgery, Henry Ford’s “The International Jew,” Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” fantasies about Judeo-Masonic plots, Christian anti-Talmudism, medieval blood-libels or the slanders of contemporary or Holocaust deniers in America and Europe.

The current swelling of Islamist ranks within Egypt and across the Arab world has hardly improved matters. At a vocal Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque on Nov. 25, 2011, Islamic activists ominously chanted “Tel Aviv, judgment day has come,” vowing to “one day kill all Jews.” The rally, which sought to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s judaization,” was peppered with hate-filled speeches about the “treacherous Jews.” There were explicit calls for jihad and liberating all of Palestine as well as references to a well-known hadith concerning the future Muslim annihilation of the Jews. Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University (the most senior clerical authority in Sunni Islam) even claimed that Jews throughout the world were seeking to prevent Egyptian and Islamic unity, as well as trying to “Judaize al-Quds [Jerusalem].…”

It is particularly chilling to note that the Islamic wave already dominates not only in Iran, which is on the verge of nuclear weapons, but also in Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the Gaza strip under Hamas and the Lebanese state, currently in the iron grip of Hezbollah. Apart from seeking to impose sharia law, and to further downgrade the status of women—while repressing Copts and other non-Muslim minorities—the neo-Islamist movements and regimes remain as determined as ever to wipe out Israel and to radically reduce American influence in the region.…

In the face of this mounting fundamentalist danger, Israel has no choice but to consolidate its deterrent capacity, close ranks and treat with the upmost skepticism any siren voices calling on it to take unreasonable “risks for peace.” At the same time, it will have to develop a new regional strategy that takes into account the seismic changes currently shaking the Middle East.

(Prof. Robert Wistrich is the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center
for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.)


Last week, Egyptians went to the polls in record numbers, in the first free elections since Hosni Mubarak was deposed last February. Over the weekend, Egypt’s High Election Commission announced that the Muslim Brotherhood’s fundamentalist Freedom and Justice Party garnered approximately 40 percent of ballots cast, while The Nour Party, representing the more hard-line Salafi Islamists, captured nearly 25 percent.


The initial results, from Cairo and Alexandria, offer a strong indication of how the new parliament will look, despite two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country’s 27 provinces over the coming month, and runoff elections on Monday and Tuesday to determine all of the seats allocated for individuals in the first round. But the grip of the Islamists over the next government appears set, particularly considering their popularity in provinces voting in the next rounds.


The new parliament will be tasked with selecting a 100-member panel to draft Egypt’s new constitution, sparking fear amongst liberal forces that the text will be heavily influenced by Islamic doctrine.


This concern is being echoed in the Jewish state. On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his “hope that the new government that is formed in Egypt will recognize the importance of the peace treaty with Israel and its contribution to regional stability.” However, the projected combined absolute parliamentary majority for the Brothers and Salfis bodes poorly for this prospect.


Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, November 30, 2011

Since last February I have predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood would win elections in Egypt. People have thought me very pessimistic. Now the votes are starting to come in, and…it’s much worse than I thought. My prediction that the Brotherhood and the other Islamists would gain a slight majority seems to have been fulfilled, and then some. According to most reports, the Brotherhood is scoring at just below 40 percent all by itself.

The results are worse than expected for two reasons.

First: the votes we now have come from the most urban areas of the country. If there are Facebook sophisticates, they’re going to be in Cairo and Alexandria. If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile? If the fascist party came in first in some European countries’ Social Democratic districts, you know you are in trouble.

The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places, but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.

Second: the moderate parties didn’t even come in second—they came in third, or close to it. The Salafists—people who are even more radical than the Muslim Brotherhood—came in second. That they did that well is a surprise. That they did that well without bumping the Brotherhood down a notch is really shocking.

Estimates for the Justice Party, the Facebook kids of January, are getting 5 to 10 percent. Even together with the other two main moderate parties, that means the liberals won’t be able to block anything. Already the Brotherhood is tasting blood and talking about pressing the army junta to accelerate the turnover of power.

It’s hard to see, though, that there can be any such transfer of power. The voting is far from finished and will be going on for about three months more, followed by a presidential election. And yes, the results so far suggest that the Islamists will also win the presidency.

That’s when the fun really starts. President Barack Obama is going to face a challenge he is incapable of meeting, since he doesn’t even understand what’s going on. He’s like a man who has been told that a ferocious lion is really a playful kitten and then tries to feed it by hand.…

The Wall Street Journal is saying that the Salafists will push the Brotherhood further to the “right,” and that’s a very sensible point. Why should the Brotherhood even pretend to be moderate when the people have spoken and they want Sharia with cherries on top?

So the Islamists won and the election was fair. Should we feel good that democracy has functioned and that the people are getting what they want? Or should we feel bad that the people want a repressive dictatorship, the repression of women, the suppression of Christians, conflict with Israel, hatred of the West, and the freezing of Egyptian society into a straitjacket that can only lead to continued poverty and increasing suffering?…

The vote count [will] become clearer…but now we know: this is what (Egyptian) democracy looks like.

Mark Steyn

National Review, December 3, 2011

I’ve been alarmed by the latest polls. No, not from Iowa and New Hampshire, although they’re unnerving enough. It’s the polls from Egypt. Foreign policy has not played a part in the U.S. presidential campaign, mainly because we’re so broke that the electorate seems minded to take the view that if government is going to throw trillions of dollars down the toilet they’d rather it was an Al Gore-compliant Kohler model in Des Moines or Poughkeepsie than an outhouse in Waziristan. Alas, reality does not arrange its affairs quite so neatly, and the world that is arising in the second decade of the 21st century is increasingly inimical to American interests, and likely to prove even more expensive to boot.

In that sense, Egypt is instructive. Even in the giddy live-from-Tahrir Square heyday of the “Arab Spring” and “Facebook Revolution,” I was something of a skeptic. Back in February, I chanced to be on Fox News with Megyn Kelly within an hour or so of Mubarak’s resignation. Over on CNN, Anderson Cooper was interviewing telegenic youthful idealists cooing about the flowering of a new democratic Egypt. Back on Fox, sourpuss Steyn was telling Megyn that this was “the unraveling of the American Middle East” and the emergence of a post-Western order in the region. In those days, I was so much of a pessimist I thought that in any election the Muslim Brotherhood would get a third of the votes and be the largest party in parliament. By the time the actual first results came through last week, the Brothers had racked up 40 percent of the vote—in Cairo and Alexandria, the big cities wherein, insofar as they exist, the secular Facebooking Anderson Cooper types reside. In second place were their principal rivals, the Nour Party…[which] translates into English as “the Even More Muslim Brotherhood.…” In the so-called Facebook Revolution, two-thirds of the Arab world’s largest nation is voting for the hard, cruel, bigoted, misogynistic song of sharia.

The short 90-year history of independent Egypt is that it got worse. Mubarak’s Egypt was worse than King Farouk’s Egypt, and what follows from last week’s vote will be worse still. If you’re a Westernized urban woman, a Coptic Christian, or an Israeli diplomat with the goons pounding the doors of your embassy, you already know that. The Kingdom of Egypt in the three decades before the 1952 coup was flawed and ramshackle and corrupt, but it was closer to a free-ish pluralist society than anything in the years since. In 1923, its finance minister was a man called Joseph Cattaui, a member of parliament, and a Jew. Couldn’t happen today. Mr. Cattaui’s grandson wrote to me recently from France, where the family now lives. In the unlikely event the forthcoming Muslim Brotherhood government wish to appoint a Jew as finance minister, there are very few left available. Indeed, Jews are so thin on the ground that those youthful idealists in Tahrir Square looking for Jews to club to a pulp have been forced to make do with sexually assaulting hapless gentiles like the CBS News reporter Lara Logan. It doesn’t fit the narrative, so even Miss Logan’s network colleagues preferred to look away. We have got used to the fact that Egypt is now a land without Jews. Soon it will be a land without Copts. We’ll get used to that, too.

