Tag: Sisi


Passover 5778: A Script of Living Drama: Baruch Cohen, CIJR, Mar. 29, 2018— A passage in the Mishna says, Every person in every generation must look upon himself/herself as if he/she came out of Egypt.

Plato’s Haggadah in the ‘Dialogues’: Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Times of Israel, Mar. 22, 2018— How that Jews all over the world will once again assemble around the seder table and read the Haggadah — the story of the exodus from Egypt — it may be worthwhile to put some thought into the art of reading.

Egypt’s Election: All Votes Will Go to Al-Sisi: Ashraf Ramelah, Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018 — Egypt is holding its presidential election now through March 28. President Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi is running for re-election after four years of his first term.

Egypt’s President Sisi Is Irreplaceable: Caroline Glick, Breitbart, Mar. 27, 2018 — Noting that most significant presidential contenders were either arrested, or were intimidated out of running, many media organizations have argued that Egypt’s elections this week are a farce.

On Topic Links

Passover Message from Prime Minister Netanyahu (Video): Youtube, Mar. 21, 2018

Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2018 (a US angle): Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Mar. 26, 2018

Eight Questions for Passover: Deborah Fineblum, JNS, Mar. 26, 2018

Importing Israeli Natural Gas Makes Sense for Egypt: Robin Mills, Bloomberg, Mar. 19, 2018




Baruch Cohen

CIJR, Mar. 29, 2018

A passage in thMishna says, every person in every generation must look upon himself/herself as if he/she came out of Egypt. The key idea that underlies the feast of Passover is great and profoundly human: the idea of freedom, of humanness. Passover shows that the human spirit’s struggle for freedom is the basis of the democratic vision of human dignity.

For us, the Jewish people, Passover marks our birth as a free people: our Sages teach us that liberty must be fought for, and renewed, in every generation. Passover, the liberation from Egyptian slavery, affirms the great truth that liberty is an undeniable right of every human being. By celebrating Passover we are learning about our Jewish past, and thus ensuring our human future.

Hag Pesach Sameach! Happy Passover!


(Baruch Cohen, now 98, has been CIJR’s Research Chairman for thirty years; his moving memoir, No One Bears Witness for the Witness, just published, is available from CIJR at cijr@isranet.org)




Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Times of Israel, Mar. 22, 2018


Now that Jews all over the world will once again assemble around the seder table and read the Haggadah — the story of the exodus from Egypt — it may be worthwhile to put some thought into the art of reading. In The Phaedrus (275a-278a) and in his Seventh Letter (344c), Plato questioned — and in fact attacked — the written word as being completely inadequate. This may explain why philosophers have scarcely written about the art of writing, although they extensively engaged in that very craft!

It is well known that Plato used to write in the form of dialogues, and it is clear to anyone reading these conversations that his main purpose in doing so was to hide the characteristics of the texts. He worked for years on polishing this literary form. Cicero maintains that Plato actually died at his writing table at the age of 81. “Plato uno et octogesimo anno scribens est mortuus.” (Cicero, “On Old Age,” Section 5.)

What bothered Plato was that he believed the written word would fall prey to evil or incompetent readers who would do anything they want with the text, leaving the writer unable to defend or explain himself or herself. He feared the text would take on a life of its own, independent of its author, as is indeed characteristic of the written word. Even more interesting is his observation that a written text actually becomes a “pharmakon” — a drug that can either heal or kill, depending on how it is applied. It may even be used as a prompt, but will ultimately lead to memory loss since it will make the brain idle. Years later, Immanuel Kant wrote along similar lines, saying that the “script” wreaked havoc on the “body of memory.” (Immanuel Kant, Anthropologie in Pragmatischer Hinsicht, Suhrkamp, STW 193, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 489-490.

However, according to Plato, this means far more than just losing information, or being deprived of the skill of memorizing. For him, real knowledge was a atter of “intrinsic understanding,” demanding a person’s total presence within what he reads or says. Only that with which I totally identify and which has become united with my Self can be called knowledge and is in-scribed in my whole personality. That which I have simply read or learned superficially is not really knowledge.

Unwittingly, Plato touched on a most fundamental aspect of the Jewish tradition. We Jews are called “the people of the book.” But we are not; we are the people of the ear. The Torah is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. It was not written in the conventional sense. It was the Divine word spoken at Sinai, which had to be heard and which afterwards, out of pure necessity, became frozen in a text, but with the sole intention of being immediately “defrosted” through the art of hearing. This, then, became the great foundation of the Jewish oral tradition.

Reading entails using one’s eyes and, as such, the act remains external. The words are not carved into the very soul of the reader. Rabbi Yaakov Leiner, son of the famous Ishbitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, and one of the keenest minds in the Hasidic tradition, speaks about seeing. He makes the valuable observation that sight discloses the external aspect of things while hearing reveals the internal. (Rabbi Yaacov Leiner, Beis Yaakov, “Rosh Chodesh Av.”) One must hear a text, not read it. This is the reason why the body of Torah consists of minimum words and maximum oral interpretation.

Still, does not the open-endedness of the Torah present the opportunity for anyone to read his or her own thoughts into the text and violate its very spirit? The Jewish tradition responded to this challenge with great profundity. It created an ongoing oral tradition in which unwritten rules of interpretation were handed down, thereby securing the inner meaning of the text, while at the same time allowing the student to use all of his or her creative imagination. Even after the Oral Torah was written down in the form of the Talmud, it remained unwritten, as any Talmud student can testify. No other text is so succinct and “understaffed” in written words, while simultaneously given to such vast interpretation. The fact that the art of reading the Talmud can only be learned through a teacher–student relationship, and not merely through the written word, proves our point. Only when the student hears his or her master’s oral interpretation of the text is the student able to read it, because the teacher will not only give explanations, but will also convey the inner vibrations that were once heard at the revelation on Mount Sinai. This is the deeper knowledge that teachers themselves received from their masters, taking them all the way back to the supreme moment at Sinai. In that way, the students can free themselves from a mechanical approach to the text. Each person will hear new voices in the old text, without deviating from its inner meaning. This will provide the courage to think on one’s own and rid any personal prejudices. The text, then, is not read but heard.

Jewish law states that even if one is alone on the Seder night, one must pronounce the text of the Haggadah and not just read it. One must hear oneself, explain the text in a verbal way, and be in continuous dialogue with oneself, so as to understand and feel what happened thousands of years ago. Plato alluded to this matter without fully realizing why his own teachings never came close to receiving the treatment they perhaps deserved. They are read too much and heard too little.

This may be the difference between the Divine word and the human word. The Divine is a dimension where words have no spiritual space. Human words are too grounded in the text. The Divine word goes beyond these textual limitations and can find its way only through the act of listening, because it is through this particular one of our senses that we are able to hear the “perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore.” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976) p. 8.) When we read the text on the seder night, we should be aware that it only provides the opening words. The real Haggadah has no text. It is not to be read, but is rather to be heard. And, just as with the Torah, we have not even begun to understand its full meaning. We are simply perpetual beginners. Moadim le-simcha.




Ashraf Ramelah

Arutz Sheva, Mar. 27, 2018


Egypt is holding its presidential election now through March 28. President Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi is running for re-election after four years of his first term. There is one opposing candidate from the Tomorrow Party who has vowed to cast his vote for the president and encourages all Egyptians to do the same. The ballots will be counted by the Election Commission as usual with the political parties in observance. The president is an independent candidate of the military without a political party. However, the military will be absent from the process because constitutionally it cannot be a part of civilian elections.

With the outcome already determined, Egyptians view the election as a comedy performance mainly because it is too painful to take seriously. Any real opposition candidates to the president have been orchestrated out of the process by the Al-Sisi government in the past months…State-sponsored media rave about the popularity of Al-Sisi and show pictures of Egyptians endorsing him with his campaign slogan of “build it.” But certain facts belie such reports. For instance, the media is pressuring the electorate to go out and vote by stressing it as the sacred duty of every citizen. Guilt infliction would not be necessary if a highly popular, reformist incumbent were running.

Christian clergy and Muslim Imams are threatening the populace with the fate of hell for those who do not go to the voting polls while the courts threaten non-voters with monetary fines. State employees are told by their managers that they will receive punishments for misconduct if they are absent from the performance of their electoral duty.

Meanwhile, Orthodox churches in the Egyptian diaspora around the world are arranging buses to haul church-goers to offices of the Egyptian Consulate to cast their vote for Al-Sisi. This follows the directive of Pope Tawadros II, an advocate of the president, when last week he announced plainly that, “It is the obligation and duty of every person to vote.” Low turn-out at the polls would bring embarrassment to the president and must be avoided at all cost.

Complacency is being combated by the state, church and mosque, but the anger boiling underneath the surface of the ersatz conformity is an even bigger threat to Al-Sisi and can’t be dealt with as easily by the regime whose appearance must remain “democratic.” Calling the election a farce, the Civil Democratic Movement has risen up to boycott it. Analysts are citing it as the object of the president’s anger and the reason for the regime’s pressure upon voters across the country.

Anger in general toward Al-Sisi’s failed record is what led the regime in the first place to eliminate risk by clearing the ballot of opposition. The other candidates presumably represented forces so insidious to the country and the welfare of the citizenry that Al-Sisi waited until they threatened his position as president to deal with their lurking presence. Moreover, his failure to float ideas to fix the country’s infrastructure problems, inflation and poverty has been accompanied by a rise in police state tactics such as “aurora” visits to contrarians and jail for speaking freely and critically. Considering this in the light of the president’s promises of democratic reforms and talk of human rights, Egyptians are left with cognitive dissonance.

Orthodox Copts have solved this problem by accepting Al-Sisi as a ruler who “means well” in light of terror atrocities, brute police force, rigged courts and rubble in place of churches. Political relativism helps this along. Are the Copts correct in agreeing with Al-Sisi that any other option rising in the political arena would be much too risky and threatening to Egypt’s long history of military rule? Military rule is all Egyptians know. Another military man as president would be pointless and, if less endearing, might prove disruptive to the stability of a people who need to manage daily life under massive corruption and civil decay.





Caroline Glick

Breitbart, Mar. 27, 2018


Noting that most significant presidential contenders were either arrested, or were intimidated out of running, many media organizations have argued that Egypt’s elections this week are a farce. Although there accounts disputing those claims, it is true that government bodies placed obstacles to running before several candidates. So it is hard to argue that this week’s election is an open one.

But there is a deeper issue at stake in Egypt than popular elections. That issue is whether Egypt – a country with 90 million citizens – will become a threat to itself and to the world, or whether Egypt will somehow beat the odds, and survive by liberalizing. Sisi is betting on survival through liberalization. If he fails, no amount of open and free and unfettered elections will save Egypt from destruction.

Seven years ago, the same bipartisan elite in Washington that is attacking this week’s elections united in support for overthrowing a longtime U.S. ally, then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, because he wasn’t democratic enough to satisfy that elite’s members on both sides of the partisan divide. Mubarak was an unapologetic authoritarian who ruled Egypt for 29 years. But he was also the anchor of America’s alliance structure in the Sunni Arab world.

When photogenic protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square staged what the credulous Western media reported as the Facebook Revolution, the elites gushed with excitement. Mubarak’s long service as a U.S. ally made no difference in Washington. Neoliberals in the Obama administration joined together with neoconservatives from the George W. Bush administration to support his overthrow.  The fact that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood engineered the protests and was the only faction in Egypt with the power to replace Mubarak didn’t bother the wise men and women of Washington.

Blinded by their complementary neoconservative and neoliberal world views, they believed, as then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress, that the Muslim Brotherhood was a “largely secular” organization. They believed this, despite the fact that nearly every Sunni Islamic terror group in the world is Muslim Brotherhood spin-off. They believed this despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood’s motto, since its founding in the 1920s, was “Allah is our goal; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Abandoned by the U.S., Mubarak was forced to resign after 18 days of protest. He and his sons were then carted off to prison.

Within a year of Mubarak’s overthrow, Egypt held its first open parliamentary elections between late 2011 until early 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood bloc won 45 percent of the vote. The Salafist party won 25 percent. So when Egyptians were given the freedom to choose their representatives, 70 percent of them voted for Islamic totalitarians who support global jihad and the institution of an Islamic caliphate to rule the world.

In the presidential elections that followed, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi from the Freedom and Justice Party, won nearly 52 percent of the vote. Much to the amazement of Washington’s wise men and women, after assuming power, Morsi and his parliamentary supporters did not govern as liberals or moderates. The representatives of Islamic totalitarian parties and movement governed as Islamic totalitarians.

Morsi pushed a constitution through the parliament that would have transformed Egypt into an Islamic theocracy. He turned a blind eye to the massive escalation in violence against Coptic Christians and church properties. He assumed dictatorial powers that, among other things, placed his presidency and all of his actions as president above judicial review.

So, far from delivering Egypt into a new era of political freedom, Egypt’s popularly elected president and popularly elected parliament used their power to trample all vestiges of liberalism and democratic order, including the separation of powers and freedom of religion in Egypt. So much for democracy.

The people of Egypt rose up against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood by the millions. Sisi, then defense minister, rose to power as the leader of a military coup that overthrew Morsi and his Islamist regime in July 2013. The Egypt that greeted Sisi was a country on the brink of mass starvation. Foreign currency reserves were almost wiped out.

Today, as the Saudis bankroll his government, Sisi has introduced market reforms into Egypt’s economy. He has committed to transforming the education system into one that provides students with marketable skills, rather than one that focuses on rote learning. He has taken on Egypt’s Islamic religious authorities and called for a reformation of Islam while waging war against the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic terror groups, from Hamas to ISIS.

None of Sisi’s battles are easily won. The Islamic clerics are testing his will and power relative to theirs, while slowing down the reform process he instigated in 2015. There is no silver bullet to solve the Egyptian economy’s fundamental failings. And the Islamists, who won 70 percent of the popular vote in 2012, will not simply disappear because they are being repressed. In the Sinai, they continue to fight a brutal and bloody war against Sisi’s regime.

Then there are the Coptic Christians. The Copts comprise around ten percent of Egypt’s population. They suffered government-sponsored persecution under the Morsi regime. And as a consequence, they were among the most outspoken supporters of the military coup tht brought Sisi to power. Unfortunately, despite the Copts high hopes that the Sisi presidency would protect their rights as Christians and as Egyptian citizens, Sisi has been unable to end the popular persecution of Copts by their Muslim neighbors. Over the past year, despite Sisi’s willingness to stand with the Copts, persecution of the community at local levels has increased. And many Copts are questioning Sisi’s willingness and ability to take the necessary steps to protect them.On the other hand, if Sisi stays the course, and continues to enjoy the support of the Saudis, the US, Israel, Europe, and others, he may survive long enough to make significant changes in Egyptian society.