Since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact two decades ago we have lived in a supposedly “unipolar” world. Yet somehow it doesn’t seem like that, does it? The term “Facebook Revolution” presumes that technology marches in the cause of modernity.… But in London, young Muslim men use their cellphones to share Islamist snuff videos of Westerners being beheaded in Iraq. In les banlieues of France, satellite TV and the Internet enable third-generation Muslims to lead ever more disassimilated, segregated lives, immersed in an electronic pan-Islamic culture, to a degree that would have been impossible for their grandparents. To assume that Western technology in and of itself advances the cause of Western views on liberty or women’s rights or gay rights is delusional.…

Benny Avni
NY Post, November 29, 2011

As Egypt launched a 10-day parliamentary election yesterday, President Obama was setting the wrong tone. [Last week], the White House chastised Egypt’s military rulers and urged them to “immediately” transfer power to…well, that part remained unclear, so let’s fill it in: the Islamists.

The generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—Egypt’s rulers since President Hosni Mubarak was run out of office back in February—believe that letting go of power will result in fawca hareema—Arabic for “chaos,” a word now dominating the local vocabulary. With no credible economic plan or viable liberal-minded leader in sight, they have a point.

Sure, since assuming power, Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi & Co. have grown too comfortable controlling a country that we hoped would become a democracy. And yes, the SCAF elite also has too many tentacles in Egypt’s economy. But the alternatives aren’t much better.… The young men and women that forced out Mubarak won’t make many gains in the current election for parliament or next June’s presidential poll.…

Which leaves the Muslim Brotherhood and the other Islamists, who seek to rule Egypt by sharia and steer it away from the West. In the runup to this week’s election, as the army increasingly signaled that the elected parliament and a new “civilian” government would become its puppet, the Islamists took to Tahrir Square to show their dissatisfaction.…

Meanwhile, at 3 a.m. [the next] morning, the White House released a statement: “Full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.” That message…amounted to a public spanking of Tantawi.

The White House has been wishy-washy on much worse atrocities in places like Syria, but now it’s willing to turn on the Egyptian army, the one institution that’s identified with US interests in Cairo. And who’s gaining from this public spanking? As Brookings Institution foreign-policy director (and Obama supporter) Martin Indyk told The New York Times, “The ones who benefit most from it are the people who don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind—the Islamists.”

Alarmed Israeli officials reportedly sent hurried messages to DC over the weekend, warning Obama against dropping Tantawi by the wayside, as he did to Mubarak last winter. (The army is the only force willing to maintain a minimum facade of keeping intact the peace treaty with Israel—which is the basis for the $3.1 billion a year in US aid to Cairo.)

But America’s interests in Cairo go further than assuring the peace treaty with Israel. Egypt is the most populous, and for decades most influential, Arab country. A fast descent into chaos would strengthen only the Islamists and assures that anti-Americanism will intensify in its aftermath—in Egypt and across the region.

In a rush to declare Democracy Now, we tend to forget a hard-learned lesson…: Having elections before other elements of good governance are established can actually set the cause of democracy back. To help Egyptians progress toward real democracy, we must give them some time to build it up. In the meantime, we have little choice but to back the army, the one power that for now can assure some stability and that remains pro-American.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper

FoxNews.com, December 01, 2011

How would the media and politicians react if 5,000 “activists” chanted “death to Jews” outside a City Hall in your community? How would European religious leaders react if neo-Nazis packed the Cologne Cathedral or Notre Dame to threaten Muslims, Jews and gays?

We all know the answer: Loud and sustained protests of “Not on our Watch.”

But last week, Egypt’s ascendant Muslim Brotherhood provided a foretaste of their definition of religious tolerance during a rally convened at Cairo’s most prominent mosque. 5,000 people joined where the chant “one day we shall kill all the Jews “ echoed time and again along with “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Judgment Day is coming.”

The world’s reaction? So far—stone cold silence. Not from the media, nor Interfaith talking heads, not the EU, and as far as we know nothing from the Obama administration. If world leaders lacked the courage to protest those genocidal rants over the weekend, they are unlikely to utter a word now that the first round of democratic elections gives every indication that the next Egyptian government will be lead by the very same Muslim Brotherhood.

Unfortunately, weakness and wishful thinking seem to be the twin pillars of current U.S. and Western European thinking about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, much as it was about Hitler’s Nazi Party during the pre-World War II era of European appeasement.

Formed in the late 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood—an Egyptian organization with global affiliates in North Africa, Hamas-run Gaza, and even Europe and the U.S.—consistently opposed the democratic process until a few years ago when it cynically decided that “one man, one vote, one time” could be its ticket to power.

With an estimated 40% of the vote in Egyptian parliamentary elections…the Muslim Brotherhood now opportunistically denies for political advantage its longstanding opposition toward democracy and the rights of Egypt’s women and Coptic Christians.

But about one thing it’s unwaveringly consistent: its hatred of Israel and Jews everywhere.

Such rants by the Brotherhood are designed not only to mobilize the mass of Egypt’s voters—as high as 80 percent of whom according to recent public opinion polls support Sharia-law imposed death sentences for homosexuals, adulterers, and Muslims who convert to another religion—but to lay the groundwork for killing Egypt’s thirty-year old peace treaty with Israel.

Hatred of the Jews has been consistent Brotherhood policy before and during World War II when Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna teamed with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, as well as Adolf Hitler in trying to create a Jew-free Middle East. The Brotherhood founded its first branch in Britain’s Palestine mandate to fight against the creation of Israel in 1945. Assassinated in Egypt in 1949, Hassan al-Banna never set foot in the Palestinian territories, yet Hamas considers him their “martyr.”

Despite this clear record of hatred for Jews and Israel, as well as imposing Sharia law, western leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, embraced official contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood last July. The sad truth is that the Obama administration’s “engagement,” in addition to immediately deflating the hopes of Egyptians campaigning for a truly democratic society, will likely produce disastrous results infinitely greater to those spawned by the Bush administration’s decision to legitimate Hamas’ participation in the 2006 Palestinian elections. That led to Gaza’s rapid conversion into a theocratic dictatorship, bringing misery to the people of Gaza, and the firing of thousands of missiles killing and maiming Israeli civilians.

The abrogation by a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt of its peace treaty with Israel would edge the Middle East, already on edge because of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, closer to a catastrophic regional conflict.

The world must begin to hold the Muslim Brotherhood accountable for their words and deeds. A Muslim Brotherhood unleashed further threatens religious minorities, and the hopes of the multitudes who risked life and limb in Tahrir Square to demand freedom and a better future, not an autocratic theocracy.

There may be no easy answers. But one thing is clear. Global appeasement of the Brotherhood will only ensure that last week’s genocidal slogans will soon become tomorrow’s policy.

(Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centerin Los Angeles,
is a member of
CIJR’s International Board.)

Leon Volovici (1938-2011)


A dear friend, Leon Volovici z’l left us on December 2, 2011.


Leon was a valuable member of CIJR’s academic council. He was the author of multiple books, including Encounters in Jerusalem (2001), New Encounters in Jerusalem (2007), and his latest, From Yassi to Jerusalem and Back (2010).


Leon also edited Journal 1939-1944, the Romanian-Jewish Holocaust, by Mihail Sebastian (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2000).


Leon was a participant in the latest Conference on Romanian Jewry held in Israel November 6-9, 2011.


We will miss you, Leon! CIJR extends its deepest sympathies to Leon’s family.


Yesterday, Egyptian military police clashed with thousands of protesters in Cairo, in a violent escalation of a two-day battle that analysts warn threatens to undermine next week’s parliamentary elections. Police used rubber bullets, birdshot, truncheons and tear gas to disperse the crowd, and set fire to tents and vehicles in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in February.


According to Egyptian medical sources, at least 33 people have been killed and more than one thousand injured since the conflict erupted last Friday, when tens of thousands of Islamists took to the streets to demonstrate against military rule. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, organized the rally, demanding that the military junta hold elections on time and outline a firm plan for the transition of power.