Unlike President Barack Obama, who supported Morsi even as millions of Egyptians took to the streets throughout Egypt to overthrow him, President Donald Trump has been outspoken in his support for Sisi. If it is to happen, Sisi’s success in rescuing and transforming Egypt won’t be pretty. Coaxing and pushing Egypt into the 21st century culturally, educationally, and economically cannot be done without pushing the scales in favor of certain forces and against others. But the world has a stake in Sisi’s success. If Sisi succeeds, the Islamic world will never be the same. And the world will be safer.

If Sisi fails, then barring an unforeseen miracle, Egypt, with its 90 million people, will fall apart. Tens of millions will starve to death. The Arab world’s most powerful military force will fall into uncertain hands. The Islamists will have no shortage of scapegoats to blame. The implications of such a catastrophe for the region and the world are unimaginable. Sisi’s many critics snort that his one opponent, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, is actually a Sisi supporter. But maybe the critics should stop sticking their noses up at democratically-challenged Sisi and ask Moussa why he supports Sisi. Maybe he supports him because he believes that Sisi is Egypt’s last chance for survival.


CIJR Wishes All Our Friends & Supporters:

Hag Pesach Sameach! Happy Passover!



On Topic Links

Passover Message from Prime Minister Netanyahu (Video): Youtube, Mar. 21, 2018

Passover Guide for the Perplexed, 2018 (a US angle): Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Mar. 26, 2018—1. According to the late Prof. Yehudah Elitzur, one of Israel’s pioneers of Biblical research, the Exodus took place in the second half of the 15th century BCE, during the reign of Egypt’s Amenhotep II.

Eight Questions for Passover: Deborah Fineblum, JNS, Mar. 26, 2018 —Why is this year going to be different from all other years? Because this year, you can stump your guests with the meaning behind many of the mysterious rites that comprise the Passover Seder.

Importing Israeli Natural Gas Makes Sense for Egypt: Robin Mills, Bloomberg, Mar. 19, 2018—The discovery of Egypt’s giant Zohr gas field in August 2015 was heralded as the solution to the country’s energy problems. So why did Egypt cut a deal this year to import natural gas from Israel, its former enemy?


Egypt’s New Campaign Against Islamic State in Sinai: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, Feb. 11, 2018 — The three months that Egyptian President Sisi allotted to the chief of staff, General Muhammad Hegazy, to eradicate Islamic State terrorism in northern Sinai will soon end.

New Egyptian Era: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2018— It is no secret that new and surprising alliances have been formed between Israel and a number of Arab states in the region.

Why Sunni Middle East ‘Powers’ Cannot Win Their Own Battles: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018— The New York Times this weekend reported on Israel’s secret air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula…

Palestinians: The Hamas-ISIS War, Corrupt Leaders: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2018— What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other.


On Topic Links


What's Behind the Egyptian-Israeli Cooperation in Sinai?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2018

Egypt Election Appears to Follow an Old Formula: Hamza Hendaw, Times of Israel, Jan. 28, 2018

Egypt's War Against the Gaza Tunnels: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Feb. 4, 2018

Egypt’s Phantom Airline (Video): Jewish Press, Feb. 11, 2018





Yoni Ben Menachem

JCPA, Feb. 11, 2018


The three months that Egyptian President Sisi allotted to the chief of staff, General Muhammad Hegazy, to eradicate Islamic State terrorism in northern Sinai will soon end. The terror has been going on for four years. Sisi gave the order to destroy the terror group after Islamic State murdered more than 300 worshippers in an attack last November on the Al-Rawdah Mosque in northern Sinai.


In recent days the Egyptian army has launched a large-scale military operation in northern Sinai, aimed at carrying out the final stage of creating a five-kilometer buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza. Hundreds of soldiers including special forces, as well as tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy engineering equipment, have been brought to the area. Bedouin sources believe this operation is being coordinated with Israel, since it involves much larger forces than what the military annex of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty allows.


The Egyptian army has already begun to operate in several neighborhoods of the city of Rafah, destroying homes and evacuating residents to facilitate widening the buffer zone. Last week there were several shooting incidents. Islamic State fighters fired rocket-propelled grenades at Egyptian military forces in the midst of their work, also firing at them with light weapons.


Northern Sinai residents believe that the Egyptian army plans to uproot all the homes in Rafah and disperse thousands of its residents to various locations in Sinai, thereby ensuring its control of northern Sinai and the defeat of the Islamic State. In the northern Sinai city of El-Arish as well, the Egyptian army has begun a large-scale endeavor of building a five-kilometer security zone around the city’s airport.  About a month ago Islamic State terrorists tried to assassinate the visiting Egyptian defense minister and interior minister by firing an antitank missile from one of the fields adjoining the airport. The missile struck a helicopter not long before the two officials boarded it.


The Egyptian army plans to annex about half the territory of El-Arish to the new security zone, and has already begun destroying homes and fields and evacuating residents. On February 7, the Shehab News Agency reported that the Egyptian army had put all the hospitals in the city of Ismailia on a state of alert, anticipating an influx of wounded. Ismailia is about 200 kilometers from El-Arish, and the army’s assessment is that El-Arish residents will resist evacuation with acts of extreme violence.


The Egyptian chief of staff’s exact plans still are not clear. Northern Sinai residents, however, in light of the large size of the forces brought to northern Sinai in recent days and the launching of the engineering works, are deeply apprehensive. Sisi has tried unsuccessfully for four years to eradicate terror in Sinai. In recent months the Islamic State contingent has been reinforced by hundreds of experienced fighters from Syria and Iraq after the group’s defeat in the battles there, and these fighters come with advanced weaponry. Sisi cannot yet boast significant achievements in this war. As the presidential elections approach, he needs security achievements that he can display to the Egyptian people, even though his victory in the elections is assured since only one candidate is running against him.


Does erasing Rafah from the map and completing the expanded buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza constitute an image of victory that the Egyptian president wants to tout in the run-up to the elections? The answer may be yes. Sisi intends to visit the area when the tasks are finished, and he may declare the defeat of the northern Sinai terror and ask the Egyptian people to restore their trust in the country’s defense establishment. The Islamic State is believed to have about 1,000 fighters in the area. According to a February 7 report on Egypt’s Aman website, the group’s leader in northern Sinai is Rassem Abu Jazar, who gained extensive combat experience in Syria. Although the group announced that Abu Jazar had been killed in Syria, an interrogation of members of an Islamic State cell captured last week by the Egyptian army revealed that this was an attempt to cover his tracks.


The Islamic State’s fighters are skilled at guerrilla warfare, and Bedouin sources in northern Sinai report that ISIS is well aware of the Egyptian army’s plans and is planning to move its operations to the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zawid. It will take another few weeks to know whether the Egyptian chief of staff has fulfilled President Sisi’s goal of wiping out terror in northern Sinai. It appears that bloody fighting is imminent.                                                       





Jerusalem Post, Feb. 4, 2018


It is no secret that new and surprising alliances have been formed between Israel and a number of Arab states in the region. Iran has been killing Arab Sunnis and taking control of their land in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Islamic State and other proponents of political Islam have posed a threat to regimes in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, to name a few. Israel, with its military capabilities, extensive intelligence and advanced technologies, is viewed by many Arab regimes in the region as an important and perhaps even an essential ally in the fight against Islamists, whether they be Sunnis or Shi’ites.


The New York Times revealed yet another example of how Israel has proven to be critical to continued regional stability. According a report published over the weekend, for more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have been carrying out clandestine attacks – over 100 of them – against Islamists operating in Sinai, in full coordination with Egypt’s military regime headed by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The cooperation serves both Egyptian and Israeli interests, according to the Times report. For Egypt, the Israeli military involvement is critical for the successful fight against Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and other Islamist terrorist groups operating in the Sinai.


Before Israel’s reported involvement, it seemed that Egypt was losing the battle. On July 1, 2015, Islamists briefly captured control of the northern Sinai town Sheikh Zuweid. In October of the same year, the terrorists shot down a Russian charter jet, killing all 224 people aboard. The air strikes – which according to the report, Israel launched at the end of 2015 – tipped the tide in favor of the Egyptians, say American sources quoted by the Times. Israel, meanwhile, has a vested interest in ensuring that Islamists are prevented from taking control of Sinai, which is located on Israel’s southern border.


Gradually, it seems the semi-clandestine cooperation between Egypt and Israel is becoming widely known in diplomatic and military circles. Zack Gold, an analyst and specialist on the Sinai Peninsula who was interviewed by the Times, likened the under-the-radar cooperation between Egyptian and Israel to Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity. Though, according to foreign news sources, Israel has atomic bombs, the Jewish state has never officially affirmed this, which allows Israel to deny the claim while at the same time enjoying the deterrence afforded countries with nuclear weapons.


Similarly, both Israel and Egypt are wary of publicizing their cooperation in Sinai for fear that doing so will spark opposition within Egyptian society, where Israel is regularly pillorized. Leaders from neither country wish to see a backlash. As a result, no official sources on either side are willing to confirm the military cooperation in Sinai. At the same time, the two countries see the cooperation as essential to the continued stability of the Sinai Peninsula. The idea that the cooperation is not a complete secret also serves as something of a deterrent for Islamist groups with aspirations to expand their operations in the Sinai.


We believe, however, that the strengthening ties between Israel and countries like Egypt should cease to remain a secret. It has been over four decades since Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty. Yet relations remain uneasy, due entirely to stereotypes and antisemitic sentiments perpetuated in Egyptian society. The time has come for the Egyptian president and other Egyptian leaders who benefit from Israeli support to begin changing Egyptian public opinion about Israel. It is, after all, the role of true leaders to initiate change and lead their people, not just to be the slaves of public opinion.


Iran and Islamic State, not Israel, are the ones endangering Arab lives, undermining Arab governments and conquering Arab land. Not only is Israel not a threat to Arabs, it is a country that has proven to be instrumental in confronting and stopping Iran and IS. Egypt’s and Saudi Arabia’s muted response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was a positive step. Now it is time for Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s 2016 visit to Jerusalem to be followed by one by Sisi. Covert military cooperation should be translated into full-fledged and open diplomatic relations and end the uneasy peace between Jerusalem and Cairo.             





Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Feb. 5, 2018


The New York Times this weekend reported on Israel’s secret air campaign against Islamic State terrorists in the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula, bringing into stark focus the close military cooperation that has developed between Jerusalem and Cairo. According to the Times, since 2015 Israel has conducted more than 100 strikes in the Peninsula, where the ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province—formerly the Al-Qa’ida-linked Ansar Beit al Maqdis—has waged an insurgency since the counter-revolution that brought President Abdel Fatteh Al-Sisi to power.


One of the report’s “bombshells” was the assertion that Israel’s actions in Sinai have come with al-Sisi’s total approval, albeit the president has been remiss to publicize the coordination given the Egyptian populace harbors near-universal negative attitudes towards the Jewish state. For its part, Israel has a significant interest in maintaining order in the vast Egyptian territory which borders the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, both to prevent the smuggling of arms into the Palestinian enclave and also to ensure that the Sinai Province cannot build up its arsenals—primarily with advanced arms originating from Libya and Sudan—to a level that could pose a significant strategic threat.


While much has been made about the rapprochement between Israel and Egypt—and, more broadly, the Jewish state’s burgeoning ties with regional Sunni countries driven by a shared goal to counter Islamist terrorists, in general, and Iran’s expansionism and potential nuclearization, in particular—less attention has been paid to Cairo’s inability to do its own dirty work; this, despite being led by a military regime supported to the tune of $1.3 billion in annual American aid.


The number of active Sinai Province members is believed to be between 1,000 and 1,500. By contrast, the Egyptian military has an estimated 450,000 active personnel and nearly a million reserve forces. It has some of the most modern weaponry available to it both on the ground and in the skies—some 4,000 combat tanks, 350 fighter jets and more than 250 attack helicopters—whereas the Sinai Province perpetrates most of its attacks using improvised explosive devices and automatic rifles. Nevertheless, even as Egypt has increased its anti-ISIS operations only 150-200 terrorists were eliminated in Sinai in 2017 whereas some 100 Egyptian security officials and approximately 500 civilians were killed over the same time frame. Such a ratio, given Cairo’s military superiority, raises serious questions about the efficacy of its undertakings.


According to Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, a Senior Researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former deputy head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence, while Egypt faces a significant challenge in rooting out terrorists embedded within the local population, the army has nonetheless performed unspectacularly. “It took the Egyptians six years to even prepare a very limited war in the Sinai,” he explained to The Media Line, “which shows that the army is plagued by inefficiencies, which permeate all aspects of Egypt’s society. They have the right tools to deal with ISIS, maybe not to eradicate it completely, but at least to stop terrorists from perpetrating attacks like the one on the [al-Rawda] mosque [in November] that killed more than 300 people.”


Dr. Neriah believes the Egyptian military’s failures are even more concerning given that Israel permitted Cairo to deploy large amounts of personnel and heavy weaponry into the Peninsula in contravention of the 1979 peace treaty signed between the countries. He attributes the struggle primarily to an enormous bureaucracy that has made the Egyptian army inflexible, with decisions made extremely slowly and orders needing to go through multiple channels before they are carried out. And as regards President al-Sisi, “he is part of the system itself and cannot move too far against it as he has to manage the interests of many people.”


Egypt’s apparent deficiencies are mirrored by those of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen, which has made a mess of a three-year-long campaign against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. Riyadh, with tens of billions of dollars-worth of U.S.-made military hardware has been unable to overcome the vastly inferior Shiite force. Whereas Saudi Arabia has nearly a quarter of a million active military personnel, the Houthis have an estimated 100,000 total followers, including a large percentage of unarmed loyalists.


Dr. Yoel Guzansky, Senior Research at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies and a former Israeli National Security Council staffer, noted to The Media Line that the Saudis did not send any ground troops to Yemen and have instead relied upon local mercenaries whose alliances are fleeting, as evidenced by the recent fighting between Yemeni government forces and southern secessionists who were previously aligned with Riyadh. He also suggested that mistakes have been made at the political level, particularly by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) who has come under fire for his directing of the conflict.


“MBS may not have really thought this through,” Dr. Guzansky explained, “and if you look at other initiatives such as the boycott of Qatar and the forced resignation of [Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri, the Saudi leader appears a bit impulsive.” Moreover, he concluded, “while it is hard for any country to fight this kind of guerilla warfare, especially from 40,000 feet, it is amazing that the Saudis, with the fourth biggest defense budget in the world, need U.S. refueling of its planes as well as American intelligence and logistical help on the ground.”


Meanwhile, Turkey, which has the second largest army of any NATO member, has had dubious success thus far in its offensive against the Kurdish YPG in Afrin, Syria. Ankara launched the military campaign on January 20 against a largely isolated Kurdish force numbering approximately 10,000 fighters, who must be distinguished from units directly backed by U.S. forces located further eastward. On Saturday, the Turkish military incurred seven fatalities, as “Operation Olive Branch,” intended to extend Ankara’s buffer zone inside Syria to around 20 miles, risks spiraling out of control. Specifically, the Turkish offensive places it on a collision course with Washington, whose NATO compatriot is taking on its main ally in Syria, the Kurds, who were instrumental in retaking the Islamic State’s de-facto capital of Raqqa. Furthermore, if the Turkish assault moves towards the town of Manbij, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned, there is a very real risk of direct clashes with U.S. troops.


In Turkey’s case, many analysts attribute the dysfunction to Erdogan’s purge of the armed forces in the wake of the July 2016 attempted coup. Hundreds, if not thousands of generals and officers were dismissed from their positions, leading to a situation whereby Turkey’s military—estimated at about 750,000 personnel, half of whom are reservists—today has more fighter planes than available pilots. Notably, the former head of Turkey’s Second Army, who was previously responsible for overseeing the border with Syria, is languishing in prison. And there have been numerous incidents of Turkish military miscues in Syria, leading some observers to postulate that the Kurds may stand a chance of defeating the Afrin offensive…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link…Ed]          




Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Feb. 10, 2018


What do Muslim terrorists do when they are not killing "infidels" and non-Muslims? It is simple: They start killing each other. Take, for example, the Islamic terror groups Hamas and Islamic State (ISIS). Although the two groups share the same ideology and seek to kill anyone who obstructs their effort to spread their version of Islam to the rest of the world, it now seems that the throats they are looking to slit are each other's.


The quarrel between Hamas and ISIS is not a spat between good guys and bad guys. Rather, it is a dispute between two bloodthirsty, vicious and ruthless Islamic terror groups that have the blood of countless non-Muslims on their hands. Until recently, Hamas and ISIS were said to be working together, especially in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula. Hamas has been providing fighters to ISIS in return for weapons smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The cooperation between the two groups enabled ISIS to carry out a series of terror attacks against the Egyptian army and civilians in Sinai.


The past few months, however, have seen a rapid deterioration in relations between Hamas and ISIS, particularly in light of Hamas's effort to mend fences with the regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi. The new rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt has apparently enraged ISIS, prompting it to declare war on its Palestinian sister group, Hamas. Hamas, for its part, has also been wary of ISIS's attempts to infiltrate the Gaza Strip and undermine the regime Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement there.


Hamas brooks no competition. Instead, the group zealously maintains its death grip on the two million Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. Hamas already has Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction trying to rein it in, so the last thing it needs is for a rival Islamic group to challenge its rule in Gaza. But now it is official: Hamas and ISIS are at war with each other. This dispute, of course, should be seen as good news. There is nothing more comforting than watching two radical Islamic groups rip each other to bits. All one can do now is wish both groups total success!


The war between the two terror groups reached its peak this week, with revelations that ISIS had plotted to assassinate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. According to an Egyptian intelligence report, Hamas recently arrested 18 ISIS suspects who planned to carry out the assassination in the Gaza Strip. The ISIS cell evidently was planning to place explosives in the "White Mosque" in the Gaza Strip, where Haniyeh prays, the reports said. The plot, they added, was uncovered thanks to cooperation between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.


Earlier, Hamas had announced that its security forces arrested two ISIS terrorists who infiltrated the Gaza Strip from Sinai. According to Hamas, the two terrorists confessed during interrogation that one of the goals of ISIS in Sinai was to prevent humanitarian aid from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip. The arrests came shortly after ISIS released a video featuring the execution of two Hamas members in Sinai. One of the men was identified as Musa Abu Zmat, a senior commander of the military wing of Hamas, Ezaddin Al-Qassam. Abu Zmat was found guilty of smuggling weapons from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. He was killed with a single shot to the head.


ISIS later released another video in which it accused Hamas of "betraying" the Palestinians by arresting Muslim extremists in the Gaza Strip. ISIS also charged Hamas of failing to thwart U.S. President Donald Trump's recent announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and of receiving financial aid from Iran. In the video, ISIS also called for attacking Hamas figures and installations, as well as Christians in the Gaza Strip…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link…Ed]





On Topic Links


What's Behind the Egyptian-Israeli Cooperation in Sinai?: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2018—For more than two years “unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 air strikes,” claims a report in Saturday’s New York Times. This report reveals what has been quietly rumored for years. It also provides more evidence for the unprecedented levels of security cooperation that have developed between Egypt and Israel.

Egypt Election Appears to Follow an Old Formula: Hamza Hendaw, Times of Israel, Jan. 28, 2018—To some Egyptians, it looks like the old days are back. With one potential challenger after another arrested, quitting or being forced out of the race, the March presidential election is increasingly taking on the character of the one-candidate referendums held for decades by Egypt’s authoritarian rulers.

Egypt's War Against the Gaza Tunnels: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Feb. 4, 2018—The Egyptian army announced on February 2, 2018, the destruction of a tunnel under the Gaza border. A spokesman said that explosive devices in three warehouses, as well as a tunnel used by "terrorists," were destroyed.

Egypt’s Phantom Airline (Video): Jewish Press, Feb. 11, 2018—Arab Blogger, Nas, recently visited Israel and flew here from Egypt on a phantom Egyptian airline called Air Sinai. He was surprised because the actual airplane had no name on it, as well as no logo, symbols or branding to indicate that it was an Egyptian airline or that it even exists. They don’t even have a website. They may have a physical office in Tel Aviv.





Trump Denies Aid to Egypt: Sean Keeley, American Interest, Aug. 23, 2017— On the eve of Jared Kushner’s visit to Egypt, President Trump delivered an unpleasant surprise to one of his friendliest allies in the Middle East.

Egypt Resumes a Leadership Role: Itamar Rabinovich, Times of Israel, Aug. 21, 2017 — One of the important byproducts of the recent turn of events in the Syrian crisis has been the role taken by Egypt.

Israel’s Empty Embassy in Cairo: Ofir Winter, INSS, July 3, 2017— Normalization between Israel and Egypt has always been limited…

MB Groups Increasingly Open in Endorsing Anti-Sisi Violence: John Rossomando, IPT News, Aug. 16, 2017 A group of exiled Morsi-era Muslim Brotherhood politicians based in Istanbul has posted on Facebook a blueprint for overthrowing Egypt's military regime.


On Topic Links


Egypt Angered by US Aid Cut Over Human Rights Concerns: Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2017

Egypt’s Leader Makes a Risky Bet on the Healing Power of Economic Pain: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 7, 2017

Egypt Acts to Preserve Jewish Heritage: Rami Galal, Al-Monitor, August 23, 2017

Egypt Joins the Burkini Battle: Jacob Goff Klein, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 8, 2017



Sean Keeley

American Interest, Aug. 23, 2017


On the eve of Jared Kushner’s visit to Egypt, President Trump delivered an unpleasant surprise to one of his friendliest allies in the Middle East. The New York Times reports: “The Trump administration on Tuesday denied Egypt $96 million in aid and delayed $195 million in military funding because of concerns over Egypt’s human rights record and its cozy relationship with North Korea…Asked if Egypt’s robust relationship with North Korea played a role in Tuesday’s action, a State Department official would say only that issues of concern have been raised with Cairo, but refused to provide details about the talks.”


On the face of it, the decision to withhold aid from Egypt is a striking departure from the Trump Administration’s pattern of behavior. For one, Trump has always enjoyed a chummy relationship with Sisi, who was one of the first foreign leaders to take him seriously as a candidate (they met in New York last September), and whom Trump has showered with praise and promises of support. Until now, Trump has demonstrated no unease about Sisi’s sorry human rights record, nor shown any interest in prioritizing humanitarian concerns in his dealings with allies. In fact, his Administration has established a clear pattern of fast-tracking weapons transfers or aid deliveries that Obama had temporarily suspended over humanitarian concerns (just ask the Saudis and Thais.)


Has Trump suddenly acquired a conscience about human rights and a newfound concern over Cairo’s repressive treatment of NGOs? That scenario is unlikely—and the Times’ theory that this is really about North Korea deserves further scrutiny.


Egypt has long had a dubious record when it comes to North Korea. The two countries have a history of exchanges of arms and expertise going back to the 1970s, when Cairo began selling Pyongyang missiles and North Korean pilots helped train their Egyptian counterparts. By some accounts, a version of that cozy relationship continues covertly today. A troubling UN investigation earlier this year uncovered “hitherto unreported” trade between Pyongyang and countries in the Middle East and North Africa, with sensitive exchanges including air defense systems and satellite-guided missiles. In several cases, Egyptian companies were implicated in those transactions—a finding consistent with the claim of a former DPRK official that Egypt is the “hub” of Pyongyang’s Middle Eastern arms trade.


Those findings may help explain why, in a July phone call, President Trump raised the North Korean issue with Sisi. According to the White House readout, Trump “stressed the need for all countries to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea, stop hosting North Korean guest workers, and stop providing economic or military benefits to North Korea.” That is a message that the Administration has been delivering to all countries it suspects of noncompliance with the North Korean sanctions regime: from heavy hitters like China and Russia to minor enablers like the ASEAN countries.


And if Trump wanted to punish Cairo for failing to enforce sanctions, withholding aid must have looked like a tempting method. The money in question had already been held up by the Obama Administration, so declining to release it is a less antagonistic move than actively levying sanctions on Egypt. And by publicly conditioning the release of that money on human rights progress, Trump has already earned some early plaudits from some of his staunchest critics, including Senator John McCain, who has been an outspoken opponent of Sisi’s authoritarianism and the new NGO law.


This is not to say that the decision to squeeze Egypt is necessarily wise or risk-free. The move may have already cost Trump some goodwill with Sisi: after news of the decision came out, the Foreign Ministry initially canceled a meeting with Kushner in an apparent snub. The Egyptians eventually allowed Kushner a sit-down with Sisi, but they are clearly not happy: the foreign ministry said the decision “[reflected] poor judgment of the strategic relationship that ties the two countries” and could have “negative implications” on cooperation going forward.


Among other things, that could be a reference to Egypt’s help on the Israel-Paliestine dispute, the very issue that Kushner was in Egypt to discuss. Cairo is reportedly on the cusp of negotiating a deal that would reopen the border with Gaza, allow much-needed humanitarian aid to pass through, and (in all likelihood) empower Mohammed Dahlan, a Palestinian leader more conducive to U.S. and Israeli interests than the lame duck Mahmoud Abbas. Given Egypt’s crucial role in mediating these talks, alienating Cairo is a risky proposition.


But that only strengthens the argument that the Trump Administration would not have jeopardized that relationship over human rights alone. Concerns about Sisi’s repression may well have influenced the aid decision on the margins, but they were more likely convenient justifications disguising Trump’s primary motive for punishing Egypt. After all, the North Korean crisis has been Trump’s top foreign policy priority, an issue that has consumed much of his Administration’s diplomatic energy as it seeks to increase the economic pressure on the regime. And just as Trump invoked humanitarian reasons to justify his airstrike on Syria (a move that was also about sending North Korea a message), he may now be doing the same to pressure Pyongyang via Cairo.                                                




Itamar Rabinovich

Times of Israel, Aug. 21, 2017  


One of the important byproducts of the recent turn of events in the Syrian crisis has been the role taken by Egypt. For decades Egypt had been the principal actor in inter-Arab relations. It lost that role several years ago due to the convulsions of domestic Egyptian politics and to the decline of Egypt’s weight and impact owing to the rise of Iran and Turkey in Middle Eastern regional politics, and to the increased influence of the rich Arab states in the Gulf.


The changing tide of the Syrian civil war has given Egypt both the impetus and the opportunity to take the initiative and play a leading role in the crisis that has torn the Arab world since March 2011. Bashar Assad’s declaration of victory was premature at the time — he controls some forty percent of the national territory while the opposition still controls important strongholds — but the capture of Aleppo was in fact a turning point and, with Russian and Iranian support, Assad and his regime are steadily increasing the area under their sway. The sense of an unstoppable march by this coalition is enhanced by the drift of Trump’s Syrian policy. It is now clear that after several statements and actions indicating a determination to stop Iran’s advance in the region and to do it in the Syrian arena, Washington is now focused narrowly on destroying ISIS in Syria (and Iraq) and has resolved to act in coordination with Russia to stabilize the situation in Syria.


This state of affairs is a cause for concern in several Middle Eastern capitals. Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Jordan and Egypt (the Sunni bloc) are alarmed by the prospect of an Iranian-Soviet colony in Syria under the guise of a restored Syrian state headed by Assad. Israel and Jordan are concerned both by Iranian and Russian hegemony in Syria at large, and more specifically by the penetration of pro-Iranian Shiite militias into southwestern Syria, close to their borders. Israel dispatched a security delegation to Washington to express its concerns and to try to obtain a US commitment to oppose continued Iranian military presence in Syria. Early press accounts in Israel indicate Israeli disappointment with the results of the visit.


It is against this backdrop that Egypt’s recent activism in Syria should be seen. Egypt is mediating between the regime and opposition groups in negotiating local cease fire agreements and Egyptian delegations are playing a role in the initial efforts underway to rebuild Syria’s economy. This policy represents a stark departure from an earlier policy that insisted on Assad’s departure from power. Cairo’s change of policy was resented by Saudi Arabia, a stauncher foe of Assad, but the Saudis now seem to realize that without US participation the policy of investing in opposition groups leads nowhere. They are receptive to the Egyptian argument that its policy in Syria is one of damage control, and that it is preferable for them to play a role and thereby reduce Iranian influence.


This view is shared at least to some extent by Israel. Israel may not have high hopes that Egypt could actually dispossess Iran in Syria, but it agrees that a greater Egyptian role could diminish that of Iran and place in the Syrian arena an actor that shares Israel’s view of the region and has a close security relationship with Israel. What works in the Sinai could possibly work in Syria…

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




ISRAEL’S EMPTY EMBASSY IN CAIRO                                 

Ofir Winter                                                                              

INSS, July 3, 2017


Normalization between Israel and Egypt has always been limited, but even during periods of crisis, both countries were careful to preserve the fundamental assets of the peace between them, particularly the existence of functioning embassies in Tel Aviv and Cairo. The Egyptian embassy remained active even when Egypt recalled its ambassadors to Cairo for consultations in 1982, 2000, and 2012, in protest over Israel's policies. The Israeli embassy in Egypt did indeed limit its activity after it was invaded by demonstrators in September 2011, but the institution was preserved within the American embassy compound, and then in the residence of the Israeli ambassador. The only time that the Israeli presence in the Egyptian capital was cut off completely came in late 2016 – during a period that many consider to be one of the best in the history of relations between the two countries – when the Israeli ambassador and his staff returned to Israel due to security warnings. Months have passed since then, and the temporary is becoming permanent. Meantime, both sides have not rushed to find a formula that will enable the Israeli delegation to renew its work and restore proper diplomatic relations between the countries.