Yet questions remain, primary of which is whether “free and democratic” elections can, or will, indeed lead to a free and democratic “New Egypt.” As things stand, the Islamists appear set for a landslide victory. Western powers, in particular the US, seem unperturbed by this prospect, with US special coordinator for transitions in the Middle East, William Taylor, having recently asserted the Obama administration would be “satisfied” should elections in Egypt produce a victory for the Brotherhood.


Nonetheless the writing is on the wall. The Muslim Brotherhood, progenitor of the Hamas terrorist group, maintains an Islamist ideology opposed to Western values, one that is vehemently anti-Israel and anti-Western. This reality last week led Israeli member of Parliament Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, to warn the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the latest developments in Egypt indicate that “over time Israel will find itself in a head-on confrontation” with its Arab neighbor, and that Israel “should start preparing for a conflict.”


“We are in the midst of an earthquake,” Ben-Eliezer affirmed. This earthquake, coined the “Arab Spring,” has already ushered in Islamic rule in both Tunisia and Libya, and seems destined now to do the same in Egypt.


Ryan Mauro

FrontPage, November 21, 2011

At least 33 Egyptians died over the weekend in violence ahead of the scheduled November 28 election. The country is shaking as protesters demand that the ruling military council set a date to hand over power to a civilian government shortly after the voting is finished in March. At the same time, the contests between the political parties is heating up as secularists are accused of violating Islam and the Salafists turn on the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite the instability, the council says that elections will still be held.

Demonstrators of a mostly Islamist orientation began protesting on Friday against the ruling military council’s moves to hold onto power. They are demanding that the council announce a firm date for when power will be transferred to an elected interim government. The council doesn’t want an official handover until the presidential elections take place, which it has loosely scheduled for late 2012 or early 2013. The Egyptian political parties and the presidential candidates, both secularist and Islamist, are not so patient.

Clashes took place in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and elsewhere. By Sunday, the crowd in Tahrir Square reached 5,000. The Egyptian military and police decided to put an end to it, forcibly dispersing the demonstrators with rubber bullets, batons and tear gas. At least a dozen protest tents, along with banners and blankets, were set ablaze.… The government says at least 1,114 were wounded across the country over the weekend.…

The protests are fueled by a concern that the Supreme Armed Forces Council will undermine democratic reforms so it can hold onto power. The council has made it clear it will not allow “another Khomeini” to rise, but it is also taking action against its secular opponents. The country went into an uproar recently when the council proposed that it be given veto power over any future constitution and that it pick 80 of the 100 members of the constitutional committee. The council backed down.

The Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, are still being persecuted. On November 17, about 400 marched in honor of the 27 people who lost their lives in sectarian crisis, most of whom were Christians. They were attacked, with rocks and broken glass falling on them from the upper part of a building while the police did nothing. Ten Christians were injured. The victims said the attackers were supporters of a Salafist candidate running in the parliamentary elections named Gamal Saber.

There are now multiple struggles underway as the first round of elections on November 28 draws near. The secularists and the Islamists both oppose the military council. The secularists and the Islamists oppose each other and within the Islamist camp, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have locked horns.

The Islamists are building support by selling essential goods to the poor at a steep discount. This includes food, clothing and medicine.… The organizational advantages of the Islamists over the secularists are plain for all to see. It is not just the Muslim Brotherhood that has a well-oiled operation and campaign infrastructure. The Salafist Al-Nour party says it has 100,000 members and 150 offices around the country.

The Salafists were originally part of the Brotherhood-lead Democratic Alliance bloc. The Al-Nour, Al-Asalah, Al-Fadilah and Al-Islah Salafist parties decided to leave and form their own coalition.… It is unclear at this point if the Salafists and the Brotherhood will coordinate their campaigns so that they don’t split the Islamist vote in individual districts.

There is not much time left before the voting begins and the Islamists’ hopes are high. The Al-Nour party predicts that the Islamists will control over one-third of parliament. Middle East expert Dr. Barry Rubin revised his projection in the wake of the Islamist Ennahda Party’s success in the Tunisian elections (winning 41% of the vote). He now believes the Islamists will get nearly half of the seats in parliament.…

The first round of elections for the lower house of parliament will take place on November 28. Nine provinces will vote in each round and there will be a run-off election in districts where the victor does not win a majority of the vote. The second and third rounds for the lower house will take place on December 14 and January 3, respectively. The three rounds for the upper house will take place on January 29, February 14 and March 4.

The elected interim government will draft the next constitution and decide the role of [Islamic] Sharia [law]. The stakes for Egypt and the region could not be much higher.

Andre Aciman

NY Times, November 19, 2011

The images streaming from Cairo’s streets last month were not as horrifying as those of the capture and brutal death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, but they were savage all the same. They were a sobering reminder that popular movements in some parts of the world, however euphorically they begin, can take disquieting and ugly turns.

When liberal Muslims joined Coptic Christians as they marched through Cairo’s Maspero area on Oct. 9 to protest the burning of a Coptic church, bands of conservative Muslim hooligans wielding sticks and swords began attacking the protesters. Egyptian security forces…deliberately rammed their armed vehicles into the Coptic crowd and fired live ammunition indiscriminately.

Egyptian military authorities soon shut down live news coverage of the event, and evidence of chaos was quickly cleared from the scene. But the massacre, in which at least 24 people were killed and more than 300 were wounded, was the worst instance of sectarian violence in Egypt in 60 years.…

Egypt’s interim prime minister, Essam Sharaf, claimed that the wholesale slaughter of civilians was not the product of sectarian violence but proof that there were “hidden hands” involved. I grew up in an Egypt that was inventing hidden hands wherever you looked. Because of my family’s increasingly precarious status as Jews living in Nasser’s Egypt, my parents forbade me to flash my flashlight several times at night or to write invisible messages with lemon ink in middle school. These were a spymaster’s tricks, and Jews were forever regarded as spies.… Sadly, the phrase “hidden hands” remains a part of Egypt’s political rhetoric more than 50 years later.…

Sometimes those hidden hands are called Langley, or the West, or, all else failing, of course, the Mossad. Sometimes “hidden hands” stands for any number of foreign or local conspiracies carried out by corrupt or disgruntled apparatchiks of one stripe or another who are forever eager to tarnish and discredit the public trust.

The problem with Egypt is that there is no public trust. There is no trust, period. False rumor, which is the opiate of the Egyptian masses and the bread and butter of political discourse in the Arab world, trumps clarity, reason and the will to tolerate a different opinion, let alone a different religion or the spirit of open discourse.

“Hidden hands” stands for Satan. And with Satan you don’t use judgment; you use cunning and paranoia. Cunning, after all, is poor man’s fare, a way of cobbling together a credible enough narrative that is at once easy to digest, to swear by, and pass around. Bugaboos keep you focused. And nothing in the Middle East can keep you as focused (or as unfocused) as the archvillain of them all: Israel.

Say “Israel” and you’ve galvanized everyone. Say Israel and you have a movement, a cause, a purpose. Say “Israel” and all of Islam huddles. Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and now Turkey.…

Copts represent approximately 10 percent of Egypt’s population and are the direct descendants of the ancient Egyptians. Yet, sensing danger while everyone else in Egypt and in the West was busy celebrating the fall of Mr. Mubarak during the much-heralded Arab Spring, 93,000 Copts have already fled Egypt since March. In light of the events in Maspero, it is thought that another 150,000 Copts may leave their ancestral homeland by the end of 2011.

When Mr. Mubarak was in power, the Copts were frequently the victims of violent attacks and official discrimination—the New Year’s bombing of a Coptic Church in Alexandria that left 21 dead is the most recent instance. Now, with Mr. Mubarak gone, Copts fear that an elected Muslim majority is likely to prove far less tolerant than a military dictatorship.…

What doesn’t occur to most Egyptians is that the Copts represent a significant business community in Egypt and that their flight may further damage an economy saddled with a ballooning deficit. But this is nothing new for Egypt. The Egyptians have yet to learn the very hard lesson of the post-1956 departure of its nearly 100,000 Jews, who, at the time, constituted one of the wealthiest Jewish communities in the Mediterranean region.