The relationship between Israel and Egypt during the el-Sisi presidency can be described as close but narrow. According to press reports, it is characterized by intimate contacts between the leaders, but focused primarily on security coordination around shared challenges in the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Security contacts take place directly between the armed forces, and therefore the absence of an ambassador does no damage on this score. Moreover, although Egypt does not oppose the return of the ambassador to Cairo, the prevailing situation of the last seven months has some advantages for it. It has removed the security burden of guarding the embassy, and saved the regime from the traditional criticisms from opponents of normalization about "the Israeli flag flying in the Egyptian capital.” Over the years, Egypt has seen normalization as more of a burden than an asset, although in the Peace Agreement both countries explicitly undertook to develop "friendly relations and cooperation" (preamble); bring about "diplomatic, economic and cultural relations" (section 3); and "exchange ambassadors" (Appendix 3, section 1). Accordingly, the embassy in Cairo was perceived as a "necessary evil" imposed on Egypt, and the Egyptian regime worked persistently to restrict its movements.


The controversial status of the Israeli embassy among the Egyptian establishment and public was handled comically in The Embassy in the Building, a movie starring Adel Emam that was released in 2005 and became a hit. The main character, who owns an apartment in the building where the embassy is located, finds himself at the center of a political row around the call to remove the facility, and becomes an unwilling national hero. In reality, however, serving in the Israeli embassy in Cairo was always a complex task. For example, Eliyahu Ben Elissar, Israel’s first ambassador to Egypt, wanted to place a paid notice in the daily al-Ahram regarding public hours in the Israeli consulate, but the newspaper refused to accept it. The second ambassador, Moshe Sasson, dealt with a boycott and isolation, and not a single official representative of the Egyptian government attended a reception he held in honor of Israel's 40th Independence Day. Ephraim Dubek, the fourth ambassador, complained to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry about the strict "security arrangements" imposed on the embassy in order to reduce the stream of visitors and make life harder for residents of the street.


The Egyptian attitude to the current Israeli Ambassador, Dr. David Govrin, who took over the job in August 2016, was no different. A special supplement of the establishment journal al-Ahram al-Arabi, published on October 24, 2016, complained about Govrin’s efforts "to leave the traditional ghetto of the Israeli ambassadors in Egypt" and accused him of "crossing red lines and deviating from diplomatic conventions." His "deviations," according to the supplement, included meeting with the heads of the Jewish community in Alexandria (where he allegedly offered assistance for renovation of the local synagogue); attending a performance of A Thousand and One Nights at the National Theater of Cairo (with a ticket purchased like any other member of the audience); and engaging with businessmen and civil society activists (who met with him of their own accord). These and other allegations stopped as soon as the ambassador returned to Israel…

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





ENDORSING ANTI-SISI VIOLENCE                                                                  

John Rossomando     

                      IPT News, Aug. 16, 2017


A group of exiled Morsi-era Muslim Brotherhood politicians based in Istanbul has posted on Facebook a blueprint for overthrowing Egypt's military regime. The Egyptian Revolutionary Council (ERC) reposted several videos on July 31 that it had released on Facebook over the past month offering strategies for violently toppling the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.


Sisi rose to power in 2013, after the military ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government. Until now the ERC, which met with Obama administration officials and liberal think tanks in 2015, has largely been involved in lobbying against Sisi's government. An Arabic hashtag saying, "Preparing for the Revolution#," appeared on the ERC's Facebook page. The attached videos contain PowerPoint-type presentations with recommendations for Muslim Brotherhood revolutionaries in Egypt.


A July 1 ERC video asks, "How do we prepare for the revolution?" Egypt's military holds all of the tools of power, so the video calls for Brotherhood supporters to block military movement to hinder it from suppressing any revolt. "What do we do with the Army?? Like the Turks did," the video says. "Determine the sites of all military units and the roads they use, and the locations of gates to hinder and cripple their movement when they think they are going out to confront the revolution…Like the Turks did using huge vehicles and deflating their tires to block the roads. We can use heavy oil on the roads to prevent the passage of [armored personnel] carriers like they did in Venezuela."


Another video recommends targeting regime military airfields, ground defense units, pilot barracks, spare part warehouses, radar sites, and air defense installations. It emphasizes getting soldiers who either secretly belong to the Muslim Brotherhood or are sympathetic to the group to collect intelligence on pilots and navigators to keep them away from their aircraft. It also suggests gaining intelligence on the types of aircraft used by the Egyptian military and getting information about their takeoff schedules. "The airfields must cease operating in the time of the revolution," a slide says. "Blockading the pilots and preventing them form reaching the airfields is half the victory in the battle."


The ERC enjoys little influence or name recognition within Egypt, but its turn toward endorsing violence puts egg on the faces of the Obama administration officials and the liberal intellectuals who embraced them, Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Samuel Tadros told the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "Even the fronts created to talk to the West are now using the language of violence," Tadros said. "The mask has fallen; there's no need to pretend any longer." ERC members used talking points about democracy and the rule of law while speaking in English during their 2015 visit, Tadros said, but those points were noticeably absent when they spoke in Arabic…

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



On Topic Links


Egypt Angered by US Aid Cut Over Human Rights Concerns: Washington Post, Aug. 24, 2017—Egypt reacted angrily Wednesday to the Trump administration’s decision to cut or delay nearly $300 million in military and economic aid over human rights concerns, a surprise move given the increasingly close ties that have bound the two allies since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Egypt’s Leader Makes a Risky Bet on the Healing Power of Economic Pain: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 7, 2017—Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi is cutting food and fuel subsidies, a program long plagued by waste and corruption, in a high-stakes gamble to aid the stalled economy that none of his predecessors dared execute.

Egypt Acts to Preserve Jewish Heritage: Rami Galal, Al-Monitor, August 23, 2017—The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced Aug. 3 that it has begun renovations on the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue on Nabi Daniel Street in Alexandria at a cost of 100 million Egyptian pounds ($5.6 million).

Egypt Joins the Burkini Battle: Jacob Goff Klein, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 8, 2017—Egypt has reignited the debate over how much is too much cover at the beach. Long considered a sunny beach destination, some hotels in Egypt have caused fervor after banning women from wearing burkinis out of concern that the outfit is not a proper swimsuit. Burkini wearers have been quick to point out that the swimsuit is made with the same material as any other bathing suit.





Coptic Christians: Islamic State’s ‘Favorite Prey’: Samuel Tadros, New York Times, May 26, 2017 — “At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years.”

‘The Real Bomb Is in Islam’s Books’: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, May 3, 2017— During his visit to Egypt last week, “Pope Francis visited al-Azhar University

In Egypt, Pride Above Economy?: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Apr. 25, 2017 — It’s one of the ironies of Middle Eastern studies and Western media that the Israel-Palestinian conflict tends to get outsize coverage in comparison to so many other matters more pertinent to local Arabs.

Nasser’s Legacy on the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 War: Dr. Michael Sharnoff, BESA, May 21, 2017— Cairo was the political capital of the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s.


On Topic Links


Memorial Day: Remembering America’s Fallen Heroes: Jeff Dunetz, Jewish Press, May 29, 2017

Trump on Egypt Attack: ‘Bloodletting of Christians Must End’: Times of Israel, May 27, 2017

"Drip-Drip" Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, May 28, 2017

Sinai Bedouin Aligning with Egypt Against ISIS: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, May 4, 2017





Samuel Tadros

New York Times, May 26, 2017


“At this rate Copts will be extinct in 100 years. They will die, leave, convert or get killed,” a friend wrote on Facebook as news broke of the latest bloody attack on Egypt’s Coptic Christians. Less than two months ago, while attending church in Cairo on Palm Sunday, my friend told me she’d mused to herself that it was a blessing her daughter wasn’t with her: If there was a bombing, at least her child would survive. Forty-five Copts were murdered that day by the Islamic State in churches in Alexandria and Tanta. Such are the thoughts of Coptic parents in Egypt these days.


The terrorists chose today’s target well. The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, which I visited a decade ago, is very hard to reach. One hundred and ten miles on the Cairo Luxor desert road, you make a right-hand turn and for the next 17 miles drive on an unpaved road. The single lane forces cars to drive slowly, and, as the only route leading to the monastery, the victims were guaranteed to be Copts. Friday is a day off in Egypt, and church groups regularly take trips there. Outside of a few policemen stationed out front, there is little security presence. The terrorists waited on the road like game hunters. Coming their way were three buses, one with Sunday school children. Only three of them survived. Their victims were asked to recite the Islamic declaration of faith before being shot.


In the past few months, the Islamic State has made its intentions toward Copts well known. “Our favorite prey” they called my co-religionists in a February video. Their barbaric attacks have left more than 100 Copts dead in the last few months alone. The Northern Sinai is now “Christianfrei,” or free of Christians. Many serious questions will be asked in the next few days. How has the Islamic State been able to build such an extensive network inside mainland Egypt? Is the Islamic State moving its operations to Egypt as it faces pressure in Iraq and Syria? And why has Egypt repeatedly failed to prevent these attacks?


All of these questions are important and require thoughtful deliberation by the Egyptian regime and its allies around the world. But these are not the questions on the minds of my Coptic friends at home. They have far more intimate concerns: Am I putting my children’s lives at risk by remaining here? Should we leave? And what country will take us? In February 2014, I met the head of the Jewish community in Egypt, Magda Haroun. Today, she told me, there are 15 Jews left in the country, out of a population that once stood at nearly 100,000. Ms. Haroun said she was afraid the Copts would soon follow.


At the time I thought the prospect was overblown. There are millions of Copts in Egypt. Where would all of them possibly go? Surely some will remain, I reasoned. But I had left the country myself in 2009 — and so have hundreds of thousands of Copts. Even before the recent wave of attacks, Copts have been packing their bags and bidding 2,000 years of history farewell. As more find permanent homes in the West, more are able to bring relatives over. Ms. Haroun was right.


The Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor — where one of the giants of the modern Coptic church, Father Matthew the Poor, was ordained in 1948 — is the only remaining monastery of 35 that once existed in the area. Copts had always been tied to Egypt, their very name derived from the Greek word for the country, Aigýptios. Despite waves of persecution at the hands of everyone from Roman and Byzantine emperors, Arab and Muslim governors and Egypt’s modern presidents, they have refused to leave. Their country once gave refuge to the young Jesus. Where will they now find sanctuary?


In 1954 an Egyptian movie called “Hassan, Marcus and Cohen” was produced. The comedy’s title represented characters from Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In 2008, a new movie, “Hassan and Marcus” hit theaters. It warned of the growing sectarian strife between Egypt’s Christians and Muslims. Fifty years from now, it seems likely that the sequel will just be “Hasan.”





Raymond Ibrahim

Frontpage, May 3, 2017


During his visit to Egypt last week, “Pope Francis visited al-Azhar University, a globally respected institution for Sunni Islamic learning,” and “met with Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the imam of the government-run Al-Azhar mosque and an Islamic philosophy professor.”  This has been reported by several media and with much fanfare.


The problem is that Sheikh Tayeb, once voted “world’s most influential Muslim,” and Al Azhar, the important madrassa he heads, are part of the problem, not the solution.  Tayeb is a  renowned master of exhibiting one face to fellow Muslims in Egypt—one that supports the death penalty for “apostates,” calls for the totality of Sharia-rule, refuses to denounce ISIS of being un-Islamic, denounces all art as immoral, and rejects the very concept of reforming Islam—and another face to non-Muslims.


Consider, for instance, the words of Islam al-Behery—a popular Egyptian Muslim reformer who frequently runs afoul of Islamists in Egypt who accuse him of blasphemy and apostasy from Islam.  The day after the suicide bombings of two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, the Muslim scholar was interviewed by phone on a popular Egyptian television program (Amr Adib’s kul youm, or “Every Day”).  He spent most of his time on the air blasting Al Azhar and Ahmed al-Tayeb—at one point going so far as to say that “70-80 percent of all terror in the last 5 years is a product of Al Azhar.”


The reformer knows what he speaks of; in 2015, al- Behery’s televised calls to reform Islam so irked Al Azhar that the venerable Islamic institution accused him of “blaspheming” against Islam, which led to his imprisonment. Now Behery says that, ever since President Sisi implored Al Azhar to make reforms to how Islam is being taught in Egypt three years ago, the authoritative madrassa “has not reformed a single thing,” only offered words.  “If they were sincere about one thing, they would have protected hundreds, indeed thousands of lives from being killed in just Egypt alone, said al-Behery.


By way of examples, the scholar of Islam pointed out that Al Azhar still uses books in its curriculum which teach things like “whoever kills an infidel, his blood is safeguarded, for the blood of an infidel and believer [Muslim] are not equal.”  Similarly, he pointed to how Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb claims that ISIS members are not infidels, only deluded Muslims; but those whom they kill—such as the bombed Christians—are infidels, the worst label in Islam’s lexicon.


Debating Behery was an Al Azhar spokesman who naturally rejected the reformer’s accusations against the Islamic madrassa, adding that the source of problems in Egypt is not the medieval institution, but rather “new” ideas that came to Egypt from 20th century “radicals” like Hasan al-Bana and Sayyid Qutb, founding leaders/ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood. Behery’s response was refreshing; those many Western analysts who follow the same line of thinking—that “radicalism” only came after thinkers like Bana, Qutb, Mawdudi (in Pakistan) or Wahhab (in Arabia) came on the scene—would do well to listen.  After saying that “blaming radicalism on these men is very delusional,” the reformer correctly added:


The man who kills himself [Islamic suicide bomber] today doesn’t kill himself because of the words of Hasan al-Bana or Sayyid al-Qutb, or anyone else.  He kills himself because of what the consensus of the ulema, and the four schools of jurisprudence, have all agreed to.  Hasan al-Bana did not create these ideas [of jihad against infidels and apostates, destroying churches, etc.]; they’ve been around for many, many centuries….   I am talking about Islam [now], not how it is being taught in schools. By way of example, Behery said if anyone today walks into any Egyptian mosque or bookstore and ask for a book that contains the rulings of the four schools of jurisprudence, “everything that is happening today will be found in them; killing the people of the book [Christians and Jews] is obligatory.  Let’s not start kidding each other and blaming such thoughts on Hassan al-Bana!”  Moreover, Behery said:


There is a short distance between what is written in all these old books and what happened yesterday [Coptic church bombings]—the real bomb is in the books, which repeatedly call the People of the Book “infidels,” which teach that the whole world is infidel…  Hassan al-Bana and Sayyid al-Qutb are not the source of the terror, rather they are followers of these books.  Spare me with the term Qutbism which has caused the nation to suffer terrorism for 50 years.


Behery does not blame Al Azhar for the existence of these books; rather he, like many reformers, wants the Islamic institution to break tradition, denounce the rulings of the four schools of law as the products of fallible mortals, and reform them in ways compatible to the modern world.  He said that, whereas Egypt’s former grand imam, Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (d. 2010), had “without even being asked removed all the old books and placed just one introductory book, when al-Tayeb [who days ago embraced Pope Francis] came, he got rid of that book and brought all the old books back, which are full of slaughter and bloodshed.”  In short, Behery called on the Egyptian government—and here the Vatican would do well to listen—not to rely on Al Azhar to make any reforms, since if anything it has taken Egypt backwards.






Michael Rubin

Commentary, Apr. 25, 2017


It’s one of the ironies of Middle Eastern studies and Western media that the Israel-Palestinian conflict tends to get outsize coverage in comparison to so many other matters more pertinent to local Arabs. Consider border disputes: From Morocco across the region to Iran, the only neighbors who do not have border disputes are Israel and Egypt, Israel and Jordan, Algeria and Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and, ever since accepting international arbitration, Bahrain, and Qatar.


Intra-Arab border disputes can be as intractable as those involving Israel and can be far more violent. Consider, for example, the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or the constant Syrian infringement on Lebanese sovereignty that played out to devastating effect during the 1975-1992 civil war and, arguably, to the present day. While Iran is not Arab, the war between it and Iraq sparked by a border dispute ended up killing hundreds of thousands.


Egypt is the largest Arab country; one out of every five Arabs—perhaps even more—live in Egypt. In November 2016, as part of an International Monetary Fund package of reforms, Egypt floated its currency and, overnight, the Egyptian currency lost more than half of its value compared to the U.S. dollar, more than doubling the cost of imported goods. To be fair, Egypt had no choice. It was hemorrhaging money as a result of subsidies and should have reformed its currency three or four decades ago. Politically, Egyptians are also exhausted. The last decade has seen the Arab Spring, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and their subsequent ouster in what many in the West call a coup and Egyptians call a revolution. Recent Islamic State attacks on Egyptian churches raise the specter of growing terrorism. Domestic problems seem so great that Egyptians concentrate on just getting by.


So, with so many huge issues with which to deal, what motivates Egyptians? Last year, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi agreed to transfer to uninhabited islands—Tiran and Sanafir—back to Saudi Arabia, thus ending a decades-long dispute between the two countries. Enter Egyptian nationalism and pride: Egyptians took to the streets twice last April to protest the “selling” of Egyptian land to the Saudis, even though ample documentation existed that the islands were Saudi all along: The Saudis invited an Egyptian garrison on the islands in the 1950s against the backdrop of the Arab-Israel dispute, but government hostility between Egypt and Saudi Arabia on one hand and Israel on the other has largely faded and the garrisons are long gone.


Sisi probably erred in announcing the islands’ return against the backdrop of receiving a multibillion dollar aid package from Riyadh, but such unfortunate optics do not change the historical facts. Still, nationalism can be a potent tool, and Egyptians were willing to pick a fight with one of their closest Arab allies no matter that Egypt at best was holding an empty hand and Saudi Arabia had a full house. While an Egyptian court had stayed the transfer in January, an upper court blocked that stay earlier this month to allow the transfer to go through, but that decision was immediately appealed. The courts should now issue a final ruling in June.


Egypt has many problems but Tiran and Sanafir should not be among them. Sisi is on the right track in trying to resolve long-standing diplomatic disputes. That his opposition seeks to resurrect these disputes to whip up public opposition, however, shows just how difficult substantive reform can be in a society for decades shaped by incitement.




Dr. Michael Sharnoff

BESA, May 21, 2017


Cairo was the political capital of the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser was the most charismatic ruler in the region, and he tried to become the undisputed leader of the Arab world. In his 1954 memoir, The Philosophy of the Revolution, Nasser revealed his vision of Egypt as a unique geostrategic influence in the African, Arab, and Islamic world. He believed Egypt was destined to play a pivotal role in Arab affairs.


Initially, Nasser was concerned primarily with consolidating power and expelling the British from Egypt. After stabilizing his rule by suppressing communists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, he championed pan-Arabism as a strategic tactic to unify the Arab world under his command. Pan-Arabism was a secular ideology that advocated Arab unity, freedom from foreign control, and the liberation of Palestine – a euphemism for a Palestinian state built on Israel’s ruins.


Nasser’s political star rose after he nationalized the Suez Canal in 1956 and subsequently survived a direct assault from the UK, France, and Israel. He graced international venues as a hero of the Nonaligned Movement, rubbing shoulders with established anti-imperialist leaders like Tito of Yugoslavia, Nehru of India, Nkrumah of Ghana, and Sukarno of Indonesia. No major world leader could dispute Nasser’s growing popularity and legitimacy.


Through his spokesperson Muhammad Heikal, editor of Egypt’s state-run newspaper al-Ahram, Nasser adopted a brilliant strategic communications campaign to shape and influence public opinion. Cairo became the Arab capital of influence. Nasser’s policies were cautiously observed by Israel, neighboring Arab states, and the Western powers, as well as the Soviet Union. In the era of Cold War rivalry, Nasser adroitly played off the two rival superpowers to maximize his country’s economic, political, and military stature while offering minimal concessions.


Nasser’s Egypt demonstrated how a developing country with a large population could persevere in the face of tremendous economic, political, and military challenges. Despite the expectations of Western and Soviet intelligence officials, the regime did not collapse. Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip after the 1967 War, but Nasser managed to turn that stunning military defeat into a political victory. He employed skillful diplomacy at the UN to appease Moscow and the West in order to rebuild Egypt’s military and sustain his own unique leadership status in the Arab world.


Nasser remained defiant. Egypt endured, despite losing territory and suffering from a depressed economy due to a collapse in tourism and the closure of the Suez Canal. After the war, Egypt lost $30 million a month to lost Canal revenues and an additional $1.5 million in tourism each week. (The Canal remained closed until 1975, when Israel withdrew its troops from the east bank as part of US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s shuttle diplomacy and the second Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement).


After Nasser’s untimely death in 1970, other Arab leaders like Qaddafi, Assad, and Saddam tried to replicate his successes – but none had the charisma or mandate to shape public opinion and extract concessions from Washington and Moscow. Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, long suppressed under Nasser, gradually resurfaced, capitalizing on the political and ideological vacuum. Those movements argued that Muslims had become weak because Nasser, Qaddafi, Saddam, and Assad were not true believers. They had failed to implement sharia (Islamic law), aligned with kuffar (infidel) Western or Russian powers, and abandoned the pursuit of the liberation of Palestine. They had become apostates, unfit to rule, and should be replaced with Islamic governance.


The solution to secular pan-Arabism, in their view, was Islam. They promoted Islam as the only ideology with the capacity to satisfy Muslim aspirations. Secularism, nationalism, liberalism, socialism, and communism were foreign concepts incompatible with Muslims. The Muslim Brotherhood expanded its influence through social services and redoubled its devotion to the eventual construction of an Islamic state governed by sharia. Extremist Islamist movements like al-Qaeda and ISIS continue to seek to achieve these goals by engaging in terrorism against the West and committing genocide against non-conforming Muslims and ethnic and religious minorities.


The removal of Saddam and subsequent violence and instability of the 2003 Iraq War, the 2011 uprisings in the Arab world, and the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) accelerated the expansion of these non-state Islamist actors, as well as Iran. In this “new” Middle East, these players compete for influence while Egyptian and Arab leaders grapple with instability, insurgency, civil war, and failed states.


Egypt’s declining influence shows no sign of reversing itself in the near future. In 2017, there is no Arab leader remotely resembling Nasser in terms of prestige. As the 50th anniversary of the 1967 War approaches, many Egyptians from that generation might reflect with nostalgia on a bygone era when Egypt dominated Middle Eastern affairs.


The ultimate lesson of the 1967 War is the total shift of power and influence from Egypt to non-state Islamist actors and Iran. Egypt can barely contend with the scores of domestic challenges it faces, let alone project influence beyond its borders. Cairo struggles to contain an Islamist insurgency in Sinai, protect its Christian population, sustain its economy, and provide meaningful twenty-first century skills and jobs to its youth to prevent brain drain and radicalization.




On Topic Links


Memorial Day: Remembering America’s Fallen Heroes: Jeff Dunetz, Jewish Press, May 29, 2017—The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion…

Trump on Egypt Attack: ‘Bloodletting of Christians Must End’: Times of Israel, May 27, 2017— US President Donald Trump on Friday decried an attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt that left at least 28 dead, calling on allies to band together to defeat terrorism.

"Drip-Drip" Genocide: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February, 2017: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, May 28, 2017— The Islamic State is at it again.

Sinai Bedouin Aligning with Egypt Against ISIS: Yoni Ben Menachem, JCPA, May 4, 2017— In its battle against ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula, one of the main difficulties facing the Egyptian army has been the absence of accurate, real-time intelligence on the location of ISIS forces, experts on the war on terror agree. But it seems this problem is about to be resolved due to a series of missteps by the ISIS branch in Sinai involving the Bedouin Tarabin tribe, the largest tribe in Sinai.













44 Dead Christians: Islam’s Latest Victims: Raymond Ibrahim, Frontpage, Apr. 10, 2017— Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday. 

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox are Proud to be Slain by ISIL for their Christianity. That is Awesome: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Apr. 11, 2017 — It is an awful thing — a blasphemous thing, a sacrilegious thing — to massacre people at prayer, as ISIL did on Palm Sunday in Egypt, killing more than 40 Coptic Orthodox at two churches, including the cathedral in Alexandria.

Fighting Terror, Appeasing Autocrats: Max Boot, Commentary, Apr. 10, 2017 — Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s visit to President Trump signals the restoration of the close U.S.-Egyptian relations that have been a key pillar of U.S. policy toward the Middle East for four and half decades.

Can Trump Cut a Deal With Egypt?: Eric Trager, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017 — The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. will look sunnier on Monday…


On Topic Links


Egypt Terror Ensnares Israel as Sinai Border Crossing Closed: Fox News, Apr. 10, 2017

A Day After Attack, Grief Turns to Anger for Egypt’s Christian Minority: Maria Abi-Habib and Dahlia Kholaif, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2017

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt's Anti-Christian Bigotry: John Rossomando, IPT, Apr. 12, 2017

After White House Visit, Egyptian President Sisi Said to Be ‘Very Optimistic’ About Trump Administration: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Apr. 7, 2017



                                                 Raymond Ibrahim                                                                                                                    Frontpage, Apr. 10, 2017


Egypt’s Christians started Holy Week celebrations by being blown up yesterday.  Two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday mass were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers; a total of 44 were killed and 126 wounded and mutilated. Horrific scenes of carnage—limbs and blood splattered on altars and pews—are being reported from both churches.   Twenty-seven people—initial reports indicate mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, north Egypt.  “Where is the government?” yelled an angry Christian there to AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.”


Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which—since the original church building founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century was burned to the ground during the 7th  century Muslim invasions of Egypt—has been the historic seat of Coptic Christendom.  Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—evaded the carnage.


In death toll and severity, Sunday’s bombings surpass what was formerly considered the deadliest church attack in Egypt: less than four months ago, on Sunday, December 11, 2016, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself and killed at least 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—and wounded nearly 70.  Descriptions of scenes from that bombing are virtually identical to those coming from Egypt now: “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene.  I saw a headless woman being carried away.  Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people’s flesh off the floor.  There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes.” 


Before the December 11 attack, the deadliest church bombing occurred on January 1, 2011.  Then, while ushering in the New Year, 23 Christians were blown to bits. The Islamic state claims both December 11’s and yesterday’s bombings. (Because there was no “Islamic State” around in 2011, only generic “Islamics” can claim that one.)  This uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video recently released by the Islamic State in Sinai.  In it, masked militants promised more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross,” a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and—in a bit of classic Muslim projection—as the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”


It should be remembered that for every successful church bomb attack in Egypt, there are numerous failed or “too-insignificant-to-report” ones.   Thus, in the week before yesterday’s bombings, an explosive device was found by St. George’s in Tanta and dismantled in time.  Before that, another bomb was found planted at the Collège Saint Marc, an all-boys school in downtown Alexandria.  Similarly, a couple of weeks before December 11’s church bombing, a man hurled an improvised explosive at another church in Samalout.  Had that bomb detonated—it too was dismantled in time—casualties would likely have been very high, as the church was packed with thousands of worshippers congregating for a special holiday service.  In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate—including “you will die Christians”—were painted on the floor of yet another church, that of the Virgin Mary in Damietta.


Yesterday’s church bombings also follow a spate of murderous hate crimes against Christians throughout Egypt in recent weeks and month—crimes that saw Copts burned alive and slaughtered on busy streets and in broad daylight and displaced from the Sinai.  In a video of these destitute Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether!  Where’s the [Egyptian] military?”  Another woman yells at the camera, “Tell the whole world, look—we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people!  Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools.  Why? Why all this injustice?!  Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us?  We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!”…


In response to yesterday’s church bombings, President Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency, adding in a statement that such attacks will only strengthen the resolve of Egyptians against “evil forces.” For his part, President Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” but that he has “great confidence” that Sisi “will handle the situation properly.”  Sisi further said in his statement that “Egyptians have foiled plots and efforts by countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt.”


But what of what happens right inside of Egypt?  Is Sisi “handl[ing] the situation properly” there?  Whether those terrorizing Coptic Christians are truly card-holding members of ISIS or are mere sympathizers, the fact is they are all homegrown in Egypt—all taught to hate “infidels” in the mosques and schools of Egypt.


Sisi himself openly acknowledged this in 2015 when he stood before Egypt’s Islamic clerics of Al Azhar and implored them to do something about how Islam is taught to Muslims.  Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are  “antagonizing the entire world” and that Egypt (or the Islamic world in its entirety) “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”


Just how seriously his words were taken was revealed last November when Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb—who appeared sitting in the front row during Sisi’s 2015 speech—defended Al Azhar’s reliance on that very same “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas … sacralized over the centuries” which many reformers are eager to see eliminated from Egypt’s curriculum because they support the most “radical” expressions of Islam—including killing apostates, burning infidels, persecuting Christians and destroying churches. 