The Egyptian economy never recovered from this loss. While blaming Zionism and the creation of Israel or turning to Islamic leadership may take many people’s minds off the very real financial debacle confronting Egypt and help assuage feelings of powerlessness, the hard lesson has not been learned yet.

The Arab Spring was a luminous instance of democratic euphoria in a country that had no history of democracy or euphoria. What happened to the Copts this fall cast a dark cloud, which the interim government, whatever its true convictions, would do well to dispel. Egypt should not lose its Copts. For if that is what autumn brings, then, to paraphrase Shelley, winter may not be far behind.

Barry Rubin

Pajamas Media, November 1, 2011

“I realized how difficult it is to understand the true nature of men from outward signs. At Ancona, for example, a kind old man…asked me to let him have some [of my] soup.… I gave it to him gladly, taken with the serenity in his eyes and his modest gestures. Immediately afterward, I larned that this repellent beast had raped his own daughter.”—Antonio Gramsci, a founder of the Italian Communist Party, Letters from Prison

Can you imagine this? The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood lied! And can you imagine this: the two civilians who are Egypt’s greatest hope for avoiding an Islamist dictatorship are very worried.

Let’s start with the Brotherhood. First, it promised to run candidates for only one-third of the parliamentary seats, saying this would prove its moderation and willingness to share power. But a little later, it raised that number to 50 percent but said that’s all and they wouldn’t run a candidate for president. Again, we were told: they’re moderate!

Next, it created a front party to run a candidate for president. For months the Western media generally told us that this party was independent of the Brotherhood, had split off from the Brotherhood to run a candidate for president. That made this party even more moderate than the moderate Brotherhood.

Finally, now that the media admits this is a Brotherhood-controlled party, it announces, too, that it will run candidates for all the parliamentary seats. How do we know they are moderate? Well, because they say so. For example, the Brotherhood has announced that it will not run on the slogan, “Islam is the solution!” Their new official slogan is: “We bring good [things] for Egypt.” How moderate can you get?

Some details. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party dominates the 11-party Democratic Alliance (again, a nice “moderate” name). The Alliance will run candidates in the 76 multi-candidate proportional representation districts and in the 113 single-seat districts. Incidentally, two of its partners are leftist parties, including al-Ghad.

As in Tunisia (and Turkey and in the Palestinian elections won by Hamas some years ago), the opposition is divided, disorganized, and some of its members are ready to make a deal with the Islamists.

The opposition 21-party Egyptian Bloc has collapsed after only two months of existence. Only three determined secular-oriented parties remain in it: the genuinely liberal Free Egyptians Party (drawing mostly Christian support), the tiny Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and the radical leftist Tagammu Party.

The “Facebook kid” left-liberal Justice Party has formed its own bloc called The Revolution Continues while the Salafis (openly radical Islamists) are trying to combine in the Nour Party.

The three main “liberal” parties—Wafd, Free Egyptians, Justice—are all running against each other. They’ll split the vote and in district after district the Islamists will win.

Moreover, the Brotherhood is following a brilliant strategy to build a united front for Sharia, bringing in other clerics and gradually winning over more and more of the religious establishment to an Islamist position. The proportion of non-Islamist forces among observant Muslims thus steadily declines. Religious Islam as it has been actually practiced and political Islamism have not been the same thing but they are increasingly becoming the same thing as the Islamists win the battle of interpretation.

As a result of all of these factors, I’m changing my prediction. A poll misread by American “experts” supposedly claimed that the Brotherhood had only 13 percent support and was no threat. I analyzed the poll as putting them at 33 percent. A new poll by theDanish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute puts the Brotherhood at 39 percent. I am now predicting that the Brotherhood and other radical Islamists may get to almost 50 percent.

Am I being too alarmist? Well let’s listen to the two most interesting non-Islamist political figures in Egypt. Amr Moussa, who might well be Egypt’s next president though it seems he will have to await elections in 2013, is one of the smartest politicians in the Arabic-speaking world.

A former foreign minister and head of the Arab League, he is also an intemperate, radical Arab nationalist who knows how to use demagoguery and populism to rally support for himself. Of course, that’s also why he’s the great black-white-red (the Arab nationalist colors) hope to defeat the green of the Islamists.

So it’s worth listening to his reading of the current situation. Briefly, Egypt will elect a parliament on November 28—probably with the Muslim Brotherhood as the biggest party—that will choose a constitution-writing committee in April 2012. Only after a constitution is completed, no earlier than the summer of 2013, will a president be elected. Thus decrees the military junta. Since he’s already 75, Moussa is understandably in a hurry.

Amr Moussa says that in the interim he fears Egypt could be plunged into a terrible crisis by growing violence and economic disaster (the country has lost an estimated $10 billion due to the revolution and subsequent disruption). That makes sense. “My biggest fear is anarchy,” says Moussa. “A long transitional period…will create an opportunity for all those who want to play havoc with the Egyptian society.”

Right. Islamists will continue to attack Christians, whom the government and army won’t protect. The Brotherhood will complain that if only it was in charge and could implement a policy of hope and change everything would be great. Islamists and liberals will join together to bash the junta as anti-democratic and intending to keep power for itself.

The junta’s decision to create dual power—a military executive alongside an elected legislature—is understandable since it is horrified at the rise of Islamism and violence. But this is likely to be a turbulent situation.

Then there’s Naguib Sawiris, a billionaire, Christian, and the founder of the Free Egyptians’ Party, the only group that’s likely to fight Islamism. He has just given a fascinating interview to Bloomberg Business News.

The problem is that while the party has many Muslims in the leadership and membership (two-thirds, it claims) most of its votes will probably come from Christians, the only large sector of the population willing to battle for secularism.

Sawiris is not a man who is easily intimidated, ignoring the many death threats. Yet on the national stage he is merely an uppity dhimmi, albeit one with 139,000 followers to his Twitter account. He also has a sense of humor, posting a picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Islamic garb. The Islamists, however, don’t have a sense of humor, launching a costly boycott of his businesses.

Last July, an Islamist preacher said on cable television, “We will kill him even if he repents.” You see, Sawaris lives in luxury and has massive business interests and power. But here’s how a revolutionary Islamist thinks: For all that, he’s just another infidel and one swing of the sword will cut through even the most expensive tailor-made collar.

Sawiris thinks Egypt may well end up like Iran. He watches as Christians are attacked, Islamist terrorists released from prison. and a rising demagoguery targets Israel as Egypt’s main problem.

Prediction: By mid-2012 everyone will be writing about the failure of the Egyptian revolution and how it has made things worse for the country and terrible for the region. Added prediction: they will be saying the same thing about Tunisia and Libya. Will this combination be enough to wake up the West to the threat of revolutionary Islamism and the catastrophic consequences of current Western policy toward the Middle East?


Brian Murphy & Barbara Surk

Huffington Post, July 14, 2011


Among the protest banners in Cairo’s Tahrir Square was a hand-drawn map of the Arab Spring with black target symbols covering each country hit by anti-government uprisings since the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt were ousted earlier this year.

But the bull’s-eyes could easily be replaced with question marks as the groundswell for change has splintered into scattered and indecisive conflicts that have left thousands dead and Western policymakers juggling roles from NATO airstrikes in Libya to worried bystanders in Syria and Yemen.

The stalemates could shift into a deeper holding pattern in August during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when the pace of daily life traditionally slows as the Islamic world observes a dawn-to-dusk fast and other customs such as temporary truces.

It’s a huge and traumatic undertaking to shove aside regimes with decades in power—and sway over nearly every decision down to who gets hired as street sweeper. Iran did it with the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein cleaned the slate for Iraq and ushered in years of near civil war.

But no such wholesale change appears in the pipeline with the present revolts. That has raised concern that even if the leaders fall, the pillars of the regimes could survive, as happened when military rulers took temporary control after Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak stepped down.

“Half revolution doesn’t work,” a headline last week in Egypt’s Al-Ahram Al-Massai newspaper said after demonstrators returned to Tahrir Square to press for swifter political reforms and bolder legal action against officials from Mubarak’s regime who were accused of corruption and killing protesters.

But even a halfway mark appears farther along than most of the rebellions against the Mideast’s old guard.

Cores of loyal security forces in Yemen and Syria keep the regimes hanging on despite relentless protests. In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi could face a moment of truth as rebels press closer to the capital Tripoli and NATO warplanes hammer military sites, yet the anti-Gadhafi militias have no clear leader to prevent possible power grabs to control the country’s oil riches if he is ousted.

The country where the Arab Spring began, Tunisia, has been shaken by unrest—including a rise in ultraconservative Islamists—ahead of planned elections in October to elect an assembly that will write a new constitution. Some political groups are urging further delays in the election to give new parties a chance to organize.

Egypt, meanwhile, is questioning when—or if—the ruling military council will surrender power. The caretaker rulers [have] effectively announced a delay of the elections.…

In tiny Bahrain authorities apparently tipped the scales clearly in their favor. Security forces—aided by Saudi-led reinforcements—smothered an uprising by the kingdom’s majority Shiites seeking greater rights from the Sunni rulers. A so-called “national dialogue” began this month, but it’s unlikely that the 200-year-old ruling dynasty will give up any significant hold on power and may need a heavy hand to keep Shiite-led protests from reigniting.

“It’s not over, but we are in an ugly situation now,” said Christopher Davidson, a lecturer on Middle East and Gulf affairs at Britain’s Durham University. That’s why the definition of the Arab Spring is increasingly being stretched.…


Raphael Israeli

Jerusalem Magazine, July 13, 2011


A plethora of self-righteous rhetoric has been wasted on the Arab Spring with the attending dominance of ballots over bullets, although until now there have scarcely been signs of a spring per se.

Initially, there were high hopes for democracy to triumph in places where non-authoritarian forms of government have hitherto never existed. Instead however, in one case after another, hopes have been shattered with the primacy of bullets overwhelming any attempts for new democracies to emerge. And due to his nonsensical policies, [U.S.] President Barack Obama—apparent leader of the free world—is inadvertently supporting the supremacy of bullets.

Democracy is not only about elections and voting rights. In some countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, elections have been known to give rise to massacres. But even in cases where votes are not rigged and elections are conducted peacefully, various political struggles still arise. Take Turkey for example, where elections invariably hail a string of arrests—particularly of journalists—and a denial of civil rights coupled with McCarthy-esque stifling of the opposition or imposed Islamization. Ironically, such acts often appeal to the most uneducated strata of these societies, which subsequently constitute the base of political parties in the main—as is the case of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party.

In 2008 in Lebanon, Hezbollah, the proxy of Iran and Syria, took over Beirut and its communication centers by force and then imposed its minority vote on the cabinet by threatening the use of more force. This was an attempt to scuttle any moves to arrest the Hezbollah-protected murderers of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, the leader that came closest to forming a democratically-elected majority government.

Paradoxically, more than any other country, the US—which ostensibly claims to democratize those countries by ballots—has contributed to spreading the use of bullets instead. Take Syria and Libya as examples. Prior to President Obama’s non-policy of engagement in the Middle East, the tough and demanding policy of the Bush administration was paying off: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been under siege; forced out of Lebanon, he was isolated both politically and economically, and under pressure to retreat from his axis with Iran.

But then Obama began courting Muslims with sycophantic gestures of friendship, including reinstating his ambassador in Damascus, prostrating before the Saudi king—the most reactionary monarch in the Middle East—and finally allowing the Turks to sacrifice Israel—their democratic ally in the region—for the prize of acquiring new authoritarian allies in Iran and Syria.

As a result, Arab and Muslim dictators got the impression that since America was now their friend they could do as they jolly well pleased.…

As for Assad, well he began to massacre his own people at will, and when this began to become a sticky issue he sent Palestinians to challenge Israel’s borders as a deflection. Reinforced by US consent—implicit in its silence—King Abdullah and other leaders in Gulf States are dispatching their troops to quell protestors in Bahrain. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah effectively have carte blanche to reverse anything achieved by the Bush administration.…

The Obama administration—which no longer dares to call a spade a spade and dissimulates the mounting Islamic violence as “a minority of extremists,” is getting further and further away from the previous administration’s mission; the current administration has unwittingly shrunk the lexicon of viable terminology for terrorists—thereby changing the face of Bush’s “war on terror.”

This has allowed the Muslim world to once again slide into the familiar game of bullet-policy.


Jackson Diehl

Washington Post, July 31, 2011


Until last Thursday, Libya was beginning to look like the relative good news in the troubled summer that has followed the Arab Spring. The United States and more than 30 other governments had recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC), based in the rebel capital of Benghazi, as Libya’s legitimate government. Its military forces appeared to be slowly gaining ground against those of Moammar Gaddafi, who was isolated in Tripoli.

Two senior members of the TNC touring Washington last week talked cheerily about their plans to stabilize the country after Gaddafi’s departure and quickly install a liberal democracy. “Libya is actually the easy case,” one veteran Washington democracy expert enthused to me after hearing them speak.

Then came the sudden killing on Thursday of Abdul Fatah Younis, the TNC’s senior military commander, under still-unexplained—and very troubling—circumstances. The murder plunged the new government and its capital into turmoil, and raised urgent questions in NATO capitals about whether the TNC or its ragtag army were in danger of crumbling.

It also illustrated one of the enduring themes of the uprisings across the Middle East: the constant tension between the yearning for modernism—for democracy and personal freedom—that is driving a huge rising generation into the streets, and the atavistic forces of tribalism, sectarianism, corruption and autocracy that keep threatening to drag the revolutions under.

Younis, the Libyan rebel commander, appears to be a victim of what might be called the Old Middle East undertow. It’s not yet known exactly who killed him or why, but we do know that he had been called to Benghazi by elements of the rebel leadership to answer unspecified questions about his behavior and was murdered by fighters escorting him. Angry demonstrations by members of Younis’s Obeidi tribe hinted at the internecine conflict that some experts believe may be the most serious threat to a post-Gaddafi Libya.…

The Old Middle East has pulled [the TNC’s] military commander under. In Libya, as in so much of the region this summer, it’s an open question whether a new Arab order can survive that undertow.


Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, July 15, 2011

It was seven months ago that Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable peddler in Tunisia, set himself and the Arab world on fire. The 26- year-old staged his suicidal protest on the steps of the local city hall after a municipal inspector took away his unlicensed vegetable cart, thus denying him the ability to feed his family of eight.

Most depictions of the Arab revolutions that followed his act have cast them as struggles for freedom and good government. These depictions miss the main cause of these political upheavals. No doubt millions of Arabs are upset about the freedom deficit in Arab lands. But the fact is that economics has played a decisive role in all of them.

In Bouazizi’s case, his self-immolation was provoked by financial desperation. And if current trends continue, the revolutionary ferment we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg.

Moreover, the political whirlwind will not be contained in the Middle East.

Most of the news coming out about Egypt today emanates from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. There the protesters continue to demand ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter alongside the skulls of his sons, business associates, advisors and everyone else who prospered under his rule. While the supposedly liberal democratic protesters’ swift descent into bloodlust is no doubt worth noting, the main reason these protesters continue to gain so much international attention is because they are easy to find. A reporter looking for a story’s failsafe option is to mosey on over to the square and put a microphone into the crowd.

But while easily accessible, the action at Tahrir Square is not Egypt’s most important story. The most important, strategically consequential story is that Egypt is rapidly going broke. By the end of the year, the military dictatorship will likely not only default on Egypt’s loans; Field Marshal Tantawi and his deputies will almost certainly be unable to feed the Egyptian people.

Some raw statistics are in order here.

Among Egypt’s population of 80 million, some 32 million are illiterate. They engage in subsistence farming that is too inefficient to support them. Egypt needs to import half of its food.