Egypt’s Grand Imam went so far as to flippantly dismiss the call to reform as quixotic at best: When they [Sisi and reformers] say that Al Azhar must change the religious discourse, change the religious discourse, this too is, I mean, I don’t know—a new windmill that just appeared, this “change religious discourse”—what change religious discourse?  Al Azhar doesn’t change religious discourse—Al Azhar proclaims the true religious discourse, which we learned from our elders. And the law that the elders of Islam, the ulema, bequeathed to Muslims preaches hate for “infidels”—which, in Egypt, means Christians.  This is Egypt’s ultimate problem, not, to quote Sisi, foreign “countries and fascist, terrorist organizations,” which are symptoms of the problem.                                                                           






Father Raymond J. de Souza                                                                         

National Post, Apr. 11, 2017


It is an awful thing — a blasphemous thing, a sacrilegious thing — to massacre people at prayer, as ISIL did on Palm Sunday in Egypt, killing more than 40 Coptic Orthodox at two churches, including the cathedral in Alexandria. It is an awesome thing — literally rendering us full of awe — to behold the death of those killed while most fully Christian, singing God’s praises and giving witness to Him.


This is not the first jihadist massacre of Christians in Egypt; not so many years ago there will killings of Christians leaving Christmas Mass. I try not to let the lack of novelty diminish the hot and righteous anger that ought greet such assaults, but this time was different. By the time I heard the news — I spend less time following the travails of the world on Sundays — I was also able to hear the response of the Coptic Church. I bow my head before their great faith. “With great pride, the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, the Church of Martyrs, bade her sons farewell, who were martyred today Sunday April 9, 2017, during the liturgy of Palm Sunday,” the official statement read. “They were carrying the palm leaves, praying and celebrating the commemoration of the entry of Christ, the King of Peace, to the city of Jerusalem.”


“The souls of the martyrs have been slain by the hands of the enemies of humanity, the enemies of peace and the carrier of tools of destruction. But now, with all the Church, they are offering their prayers to the Just Judge who sees, hears and writes a book of remembrance.” They have “great pride” that their own are counted among the number of the martyrs! What amazing grace. It was not their choice to be killed because they were Christians. It is their choice to receive that martyrdom precisely as Christians, strengthened, not diminished, in their faith. It is an inspiration, just as those Coptic Christians beheaded on the beach two years ago whispered the name of Jesus as the jihadists drew their knives against their necks.


“We have seen the photos. It is very heartbreaking,” said Bishop Makar of Sharquia about his fellow Orthodox murdered on Palm Sunday. “The deacons are standing for prayer, starting the liturgy on earth to be ended in heaven. I was one of them long ago; I used to stand with them, chanting hymns together. They continue now in heaven. Life with Christ starts on earth but it is completed in heaven.” For Orthodox and Catholics, the purpose of the liturgy is not only to listen to God and speak to Him, but more than that. The liturgy of heaven — the saints gathered around the crucified and risen Jesus — somehow breaks into this world. At the earthly liturgy we are already beholding what shall be. To be martyred like those deacons chanting, or the French priest murdered at the altar last summer, is to move directly from the antechamber of heaven to the great throne room.


The funerals were led by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II who was at the cathedral of Alexandria when the bombing took place there, but was not hurt. As leader of the 10-million Coptic Orthodox in Egypt, it may have been that ISIL planned to assassinate him. Alexandria is one of principal seats of ancient Christianity where, one might note, Christians have been worshipping since before Islam existed. When each coffin was brought in to the funeral, the congregation interrupted their sobs with thunderous applause. They recognized in their dead the principal mystery of this Holy Week: that the Cross of Christ ends not in the tomb, but with the promised glory of the resurrection.


On Palm Sunday, Christians wave palm branches, recalling the triumphal entry of Jesus — just days before His arrest and crucifixion — into Jerusalem, the holy city. The palm branch then was waved in homage, as for a king. In Christian iconography the palm branch has since become a symbol of martyrdom; martyred saints are often depicted carrying it. And so the Copts were, unwittingly, hailing the martyrs in their own midst. In every Catholic Church in the world on Palm Sunday, from the hermit priest at his solitary altar to the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square, Psalm 22 was proclaimed. It begins with the cry that no doubt filled the churches in Egypt as the bombs exploded: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”


The psalm is a prayer of great desperation, even a cry of dereliction. But it concludes with a confession of faith: “I will proclaim Your name to my brethren, in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.” That is what the Christians of Egypt did on Sunday, at the beginning of Holy Week. They proclaim God’s praises in the assembly and before the entire world.                                                                                   



FIGHTING TERROR, APPEASING AUTOCRATS                                                                             

Max Boot                                                                                                                               

Commentary, Apr. 10, 2017


A week ago, President Trump rolled out the red carpet for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who was persona non grata in the Obama White House because of his human-rights violations. There is no evidence that Trump even brought up the human-rights issue. Instead he extended unwavering praise, saying, “We agree on so many things. I just want to let everybody know in case there was any doubt that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt. The United States has, believe me, backing, and we have strong backing.”


It was widely noted that Trump enthusiastically shook Sisi’s hand after having previously refused to shake hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a photo-op. Body language spoke volumes. The reason for Trump’s embrace of the Egyptian president is obvious: He sees Sisi as a good guy because he overthrew a Muslim Broterhood regime and is actively repressing the Brothers. In the war against “radical Islamic terrorism,” there is no doubt which side Sisi is on. But while Sisi’s zeal in persecuting jihadists is undoubted, his skill and success are very much open to doubt. That was evident on Sunday when ISIS suicide bombers killed at least 44 people at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. This is only the latest such attack; a previous bombing at a Christian church in December killed at least 28.


The situation in the Sinai, where the Egyptian ISIS affiliate is based, is even worse. As Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy noted: “ISIS in Sinai has used advanced weapons to shoot down Egyptian military helicopters, destroy an M60 battle tank, and sink an Egyptian patrol boat off the coast of El-Arish. It also claimed responsibility for the October 2015 bombing of a Russian passenger jet in which 224 civilians were killed. U.S. government officials estimate that approximately 2,000 Egyptian soldiers have been killed in Sinai since the operation began – a shocking figure, considering that estimates typically put ISIS in Sinai’s membership at 1,000-1,500.”


Why isn’t Sisi being more successful? A lot of the problem, Trager argues, is that Egypt’s military is still locked in a conventional warfare mindset, similar to the U.S. military in Vietnam or in the early stages of the Iraq War. Thus, the Egyptian generals neglect the kind of more subtle, less heavy-handed counterinsurgency approaches that are usually the most effective. Sisi’s widespread repression doesn’t help. Not only is he locking up large numbers of Muslim Brothers, but he is also targeting liberal civil-society activists and anyone else suspected of disloyalty to his regime. That could wind up costing his regime the kind of popular support it needs to effectively gather intelligence against the terrorists.


Meanwhile Sisi is mismanaging the economy. As Robert Kagan and Michelle Dunne, co-chairs of the bipartisan Working Group on Egypt, observed, while Sisi has made some positive moves such as floating Egypt’s currency and reducing energy subsidies, “he has failed to take badly needed steps to train the burgeoning labor force and to encourage job creation in the private sector. According to official statistics, Egypt’s misery index in February was 45 percent: 33 percent core inflation plus 12 percent unemployment. Unemployment among Egyptians under 30 is much higher. Instead, Sissi has funneled billions into the vast business empire of the Egyptian military. Mega-construction projects such as the $8 billion Suez Canal expansion and the $45 billion new desert capital city keep the generals happy — and Sissi coup-proof.”


In short, Sisi is hardly a model ally, even if his rule is preferable to that of the Muslim Brotherhood. There is a real danger, in fact, that, just like Hosni Mubarak, he is presiding over a repressive, dysfunctional regime that will create more terrorism than it eliminates. As a major Sisi backer, the U.S. will find itself in the crosshairs of Egyptian radicals. Given that the current head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian physician who was radicalized under the Mubarak regime, we know what that kind of blowback might look like. there is a case for giving Sisi a bear-hug and then, once he has confidence in the United States, pressuring him to ease up on human-rights violation, to refine his blunderbuss conventional campaign against terrorism, and to take badly needed steps for economic growth. Perhaps that is Trump’s strategy. But Sisi, who receives $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, is more likely getting the message that Washington has given him a blank check for repression. That will not serve U.S. interests well.                            




CAN TRUMP CUT A DEAL WITH EGYPT?                                                                                         

Eric Trager                                                                                                   

Wall Street Journal, Mar. 30, 2017


The relationship between Egypt and the U.S. will look sunnier on Monday, when President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi visits President Trump in Washington. Under the Obama administration, Mr. Sisi’s authoritarianism made him persona non grata. The key question: Can Mr. Trump translate the warm welcome into a “good deal” for America? This isn’t the first U.S.-Egypt “reset.” Upon taking office, President Obama courted Mr. Sisi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, who had resented the Bush administration’s “freedom agenda.” Mr. Obama emphasized convergence with Egypt on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, while playing down human-rights concerns.


Mr. Obama’s priorities shifted, however, once Mr. Mubarak was overthrown in 2011. The White House backed Egypt’s democratic transition and cooperated with the Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi, who won the 2012 presidential election. The following year, after mass protests in Egypt, the military, led by Mr. Sisi, ousted Mr. Morsi and oversaw a deadly crackdown on Morsi supporters. The Obama White House responded by withholding weapons shipments. Cairo interpreted this as U.S. support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt soon declared a terrorist organization. Weapons shipments resumed in 2015, but Cairo’s distrust of Washington persisted. Meanwhile, Egypt deepened its ties to Russia through arms deals and joint military exercises.


Now Mr. Sisi will encounter a friendlier White House. Mr. Trump is skeptical of democracy promotion and won’t press Egypt on political reform. Officials in the Trump administration have praised Mr. Sisi’s 2014 speech urging Muslim clerics to combat extremism. And they share his view that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.


Warmer relations could improve intelligence sharing and strategic cooperation. At the very least, Cairo should consult with Washington regarding Russia’s reported deployment of troops in western Egypt. Perhaps support for Mr. Sisi would dampen the anti-Americanism in Egypt’s media. If Mr. Trump insists, maybe Mr. Sisi will release Aya Hegazy, a U.S. citizen who has been arbitrarily detained since 2014. Still, both countries’ domestic politics pose challenges. Egyptian officials have requested more U.S. military and economic aid. Egypt also wants Washington to renew cash-flow financing, which enables it to sign more expensive weapons contracts. But Mr. Trump vows to cut foreign aid.


Meanwhile, Mr. Trump ought to prioritize Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts. Egypt’s military was built to fight land wars, and its brass refuses to focus aid on counterterrorism. Cairo may try to win this debate by playing to Mr. Trump’s pledge to create jobs: Buying weapons systems ultimately helps employment in the defense industry. Mr. Trump’s best chance to cut a “good deal” with Mr. Sisi may be on Monday, when the Egyptian leader receives the Washington welcome he has long desired. But if Mr. Sisi pockets that victory without conceding anything on his country’s deepening relationship with Russia, prosecution of Americans, or aid priorities, Mr. Trump will have wasted Washington’s best hand in years.




On Topic Links


Egypt Terror Ensnares Israel as Sinai Border Crossing Closed: Fox News, Apr. 10, 2017—Warnings of an "imminent" terror attack forced Israel to close its Taba border crossing to the Sinai peninsula Monday, one day after terrorists in Egypt bombed two Christian churches, killing dozens of worshippers on Palm Sunday.

A Day After Attack, Grief Turns to Anger for Egypt’s Christian Minority: Maria Abi-Habib and Dahlia Kholaif, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2017—As family and friends gathered Monday to bury a university student killed in the suicide attack on worshipers here on Palm Sunday, grief boiled over into anger over the government’s inability to protect Egypt’s Christian minority.

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt's Anti-Christian Bigotry: John Rossomando, IPT, Apr. 12, 2017—Suicide bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt Sunday by ISIS terrorists should not be viewed in isolation. The bombings killed 44 people and injured 100 more, and mark the deadliest in a series of attacks targeting the country's Christian minority.

After White House Visit, Egyptian President Sisi Said to Be ‘Very Optimistic’ About Trump Administration: Barney Breen-Portnoy, Algemeiner, Apr. 7, 2017—Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is “very optimistic” about the Trump administration, a lobbyist who took part in a Washington, DC meeting with the leader this week told The Algemeiner on Friday.





















Rebooting US Foreign Policy in the Middle East: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 2, 2017— The Obama years were a curious blend of isolationism and limited interventions.

Arab Upheaval and Trump: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Apr. 4, 2017— The Arab pilgrimage to the White House is now officially underway, following Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's meeting with U.S. President's Donald Trump in Washington on Monday.

The Coming Middle East Crisis After ISIS is Gone: Ralph Peters, New York Post, Mar. 12, 2017 — The Islamic State caliphate is dying a well-deserved death.

Israel, Escalation, and a Nuclear War in the Middle East: Louis René Beres, Israel Defense, Mar. 14, 2017 — Left to themselves, neither suitably deterred nor adequately disarmed, enemies of Israel could one day bring the Jewish State face-to-face with the measureless torments of Dante's Inferno, "Into the eternal darkness, into fire, into ice."


On Topic Links


American Re-Engagement in the Middle East 3.0: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2017

Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Wizards Save Trump?: Lee Smith, Tablet, Mar. 15, 2017

How Middle East Terrorism Affects India (Video): Daniel Pipes, India Foundation, Mar. 15, 2017

Know Thine Enemy: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2017



REBOOTING US FOREIGN POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST                                                       

Zvi Mazel                                                                                         

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 2, 2017


The Obama years were a curious blend of isolationism and limited interventions.  American troops were not pulled out of Afghanistan and there was a relentless fight against terrorist organizations in the Middle East by way of drones and bombing raids. Small groups of elite forces were dispatched to Syria and Libya for intelligence gathering and advisory purposes only. What was missing was a global strategy which could have stopped the Middle East descent into chaos. The vacuum thus created gave free rein to Iran’s both open and stealthy penetration efforts; it also brought back Russia.


Moscow has now almost regained the positions held by the Soviet Union in Syria and Egypt and is strengthening its hold on Libya. A similar lack of decisive American resolve allowed China to adopt increasingly aggressive tactics in South China Sea and enabled Russia’s annexation of Crimea and division of Ukraine. The question is whether the Trump administration is willing and able to embark on a policy of active intervention, especially in the Middle East, to defuse threats and bring a measure of stability. It might be too late, however, to dislodge well-entrenched intruders that timely measures would have kept out.


America has a long history of vacillating between isolationism and aggressive foreign policy, and yet its intervention was decisive in ensuring the triumph of democratic regimes in two world wars, as well as in the lengthy Cold War. This was not Obama’s way. He mostly shunned active intervention, often at the price of losing the American power of dissuasion. Yet during his presidency, the Middle East went through one of its most violent periods since the end of World War I and the emergence of new states following the Sykes-Picot Agreement. A revival of radical Sunni Islam rivaled Iran’s efforts to export its Shi’ite revolution and led to gradual destabilization, a process escalated by the Arab Spring in 2011.