As David Goldman, (aka Spengler), reported in Asia Times Online, in May the International Monetary Fund warned of the impending economic collapse of non-oil exporting Arab countries saying, “In the current baseline scenario the external financing needs of the region’s oil importers is projected to exceed $160 billion during 2011-13.” Goldman noted, “That’s almost three years’ worth of Egypt’s total annual imports as of 2010.”

Since Mubarak was overthrown in February, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have plummeted from $36b. to $25b.-28b.… As Goldman explained, the problem is capital flight. Due in no small part to the protesters in Tahrir Square calling for the arrest of all those who did business with the former regime, Egypt’s wealthy and foreign investors are taking their money out of the country.

At the Arab Banking Summit in Rome last month, Jordan’s Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour warned, “There is capital flight and $500 million a week is leaving the Arab world.” According to Goldman, “Although Hammour did not mention countries in his talk…most of the capital flight is coming from Egypt, and at an annual rate roughly equal to Egypt’s remaining reserves.”

What this means is that in a few short months, Egypt will be unable to pay for its imports. And consequently, it will be unable to feed its people.

Egypt is far from alone. Take Syria. There, too, capital is fleeing the country as the government rushes to quell the mass anti-regime protests.

Just as Egyptian and Tunisian protesters hoped that a new regime would bring them more freedom, so the mass protests sweeping Syria are in part due to politics. But like in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria’s economic woes are dictating much of what is happening on the ground and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Last month, Syrian President Bashar Assad gave a speech warning of “weakness or collapse of the Syrian economy.” As a report last month by Reuters explained, the immediate impact of Assad’s speech was capital flight and the devaluation of the Syrian pound by 8 percent.

For the past decade, Assad has been trying to liberalize the Syrian economy. He enacted some free market reforms, opened a stock exchange and attempted to draw foreign investment to the country. While largely unsuccessful in alleviating Syria’s massive poverty, these reforms did enable the country a modest growth rate of around 2.5% per year.

In response to the mass protests threatening his regime, Assad has effectively ended his experiment with the free market. He fired his government minister in charge of the economic reforms and put all the projects on hold. Instead, according to a report this week in Syria Today, the government has steeply increased public sector wages and offered 100,000 temporary workers full-time contracts. The Syrian government also announced a 25% cut in the price of diesel fuel, at a cost to the government of $527m. per year.… As Reuters reported, the government has been forced to spend $70m.-$80m. a week to buck up the local currency. So between protecting the Syrian pound and paying for political loyalty, the Assad regime is quickly drying up Syria’s treasury.

In the event the regime is overthrown, a successor regime will face the sure prospect of economic collapse, much as the Egyptian regime does. And in the event that Assad remains in power, he will continue to reap the economic whirlwind of what he has sown in the form of political instability and violence.

What this means is that we can expect continued political turmoil in both countries as they are consumed by debt and tens of millions of people face the prospect of starvation. This political turmoil can be expected to give rise to dangerous if unknowable military developments.

Poor Arab nations such as Egypt and Syria are far from the only ones facing economic disaster. The $3b. loan the IMF offered Egypt may be among the last loans of that magnitude the IMF is able to offer because quite simply, European lenders are themselves staring into the economic abyss.

Greece’s debt crisis is not a local problem. It now appears increasingly likely that the EU is going to have to accept Greece defaulting on at least part of its debt.… Worse still, the banking crisis will only intensify in the wake of a Greek default. Debt pressure on Italy, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, which are all also on the brink of defaulting on their debts, will grow. Italy is Europe’s fourth largest economy. Its debt is about the size of Germany’s.

If Italy goes into default, the implications for the European and US banking systems—and for their economies generally—will be devastating.

The current debt-ceiling negotiations between US President Barack Obama and the Republican congressional leadership have made it apparent that Obama is ideologically committed to increasing government spending and taxes in the face of a weak economy. If Obama is reelected next year, the dire implications of four more years of his economic policies for the US and global economies cannot be overstated.

Due to the economic policies implemented by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu since his first tenure as prime minister in 1996-99, in the face of this economic disaster, Israel is likely to find itself in the unlikely position of standing along China and India as among the only stable, growing economies in the world. Israel’s banking sector is largely unexposed to European debt. Israel’s gross external debt is 44% of GDP. This compares well not only to European debt levels of well over 100% of GDP but to the US debt level, which stands at 98% of GDP.…

Israel’s economy is likely to remain one of the country’s most valuable strategic assets. Just as economic prosperity allowed Israel to absorb the cost of the Second Lebanon War with barely a hiccup, so continued economic growth will play a key role in protecting it from the economically induced political upheavals likely to ensue throughout much of the Arab world and Europe.

Aside from remaining economically responsible, as Israel approaches the coming storms it is important for it to act with utmost caution politically. It must adopt policies that provide it with the most maneuver room and the greatest deterrent force.

First and foremost, this means that it is imperative that Israel not commit itself to any agreements with any Arab regime. In 1977, the Camp David Agreement with then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, in which Israel surrendered the strategically invaluable Sinai for a peace treaty, seemed like a reasonable gamble. In 2011, a similar agreement with Assad or with the Palestinian Authority, (whose budget is largely financed from international aid), would be the height of strategic insanity.

Beyond that, with the rising double specter of Egyptian economic collapse and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, Israel must prepare for the prospect of war with Egypt. Recently it was reported that IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz has opted to spread over several years Israel’s military preparations for a return to hostilities with Egypt. Gantz’s decision reportedly is due to his desire to avoid provoking Egypt with a rapid expansion of the IDF’s order of battle.

Gantz’s caution is understandable. But it is unacceptable. Given the escalating threats emanating from Egypt—not the least of which is the expanding security vacuum in Sinai—Israel must prepare for war now.

So, too, with the US’s weak economy, Obama’s Muslim Brotherhood-friendly foreign policy, and Europe’s history of responding to economic hardship with xenophobia, Israel’s need to develop the means of militarily defending itself from a cascade of emerging threats becomes all the more apparent.

The economic storms may pass by Israel. But the political tempests they unleash will reach us.

To emerge safely from what is coming, Israel needs to hunker down and prepare for the worst.





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Barak Ravid
Haaretz, April 12, 2011


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weighing a withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces troops from the West Bank…to block the “diplomatic tsunami” that may follow international recognition of a Palestinian state within the “1967 borders” at the United Nations General Assembly in September.…

Conversations with two Israeli sources with ties to Netanyahu’s bureau led to the conclusion that [a] withdrawal in the West Bank…would see the IDF forces redeploy and security responsibility handed over to the Palestinian Authority. This would mean that in Area B—[as defined in the Oslo Accords]—where Israel has security responsibility and the Palestinians civilian policing functions, full control would be ceded to the PA. In addition, some parts of Area C, where Israel has complete control, will become Area B.…

Netanyahu is still uncertain to what extent the withdrawal would be.…


Michael Omer-Man
Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2011


On April 23, 1982, just over three years after then-Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty between their two countries, Israel painfully evacuated the last of its settlements in the Sinai Peninsula—Yamit.

As stipulated in the 1979 peace treaty, Israel was required—within three years—to withdraw all of its 2,500 civilians and thousands of military personnel from the Sinai, which it had captured in the 1967 Six Day War. With three years notice as well as economic and relocation compensation packages provided by the government, most of the Israeli residents of Sinai had long departed before the April 1982 deadline approached.…

Ideologically opposed to the withdrawal, however, dozens of religious and some secular Israelis descended on the remaining settlements in the Sinai, intent on using their bodies to oppose the evacuation. Bypassing army checkpoints erected to prevent objectors from reaching the soon-to-be-demolished Sinai settlements, dozens of religious Zionist youths sailed south past the Gaza Strip and entered the coastal settlement of Yamit.

Some of the youths…barricaded themselves in the basement of a building in Yamit with explosives, threatening to blow themselves up in an act of collective suicide rather than allow the army to forcefully evacuate them.… [B]oth chief rabbis of Israel at the time, including Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, traveled to Yamit and attempted to talk down the suicidal yeshiva students through a ventilation pipe. [Eventually], they agreed to disassemble their explosives, though they remained holed up in their underground bunker refusing to be evacuated.

Another…group of objectors who made their way down to Yamit in order to physically protest its evacuation—secular students intent on showing that the struggle was not only a religious one—was led by Tzahi Hanegbi, son of legendary Lehi fighter and MK Geula Cohen.… Revisiting those times in an interview with The Jerusalem Post over 20 years later, Hanegbi described how he and members of his group of students chained themselves to the top of a 28-meter monument but decided not to physically struggle against the soldiers sent to evacuate them. “We just stood there, sang Hatikva, chained ourselves and were taken down [via a ladder],” he recalled.

The traumatic scenes most widely remembered by the Israeli public, however, were not those described by Hanegbi. Disturbing images of club wielding holdouts on rooftops, attempting to keep the inevitable siege of IDF soldiers at bay, were etched into the national collective memory. Similarly, pictures of soldiers dragging children from their homes momentarily shattered the purity of the inseparable relationship between the IDF and Israel’s citizens. Twenty-three years later, nearly identical images would have a similar effect when the army was charged with evacuating Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

In a twist of fate, the general charged with carrying out the final evacuation of Yamit was none other the man who decades later would order the largest-ever evacuation of Jewish settlers, then-defense minister Ariel Sharon.

On the morning of the evacuation, hundreds of IDF troops were sent to [Yamit]. While groups such as those led by Hanegbi put up symbolic resistance to the evacuation orders, others put a more determined and physical fight. No serious injuries took place either among the holdouts or the soldiers sent to remove them, but the scene nonetheless turned ugly.

Just one day later, acting on orders from Sharon and Begin, the IDF blasted Yamit into a massive pile of rubble. The logic behind the dramatic demolition was to prevent a large Egyptian population center from sprouting on the newly delineated border. Although the peace treaty was expected to hold…there was a fear of encroachment.

The evacuation of Yamit represented two major events in the Israeli collective memory. In a historical context, it was the last action taken before Israel’s first peace treaty with an Arab state formally came into effect.… On an emotional level…the day was remembered as the first time an Israeli government uprooted its own citizens from towns it had asked and encouraged them to populate, an experience that would be traumatically repeated 23 years later.


Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, February 14, 2011


One of the first casualties of the Egyptian revolution may very well be Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. The Egyptian public’s overwhelming animus towards Jews renders it politically impossible for any Egyptian leader to come out in support of the treaty. Over the weekend, the junta now ruling Egypt refused to explicitly commit itself to maintaining the treaty.…

Ayman Nour, the head of the oppositionist Ghad Party and the man heralded as the liberal democratic alternative to Mubarak by Washington neo-conservatives has called for the peace treaty to be abrogated. In an interview with an Egyptian radio station he said, “The Camp David Accords are finished. Egypt has to at least conduct negotiations over conditions of the agreement.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has been outspoken in its call to end the treaty since it was signed 32 years ago.

Whatever ends up happening, it is clear that Israel is entering a new era in its relations with Egypt. And before we can begin contending with its challenges, we must first consider the legacy of the peace treaty that then prime minister Menachem Begin signed with then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on March 26, 1979.…

The peace treaty contains an entire annex devoted to specific commitments to cultivate every sort of cultural, social and economic tie imaginable. But both Sadat and his successor Mubarak breached every one of them. As the intervening 32 years since the treaty was signed have shown, in essence, the deal was nothing more than a ceasefire. Israel surrendered the entire Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and in exchange, Egypt has not staged a military attack against Israel from its territory.

The peace treaty’s critics maintain that the price Israel paid was too high and so the treaty was unjustified. They also argue that Israel set a horrible precedent for future negotiations with its neighbors by ceding the entire Sinai in exchange for the treaty. Moreover, the Palestinian autonomy agreement in the treaty was a terrible deal. And it set the framework for the disastrous Oslo peace process with the Palestinian Authority 15 years later.…

Since Israel withdrew from the Sinai in 1981, it has been the state’s consistent policy to ignore Egypt’s bad faith. This 30- year refusal of Israel’s leadership to contend with the true nature of the deal this country achieved with Egypt has had a debilitating impact both on Israel’s internal strategic discourse as well as on its international behavior.

As the US-backed demonstrators in Tahrir Square gained momentum, and the prospect that Mubarak’s regime would indeed be overthrown became increasingly likely, IDF sources began noting that the IDF and the Mossad will need to build intelligence gathering capabilities towards Egypt after 30 years of neglect. These statements make clear the debilitating impact of Israel’s self-induced strategic blindness to our neighbor in the south.…

On the international stage, our leadership’s refusal to acknowledge that Egypt had not abandoned its belligerent attitude against Israel was translated into an abject refusal to admit or deal with the fact that Egypt leads the international political war against Israel. Rather than fight back when Egyptian diplomats at the UN initiate anti-Israel resolution after anti-Israel resolution, Israeli diplomats have pretended that there is no reason for concern.…

Israel failed to consider the implications of signing a deal with a military dictator on the prospects for the deal’s longevity. In an interview with Der Spiegel last week, the Muslim Brotherhood’s puppet Mohamed ElBaradei explained those implications. As he put it, Israel has “a peace treaty with Mubarak, but not one with the Egyptian people.…”


Asaf Romirowsky & Avi Jorisch
National Interest, April 21, 2011


Hezbollah and Israel are once again facing the void, and both parties appear to be preparing for another confrontation. According to press reports, since its 2006 hostilities with Israel, Hezbollah has amassed more than forty thousand weapons, spread out over one thousand facilities across southern Lebanon. Once again, these strongholds are reportedly situated in civilian areas.… Policymakers and analysts alike in Washington, Paris, London, Beirut, and Jerusalem are beginning to brace themselves for the spark that will light up the eastern Mediterranean.

Israel pulled out of Lebanon in May 2000…not as a result of a peace agreement, cease-fire, or informal understanding on the status of forces on the border, but as a unilateral move. Hezbollah and its supporters interpreted the withdrawal as a milestone in the organization’s development as a military and political force in Lebanon, and as a resounding victory in its struggle against the “Zionist entity.” The withdrawal was depicted as a great defeat for Israel, a sentiment shared by many Israelis. As Hezbollah often claims…this was the “first Arab victory in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

The summer of 2006 paid off for Hezbollah—and other sub-state actors across the region. Palestinians have adopted Hezbollah’s military tactics [believing they can get Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, as it did from Gaza], including the use of short-range missiles and hit-and-run operations designed to draw the IDF into combat in populated areas. This has gradually forced the IDF…to change their way of dealing with terrorist organizations.…

Hezbollah still maintains (though in muted tones) that it wishes to implement a mullatocracy modeled on the Islamic Republic of Iran.… For its part, Hamas has established the Islamist Republic of Gaza and runs it based on its founding charter, which calls for “the reinstitution of the Muslim state.… Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Qur’an its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the ca[u]se of Allah its most sublime belief.” [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah has repeatedly used his group’s willingness to die as a strategic bulwark: “The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.…”

Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Gaza have effectively become the front lines of…the Arab-Israeli conflict.… We should be prepared for the battle to continue as both Hezbollah and Israel gear up for more hostilities.


Neil Snyder
American Thinker, April 15, 2011


On Thursday, April 7, an anti-tank missile fired from the Gaza Strip by a Hamas terrorist slammed into an Israeli school bus loaded with children and exploded. [One teenager] was killed, [and] the message was clear: Israeli citizens, even little children, aren’t safe anywhere. Immediately following the attack, a barrage of mortar fire from Gaza hit near Israeli towns in the Negev. Israel responded with helicopter gunships, and in short order Hamas announced that a ceasefire would go into effect.… Two days later, Hamas resumed firing rockets and mortar shells at Israel. That’s a ceasefire Hamas-style.

If you follow events in Israel closely, you recognize the routine. First Hamas engages in indiscriminate attacks on innocent Israeli civilians. Next Israel responds. Then Hamas announces a unilateral ceasefire. Soon thereafter, the attacks resume, and Israel responds. Eventually, a full-scale war breaks out. It’s as predictable as clockwork. That’s how the Gaza War of 2008-2009 began, and that’s how the next Gaza war will start—only the next Gaza war will be markedly different.