What started as the spontaneous demand for freedom and democracy ended in the strengthening of Islamic extremism, bringing about the demise of Arab nation states that had formed the backbone of the region. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and, to a lesser measure, Lebanon are no longer functioning. America was strangely absent while its allies in the region were bearing the brunt of the devastating process, leading to its inability to act as an effective deterrent on the world stage and the very real risk of a rogue state or organization making use of weapons of mass destruction, such as the chemical weapons used in Syria.


Obama refused to help the Green Movement, which took to the streets throughout Iran in 2009 to protest massive fraud in the presidential election. He did nothing while the regime gained back control of the nation using extreme brutality, ultimately defeating the people, tightening its grip on the country and putting an end to any hope of change. Although Iran is busy promoting its Shi’ite revolution and threatening the stability of Sunni regimes while calling for the destruction of Israel, Obama entered into a nuclear agreement with Tehran that will not prevent the country from creating weapons after the terms of the accord expire, and it does not address the ongoing development of missiles that could be equipped with nuclear warheads.


In Egypt, Obama abandoned Mubarak, his longtime strategic ally, and called on him to resign, transferring his support to the Muslim Brotherhood, although he knew, or should have known, that they were bent on setting up an Islamic dictatorship – a goal they achieved with disastrous results that the present regime is still fighting to correct. He encouraged Europe to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi, promising to “lead from behind” and supplying weapons and ammunitions for bombing raids – and then left Europe to deal with the shambles: a civil war in Libya and a stream of refugees from Africa, as well as Russian penetration that could threaten southern Europe.


He refrained from giving his support to the Syrian uprising in 2011, though arming the moderate Sunni insurgents before Jihadi groups moved in might have toppled Assad, cutting off Iran from its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. Indeed, he let Assad get away with breaching a succession of so-called “redlines” – including the use of chemical weapons.


The premature withdrawal of American troops from Iraq made it possible for ISIS to establish itself while the Iraqi army crumbled. Setting up a coalition of Western and Arab countries to fight the terrorist organization by means of sending planes to bomb its forces was taking the easy way out, to avoid putting boots on the ground. It was obvious from the very beginning that it was imperative to destroy ISIS while it was still too weak to resist, and the fighting today in Mosul and Raqqa, and the toll on the civilian populations, clearly display the price to be paid by not acting in time…

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






Prof. Eyal Zisser                                                              

Israel Hayom, Apr. 4, 2017


The Arab pilgrimage to the White House is now officially underway, following Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's meeting with U.S. President's Donald Trump in Washington on Monday. Jordan's King Abdullah will then arrive in Washington on Wednesday, followed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later this month. One would be hard-pressed to overestimate the value in these meetings. After all, el-Sissi avoided visiting the White House during Barack Obama's presidency, or more precisely, Obama did not invite him to visit. No wonder, then, that Egypt rejoiced Monday in light of what has been described by Cairo as "Trump's sun shining anew on Egypt-U.S. relations after many years of darkness."


Thus Washington returns to playing a central role in the Middle East, as befits a world power with a significant military presence in the region that provides billions of dollar in assistance to many Arab states. This also serves to insert order and proportion to the Middle East map, which Russia has relied on Iran to help reshape. After all, Russia cannot truly compete with the U.S. for the hearts and minds of the Arab states. It does not have Washington's economic resources, nor its military power or presence. And besides, Moscow carries substantial Iranian baggage.


The Arab leaders visiting Trump this week do so immediately after attending the Arab League summit in Jordan. Following years of paralysis, the result of the Arab Spring and the collapse of a number of Arab states that ensued, the summit's greatest accomplishment was the fact that it even took place to begin with. But just because Arab leaders attended the summit does not mean they have taken a unified approach, let alone reached anything resembling a genuine agreement on the matters at hand. The Arab states disagree on the question of Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and find it difficult to formulate a unified line on Iran. As a result, conference participants preferred to pay lip service to the only subject on which they are in agreement — the Palestinian issue.


But while Abdullah spoke pompously of the Palestinian question as the central and in fact sole issue for the Arabs, he did so after making the interesting choice of hosting the talks not in the Jordanian capital of Amman, but at an isolated tourist spot on the shores of the Dead Sea. This was, of course, on account of the threat of an attack by the Islamic State group. As everyone knows, this is the central threat the Hashemite kingdom faces, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


On the eve of el-Sissi's meeting with Trump, extensive media reports indicated that the Arab leaders had decided to work together to press Trump to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, on the basis of the Arab framework for peace. But it is doubtful there is any credence to the reports. For further proof, one need only reference the official statements from the government in Cairo, which reiterated that el-Sissi was in Washington to discuss Egyptian interest, such as the war on terror, Egypt's struggling economy and Iran.


Faced with all these challenges, Israel's importance as a loyal and valued strategic partner with whom Egypt already maintains close cooperation is obvious. Both Egypt and Jordan are interested in ensuring, and even promoting and deepening, their strategic cooperation with Israel. The U.S. has an important role in establishing regional cooperation, along the lines of the strategic alliance that is slowly forming in the region over the common threats that Israel and the Arab states face. Such an alliance could help advance talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as long as they are not taken hostage by the whims of the Palestinians…                                                                                                                                                      

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



THE COMING MIDDLE EAST CRISIS AFTER ISIS IS GONE                                                                                      

Ralph Peters                                                                                                                                                                       

New York Post, Mar. 12, 2017


The Islamic State caliphate is dying a well-deserved death. This spring, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in what used to be Syria will fall. Across the summer, remaining outposts will be purged of the Islamist movement’s remnants. Isolated terror attacks will continue, but the physical caliphate will be erased. And after ISIS itself, the biggest loser will be the United States.


Defeating ISIS is a worthy goal, but the rivalries of blood and faith that will poison the post-caliphate landscape are emerging. Turks alternately confront and accommodate Russia. Our most-effective combat partners, the Kurds, infuriate Turkey and worry local Arabs. Arab factions fight among themselves (as do the Kurds on occasion). Alphabet-soup minorities suffer and flee. Russians kill and watch. Iranians kill and wait. Their client, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, has amassed a tally of war crimes that makes his survival “unthinkable.” Yet he’s likely to retain power.


With ISIS defeated, we won’t be needed. We’ll be shown the door — except, of course, for aid money. Uneasy coalitions will collapse. Iran — a k a Persia — will have a client state on the Mediterranean for the first time since the Classical Age. Turkey’s Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dreams madly of a renewed Ottoman empire (which no Arab desires). And Vladimir Putin is set to reap a huge return on a minimal investment.


Fifty million Kurds, longing for independence and freedom, will be embattled on multiple fronts — and, perhaps, deserted by the United States to serve Foggy Bottom fantasies of preserving obsolete states (Iraq and Syria) that have outlived their old and unjust purposes. Meanwhile, our military serves our enemies by applying our power against ISIS without a practical vision for the day the caliphate falls. In the Levant and Mesopotamia, history’s the quarrelsome neighbor forever banging on the door. The Arab-populated expanse was ruled, brutally and incompetently, by the Turkish Ottomans for centuries. When that empire collapsed after World War I, control fell to British and French schemers. The British sought security for the Suez Canal, their lifeline to India. And they wanted that strategic commodity, oil.


The French wanted to keep up with the British. So the two powers split the Middle East, drawing artificial borders that ignored local demographics and old hatreds. The Brits carved out Iraq and Jordan for their puppets and acquired the Palestine Mandate (where Israel would be reborn, a rare instance of justice). The French got control of Lebanon and Syria. The Kurds were cheated, the Armenian genocide ignored and the Shia overlooked, while lesser minorities didn’t even register.


The result was the emergence of phony states that crammed together peoples and confessions that hated each other while dividing groups (such as the Kurds) who yearned for unity, freedom and independence. And when the European empires faded, only dictators could hold the unnatural states together. By committing ourselves to the maintenance of those deadly, dysfunctional borders, the United States leapt flat-footed into the quicksand. In 2003, in Iraq, we had the chance to begin dismantling those phony states in favor of justice and common sense, but inertia and short-term fears defined our diplomacy. We didn’t liberate Iraq — we perpetuated it. Now, 14 wretched years later, we continue to pretend that, magically, Iraq can achieve political health and that Syria should be preserved with a new head of state.


We have taken the side of dead empires and injustice. What should we do? Discard our preconceptions for a start. Why shouldn’t dysfunctional borders change? In fact, they’re changing themselves. How many American lives is it worth to serve the vision of dead Europeans and grisly Arab dictators? We need not act to change those borders, but we shouldn’t stand in the way.


The destruction of the ISIS caliphate won’t end terrorism, but the Islamists will suffer a powerful practical and psychological blow. The terrorists eventually will adapt, but their appeal will be weakened: Angry young men want to join a winning team, not a bunch of losers. Still, the rise of ISIS was unnecessary. Enchanted by the neocons, the George W. Bush administration made Iraq far harder than it had to be simply by not planning for the worst. Then President Barack Obama threw away our hard-won progress in Iraq and, tragically, cowered and prevaricated while the all-but-doomed Assad regime recovered its balance in Syria.


Now we face a new Iranian empire, an expansionist Russia, a treacherous Turkey, an Iraq lost to Iran and the prospect of years to come of ethnic cleansing, massacre and violent uprisings on which terrorists will again piggyback. Can the Trump administration design and execute a Middle East strategy that actually works to our benefit and makes sense? If so, it would be the first since the Truman presidency.






 Louis René Beres

Israel Defense, Mar. 14, 2017


Left to themselves, neither suitably deterred nor adequately disarmed, enemies of Israel could one day bring the Jewish State face-to-face with the measureless torments of Dante's Inferno, "Into the eternal darkness, into fire, into ice." It is essential, therefore, that Israel's strategic planners and political leadership now accelerate their basic obligation to strengthen the country's nuclear security posture, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that any conceivable failure of nuclear deterrence could not ignite a nuclear war. Significantly, any such failure would not necessarily be the result of some conspicuous "bolt-from-the-blue" enemy nuclear attack, but could also represent the unanticipated outcome of aggressive crisis escalations.


Now is the time for a detailed and precise enumeration of relevant scenarios. Accordingly, among the most plausible paths to nuclear warfighting in the Middle East are: (1) enemy nuclear first-strikes against Israel (not a present possibility, unless one were to include non-Arab Pakistan as an authentic enemy); (2) enemy non-nuclear WMD first-strikes against Israel that would elicit an Israeli nuclear reprisal, either promptly, or as an inadvertent consequence of escalation processes; (3) Israeli nuclear preemptions against pertinent hard targets in selected enemy states with manifestly recognizable nuclear assets (also not a present possibility, unless Pakistan were included as an enemy state); (4) Israeli non-nuclear preemptions against relevant hard targets in enemy states with operational nuclear assets that elicit enemy nuclear reprisals, either promptly, or incrementally via escalation (again, excluding Pakistan, not a present possibility); and (5) Israeli non-nuclear preemptions against military targets in enemy states without nuclear assets, that would elicit substantial enemy biological warfare reprisals, and, reciprocally, Israeli nuclear counter-retaliations.


Still, other more-or-less plausible paths to nuclear warfighting in the Middle East include accidental, unintentional, inadvertent, or unauthorized nuclear attacks involving Israel and certain identifiable regional foes. The very last scenario offered here – "unauthorized" enemy nuclear attacks – should bring to Israeli analytic consideration an always-possible Jihadist coup d'état in Islamic Pakistan.


Jerusalem must also bear in mind the potentially dire and starkly unpredictable prospect of a major escalation arising from any specific instance of WMD terrorism against Israel. In this connection, Israeli strategists will not only need to consider their terrorist adversaries as singular or isolated actors, but also as prospective members of possible "hybrid" combinations, ones fashioned with other sub-state terror organizations, and/or with certain likeminded states.


Already, Israel has had to deal with a distinctly unique form of nuclear terrorism in the form of enemy attacks upon its Dimona nuclear reactor. While never given any genuine public attention – most obviously, perhaps, because both attacks were actual operational failures – the significant fact remains that Dimona came under enemy missile or rocket fire in 1991, from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and again in 2014, from Hamas. It is not at all unreasonable to expect that in the future, a more determined and capable adversary could produce some calculable breach of nuclear reactor containment, and thereby initiate a perilous spiral of potentially lethal escalation.


As long as Israel remains determined to survive at all costs, its leaders must be prepared to identify and catalog all those specific circumstances wherein the country could become enmeshed in an actual nuclear exchange, or in nuclear warfighting. These fearful circumstances will obtain as long as (a) pertinent enemy first-strikes against Israel do not destroy Israel's second-strike nuclear capability; (b) enemy retaliations for an Israeli conventional preemption do not destroy Israel's nuclear counter-retaliatory capability; (c) Israeli preemptive strikes involving nuclear weapons do not destroy enemy second-strike nuclear capabilities (not a present concern); and (d) Israeli retaliations for enemy conventional first-strikes do not destroy enemy nuclear counter-retaliatory capabilities (also, not a plausible concern at present).


From the plainly vital standpoint of Israel's nuclear security requirements, this all means that Jerusalem must now prepare to do absolutely whatever is needed to ensure the likelihood of (a) and (b) above, and also the corollary unlikelihood of (c) and (d). Among other things, Israel needs its presumptive nuclear weapons to preempt enemy nuclear attacks. This does not mean that Israeli preemptions of such obviously intolerable attacks would necessarily be nuclear themselves – more than likely, they would be entirely non-nuclear – but only that they could conceivably be nuclear. Moreover, both Israeli nuclear and non-nuclear preemptions of unconventional enemy attacks could, at least in principle (and also in the future) produce some form or other of nuclear weapons exchange.


The actual outcome here would depend, in large part, upon the effectiveness and breadth of Israeli targeting, the surviving number of enemy nuclear weapons, and the demonstrated willingness of enemy leaders to risk an Israeli nuclear counter-retaliation. Arguably, especially in reference to a still-nuclearizing Iran, the actual likelihood of some nuclear exchange would be greatest wherever Israel's relevant foe were allowed to continue its overt or covert nuclear weapons development without suffering any preemptive military interference. Still, over time, and the July 2015 Vienna Pact on Iran notwithstanding, a truly nuclear Iran is perhaps already a fait accompli. Israel, therefore, will need to figure on how best to live with a nuclear Iran.


Leaving tactical details aside, this suggests prudent Israeli preparations for long-term nuclear deterrence, buttressed by increasingly advanced forms of cyber-warfare and ballistic missile defense. Always, for Israel, recognizable preparations for strategic dissuasion must be augmented by similarly observable preparations for denial.