Since the end of the last Gaza War, we’ve witnessed a flurry of activity to rearm Hamas and Hezbollah. For example, in November 2009, Israel seized a ship carrying Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border. According to Israel’s deputy naval commander, Rani Ben Yehuda, the cargo included “dozens of containers with hundreds of tons of arms.” Later reports revealed that the shipment contained more than 500 tons of weapons.

Just last week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad admitted that he has allowed Iranian weapons to flow through Syria to Hezbollah, and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has made it clear repeatedly that Hezbollah will cooperate with Hamas if another Gaza war breaks out. Those weapons are needed for an attack on Israel.…

In February 2011, the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak allowed the Muslim Brotherhood to emerge from the shadows and engage openly in political activity for the first time in 57 years. Following Mubarak’s resignation, Muhammad Ghannem, a leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, told the Iranian news network Al-Alam that the Egyptian people need to prepare for war with Israel. Supplying weapons to Hamas is a step in that direction. Mubarak worked with Israel to prevent weapons from flowing into Gaza though the Sinai Peninsula, but the Brotherhood’s lust for Israeli blood raises serious doubts about that arrangement as we look to the future. Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries to have made peace with Israel.… As the Muslim Brotherhood gains political strength in Egypt, you can bet that it will change.

In March 2011, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reached an agreement with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to build an Iranian naval base in Latakia, Syria’s largest port, from which Iran can operate freely in the Mediterranean Sea. Within days of the announcement, Israel intercepted a Gaza-bound ship leaving Latakia carrying Iranian weapons to Gaza. Syria is on Israel’s northeast border, and the two countries have been sparring over the Golan Heights since the end of the 1967 Six Day War. Under the dictatorial regimes of Hafez al-Assad and his son Bashar, Syria has served as field headquarters for Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and a host of other Islamist terrorist organizations brazenly committed to Israel’s annihilation. Will they take part in the next Gaza war? With Assad’s power diminishing and Islamist groups in Syria increasing their strength, the answer is probably “yes”—if not directly as combatants, then as guerrilla fighters.…

Iran’s attempts to change the balance of power in the Middle East and North Africa by picking off one country after another is evident in Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Saudi Arabia as well. President Obama’s missteps in response to Iran’s gains caused Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to reexamine the United States’ role in the region. Rather than deferring to the U.S., Abdullah sent Saudi troops into Bahrain to help quell violence there, and, according to Martin Indyk, former special assistant to President Bill Clinton and former U.S. ambassador to Israel, the King “views President Obama as a threat to his internal security.” Moderate Arab leaders feel the same way. They have every reason to believe that President Obama will not come to their aid if they need help, but Iran stands ready to assist Islamist elements throughout the region.

We’re witnessing the fruition of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s plan to destroy Israel. His first step was to announce his intention to the world. Some mocked him, but he meant business. Next, he worked to undermine political regimes in every country in the region and to strengthen Islamist elements beholden to him. All the while, he has worked feverishly to develop Iran’s nuclear capability. Today, Israel is surrounded: Hamas in Gaza on the west, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt on the south and southwest, Hezbollah in Lebanon on the north, a host of emerging Islamist terrorist organizations in Syria on the northeast, and on the east, a weakened monarch in Jordan attempting to restrain radical Islamists. With Ahmadinejad’s unswerving support, the only step remaining is a coordinated attack on Israel.

Given its proximity to the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, Israel’s most populous region, Gaza is the logical place for the war to begin. From southern Lebanon, Hezbollah has promised to join the fight, probably with an attack on Haifa, Israel’s third-largest metropolitan area. Syria, Egypt, and Jordan may join the fight as well, and Israel could end up fighting a war for survival on all sides, much like the Six Day War. But things have changed markedly since 1967. The U.S. is weaker in the Middle East than it has been in decades, and Islamist groups are stronger than they have ever been. There should be no doubt that the next Gaza war won’t resemble the 2008-2009 war, and it could start at any time.

(Neil Snyder taught leadership and strategy at the University of Virginia for 25 years.)


Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2011


Over the past several years, a growing number of patriotic Israelis have begun to despair. We can’t stand up to the whole world, they say. At the end of the day, we will have to give in and surrender most of the land or all of the land we took control over in the 1967 Six Day War. The world won’t accept anything less.… [However], the notion that Israel has no choice but to surrender Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem to the Palestinians is wrong and dangerous.…

The first problem with this view is that it confuses the focus of Palestinian and international attacks on Israel with the rationale behind those attacks. This is a mistake Israelis have made repeatedly since the establishment of the Fatah-led PA in 1994.

Immediately after the PA was set up and IDF forces transferred security control over Palestinian cities and towns in Judea and Samaria to Yasser Arafat’s armies, Palestinian terrorists began attacking Israeli motorists driving through PA-controlled areas with rocks, pipe bombs and bullets.

Then-prime minister and defense minister Yitzhak Rabin blamed the attacks on “friction.” If the Palestinians didn’t have contact with Israeli motorists, then they wouldn’t attack them. So Israel built the bypass roads around the Palestinian towns and cities to prevent friction.

For its efforts, the Palestinians and the international community accused Israel of building “Jews-only, apartheid roads.” Moreover, Palestinian terrorists left their towns and cities and stoned, bombed and shot at Israeli motorists on the bypass roads.

Then there was Gaza. When in 2001 Palestinians first began shelling the Israeli communities in Gaza and the Western Negev with mortars and rockets, we were told they were attacking because of Israel’s presence in Gaza. When the IDF took action to defend the country from mortar and rocket attacks, Israel was accused of committing war crimes.

[Many] said then that if Israel left Gaza, the Palestinian attacks would stop. They said that if they didn’t stop and the IDF was forced to take action, the world would support Israel.… After Israel expelled every last so-called settler and removed every last soldier from Gaza in August 2005, Palestinian rocket attacks increased tenfold. The first Katyusha was fired at Ashkelon seven months after Israel withdrew. Hamas won the elections and Gaza became an Iranian proxy. Now it has missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

As for the international community, not only did it continue blaming Israel for Palestinian terrorism, it refused to accept that Israel had ended its so-called occupation of Gaza. It has condemned every step Israel has taken to defend itself from Palestinian aggression since the withdrawal.…

The lesson of these experiences is that Israeli towns and villages in Judea and Samaria are not castigated as “illegitimate” because there is anything inherently illegitimate about them. Like the bypass roads and the Israeli presence in Gaza, they are singled out because those interested in attacking Israel militarily or politically [consider them] an easy target.

The Arabs, the UN, the Obama administration, the EU, anti-Israel American and Israeli Jews, university professors and the legions of self-proclaimed human rights organizations in Israel and throughout the world allege these Israeli communities are illegitimate because by doing so they weaken Israel as a whole. [And even if] Israel…bow[ed] to these people’s demands, they will not be appeased. They will simply move on to the next easy target. Israeli Jewish communities in the Galilee and the Negev, Jaffa and Lod will be deemed illegitimate.…

So what can Israel do?

The first thing we must do is recognize that legitimacy is indivisible. In the eyes of Israel’s enemies there is no difference between Itamar and Ma’aleh Adumim on the one hand and Ramle and Tel Aviv on the other hand. And so we must make no distinction between them. Just as law abiding citizens are permitted to build homes in Ramle and Tel Aviv, so they must be permitted to build in Itamar and Ma’aleh Adumim. If Israel’s assertion of its sovereignty is legitimate in Tel Aviv, then it is legitimate in Judea and Samaria. We cannot accept that one has a different status from the other.…

Once we understand that Israel’s legitimacy is indivisible, we need to take actions that will put the Palestinians and their international supporters on the defensive.… It is hard to stand up to the massive pressure being brought to bear against Israel every day. But it is possible. And whether defying our foes is hard or easy, it is our only chance at survival. Either all of Israel is legitimate, or none of it is.