For Israel, the sole military alternative at this point, an eleventh-hour defensive first strike against Iranian nuclear assets, would almost certainly carry unacceptable risks, both physical and political. Moreover, at this late operational date, it would prove exceedingly difficult for Jerusalem to make the necessarily supportive jurisprudential argument that its utterly massive preemption was a proper expression of "anticipatory self-defense." All things considered, Israel will have to forego any last-minute preemption against Iran, and rely, however reluctantly, upon some still-promising forms of protracted deterrence and mutual coexistence. In the final analysis, Israel's most significant risks of a nuclear exchange or nuclear war will arise from certain predictable kinds of crisis escalation. These are "locked-in" competitions wherein Israel's core national obligation to avoid recklessness could be rapidly and irremediably overtaken by the presumed imperatives of "winning" through "escalation dominance."




On Topic Links


American Re-Engagement in the Middle East 3.0: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2017—Do US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believe that the “Middle East is and will remain a region of strategic importance to the United States,” as Richard Fontaine and Michael Singh wrote in The National Interest?

Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Wizards Save Trump?: Lee Smith, Tablet, Mar. 15, 2017—After excoriating Barack Obama’s foreign policy, including his realignment in the Middle East, Trump has yet to nominate any officials below the cabinet level at the State Department or the Pentagon, which means there is no one to formulate Trump’s own foreign policy, never mind implement it.

How Middle East Terrorism Affects India (Video): Daniel Pipes, India Foundation, Mar. 15, 2017—Establishes some of the ways in which violence coming out of the Middle East (or West Asia) has a negative impact on India. The talk is 11 minutes long.

Know Thine Enemy: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2017—There are iron rules of warfare. One of the most basic rules is that you have to know your enemy. If you do not know your enemy, or worse, if you refuse to act on your knowledge of him, you will lose your war against him. This basic truth appears to have eluded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.






















Showtime for the Egyptian President: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, 2016— Western media have been quick to speculate about the end of the road for Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, pointing out a rapidly dropping approval rate.

Save Egypt Before it’s Too Late: P. David Hornik, Frontpage Magazine, Nov. 17, 2016— Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, reports that Egypt is in trouble.

Egypt and Israel: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 25, 2016   — The cold peace that has characterized Israel’s relations with Egypt since the signing of the 1979 peace treaty is warming up on the diplomatic and military levels.

The Truth About Egypt’s Revolution: Oren Kessler, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2016 — The usual account of Egypt’s revolution goes like this: In February 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned after 18 days of protests led by the tweeting revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, ending his nearly 30-year presidency.


On Topic Links


Egypt Court Overturns Death Sentence for Ousted Leader Morsi: Times of Israel, Nov. 15, 2016

Egypt on the Verge of Crisis?: Walter Russell Mead, American Interest, Oct. 25, 2016

Egypt Juggles Its Friendships as Russian Influence Surges: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2016

Russian-Egyptian Cooperation in the War on Terror: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Nov. 9, 2016




Zvi Mazel

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, 2016


Western media have been quick to speculate about the end of the road for Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, pointing out a rapidly dropping approval rate. Above 90% a few weeks ago, it now stands at “a mere” 68% – a rating that many a Western leader would be ecstatic about. Nevertheless the Egyptian president is doggedly pursuing his objective of reforming the economy and putting his country squarely on the road to sustainable growth.


He has achieved a lot so far, launching or completing a number of mega projects. There is the doubling of the Suez Canal carried out within one year by the army – no mean feat – and a source of great pride to the Egyptian people. He has initiated the building of a new capital east of the present one. It will be the seat of the huge Egyptian administration, easing the congestion of the old capital, now slated to become a touristic and commercial hub.

An estimated 3,000 km of new highways are at various stages of planning. Reclaiming one and a half million feddan (about 1.5 million acres) will extend agriculture lands into the desert. More prosaic but no less vital was the cleaning and rehabilitation of silos, where every year 30% of the wheat, main staple for the Egyptians, rot because of dirt and negligence. Sisi has also boosted research and development of oil and natural gas resources; once an exporter, Egypt now needs to import at great cost the oil and natural gas it needs. Improving the situation can take a few years. The process could be greatly accelerated if the West decided at long last to help Egypt. It has not happened so far.

Western countries led by US President Barack Obama still see in president Sisi a military dictator who grabbed power from a “democratically elected president.” They do not want to admit that Morsi was toppled by a popular uprising – admittedly with the help of the army – just in time to prevent him from creating an Islamic dictatorship. Deprived of Western backing, Egypt turned to Russia and China for political support and economic cooperation. The two countries promised to invest in industrial and tourist projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant by Russia in northern Egypt. Russia also pledged to supply Egypt with advanced weapons.

This new alliance put Cairo on a collision course with Saudi Arabia, which opposes Russian assistance to president Assad of Syria. To mark its displeasure, Riyadh announced it was halting shipments of oil to its former ally. A drop in popularity is a small price to pay for the successful completion of long and difficult negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Egypt is about to receive a $12 billion loan at very low interest. This much needed injunction of foreign capital should help it over the coming months.

The loan comes at a price. Sisi had pledged to take drastic steps to reform an ailing economy burdened by a bloated civil service and hampered at every turn by unending terrorism. While the Muslim Brotherhood is still carrying out low-grade warfare against local infrastructure inside the country, the Sinai branch of Islamic State has dealt a series of deadly blows which left Egypt still reeling.

The downing last year of a Russian plane has brought tourism to a near standstill. Supply of much needed foreign currency has all but dried out, hampering trade and severely inconveniencing the population. Faced with a black market out of control, and to comply with the exigencies of the IMF, Sisi announced that the pound would “float,” with the rate adjusting daily according to supply and demand. While the rate had been artificially pegged at 8.8 pounds for a dollar, it traded at 18 on the black market. It is now stabilized at about 13, hopefully marking the end of the black market. The move was welcomed by traders and businessmen.

Other measures dictated by the IMF were not as popular. For the first time in history there is a VAT in Egypt. Set at 13% at present, it may not be easily implemented in a country where lots of transactions are still in cash, but it was another of the IMF requests. So was cutting down subsidies drastically for oil and natural gas. There was a corresponding rise in the cost of living, leading to a lot of muttering and general dissatisfaction. Hence the drop in approval rate. Unfortunately, the government felt threatened and tightened security measures as well as pressuring the media.

So it is now show time for the Egyptian leader. The next few months will be critical. On the one hand, most Egyptians understand that their president has no other choice; should his reforms fail, the country could very well plunge into chaos. On the other hand, his drastic measures are taking their toll on the poorest of the poor, while the Muslim Brotherhood is busy fanning the flame. Hopefully the new administration in Washington will reverse course and at long last provide much needed relief in the form of investments and transfers of technology. Meanwhile, Israel is quietly helping wherever it can. It could undoubtedly do much more were the Egyptian leadership ready to defy the Islamic establishment and the old Nasserist circles, still bitterly opposed to any form of normalization.





                                                 P. David Hornik                                                                                                 

Frontpage Magazine, Nov. 17, 2016


Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, reports that Egypt is in trouble. On the one hand, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is pursuing ambitious economic reforms. He’s doubled the size of the Suez Canal, bringing a major spike in revenue. He’s building a new capital south of Cairo, aimed at relieving congestion and pollution in Cairo and making it a commercial and tourist hub. Sisi has also launched processes of building about two thousand miles of new highways, cleaning and rehabilitating wheat silos where wheat—the main Egyptian staple—rots because of negligence, and developing oil and natural gas resources. That oil and gas development, Mazel notes, “could be greatly accelerated if the West decided at long last to help Egypt. It has not happened so far.”


Indeed it’s well known that since Sisi—then the defense minister—overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the Obama administration and other Western governments have turned Egypt a cold shoulder. They have done so even though that overthrow was backed by the most massive popular protests in history, with 14 million Egyptians taking to the streets. They were protesting a regime that was radical, incompetent, and—in office for a year—already taking steps to abrogate Egypt’s constitution and strangle the country in sharia legislation.


Yet “Western countries led by US President Barack Obama,” Mazel notes, “still see in president Sisi a military dictator who grabbed power from a “democratically elected president.” They do not want to admit that Morsi was toppled by a popular uprising—admittedly with the help of the army—just in time to prevent him from creating an Islamic dictatorship. Jilted by the West, Sisi has had to turn elsewhere. China is underwriting his building of a new capital. More problematically, Egypt has already signed major arms deals with Russia, and Russia has pledged $25 billion toward the building of a nuclear power plant in northern Egypt.


It might all be less troubling if Egypt were mainly suffering from economic problems. But, in addition, it remains under assault by radical anti-Western terrorist forces. “The Muslim Brotherhood,” Mazel reports, “is still carrying out low-grade warfare against local infrastructure in the country.” And a branch of Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula has kept up a string of deadly attacks. The most devastating was its downing one year ago of a Russian plane, which, says Mazel, “has brought tourism to a near standstill.” And as the economy keeps struggling and Sisi institutes reforms—some of them, like a VAT increase, widely resented—the potential for popular insurrection, driven by or at least exploited by the Islamist forces, remains. Or as Mazel puts it, “It is now show time for [Sisi]. The next few months will be critical.”


Israel, for its part, is helping Egypt both in the security and economic spheres, but the assistance it can give is limited by ongoing popular hostility to Israel and Jews in Egypt. Another development in the next few months, however, offers the best hope of keeping Sisi’s government on its moderate, constructive course and keeping the jihadists at bay. An AP analysis notes that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has already praised the “good chemistry” between him and Sisi when they met at the UN in September, suggesting a possibility of “closer ties after the chill between al-Sissi and Obama.” Indeed Egypt’s media cheered Trump’s victory, reflecting widespread resentment at Obama’s support for the short-lived but hated Morsi regime.


It is not that Egypt is an exemplary country or a Western democracy. As mentioned, hatred in the Israeli and Jewish direction is still pervasive decades after the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Vigilante attacks on Christians continue. Sisi’s crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood and other radical forces hardly meets Western judicial standards. But in the real world, the Sisi government—which wants to align with the West, is nonbelligerent toward Israel, and at least aspires to curb Islamic extremism—is vastly preferable to the alternatives. Supporting Sisi would mean a shift to a sane policy.    




EGYPT AND ISRAEL                                       


Jerusalem Post, Oct. 25, 2016


The cold peace that has characterized Israel’s relations with Egypt since the signing of the 1979 peace treaty is warming up on the diplomatic and military levels. But it remains to be seen whether popular opposition among Egyptians to such warming – not to mention outright hostility and antisemitism – will roll back progress. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rightly sees in Israel an important ally in the fight against political Islamism.


Working together, Israeli and Egyptian forces have taken on Islamist terrorist groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula, and have reined in Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The ratcheting up of cooperation in the intelligence and military fields has also had an impact on other aspects of Egyptian-Israeli ties. A number of high-profile visits and meetings have taken place since Sisi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood-ruled government and took control in 2013.

Former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold visited Egypt in June 2015; the Israel Embassy in Cairo was reopened, and a new Egyptian ambassador was dispatched to Tel Aviv. In April, Israel approved the Egyptian transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a move that entailed reopening the security annex of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Perhaps the most impressive showing of improved relations between Cairo and Jerusalem, however, was Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s July visit to Israel, which included a long meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Unfortunately, these gestures by high-ranking officials on the diplomatic and military level have not trickled down to the Egyptian people. This was apparent from the reactions to rumors that Israel intended to reopen its consulate in Alexandria, as reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Arab Affairs Correspondent Ben Lynfield.

According to the London-based Al-Araby al-Jadeed website, Israel’s ambassador in Cairo, David Govrin, visited Alexandria under heavy security, met with the city’s tiny Jewish community, visited the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue, and met with the governor of Alexandria. The website also quoted activists who were angered by the visit, seeing it as a “provocation.” A parliament member from Alexandria was quoted as saying there is “no justification” for closer relations with Israel.

A September 2015 poll by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research indicates that most of the Egyptian public view Israel as hostile. The survey assigned countries a rating ranging from 100 to -100, with the negative figures indicating hostility and the positive figures friendliness. Israel received -88 points in the survey, and is thus considered by Egyptians to be its most hostile nation. The US was ranked a distant second with a -37. China was ranked 41, thus receiving the highest “friendly” rank of any non-Muslim country.

According to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a number of Egyptian books were on sale at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest, with blatantly antisemitic themes. A number of books claim that the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was part of a larger plot instigated by Israel to destabilize Egypt and other Arab countries, and relocate the Palestinian in Gaza to Sinai. Earlier this month, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture honored novelist Sherif Shaban for “enriching Egyptian cultural life” with his novel Daughter of Zion, which revisits claims made in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The miniseries “Horseman Without a Horse,” which is based on the Protocols, has regularly aired on Egyptian television channels in recent years.

Anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments clearly run deep in Egyptian society. This state of affairs generates dissonance. Egypt’s high-ranking officials have advanced policies and made gestures that signal a warming of relations with Israel. The Egyptian people, meanwhile, are largely antagonistic toward Israel and Jews.


As long as Egypt’s leaders do not take steps to prepare their people for improved relations with Israel, this dissonance will remain. Egypt and Israel share many common interests, but Egypt will be limited in its ability to take advantage of cooperation with Israel as long as popular opinion views this cooperation as a form of betrayal. As leaders, Sisi, Shoukry and others have an obligation to fight prejudice and hatred, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it will facilitate the cooperation which Egypt so desperately needs.                                     




THE TRUTH ABOUT EGYPT’S REVOLUTION                                                                               

Oren Kessler                                                                                                            

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2016


The usual account of Egypt’s revolution goes like this: In February 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned after 18 days of protests led by the tweeting revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, ending his nearly 30-year presidency. Then the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the revolution, prevailing in parliamentary elections and installing one of its own as president. A year after the Brotherhood’s win, Egyptians again hit the streets, this time demonstrating against the Brotherhood. The army staged a coup to remove Mohammed Morsi, and Egypt returned to the same condition it has known for six decades: military rule.


In “Arab Fall: How the Muslim Brotherhood Won and Lost Egypt in 891 Days,” Eric Trager upends this pat narrative. In his telling, the Brotherhood was a powerful, if quiet, presence from the start of the 2011 rallies. It didn’t hijack anything: The Brotherhood was, in fact, the only movement in Egypt organized and disciplined enough to challenge the old regime at the ballots. Finally, he suggests, the military’s move against Mr. Morsi was not the inevitable result of its determination to deny the Brothers their place in the political power structure. Instead, it was the Brotherhood’s own lack of vision and incompetence that drew Egypt’s largest-ever crowds to the streets demanding redress.


“Arab Fall” is based on dozens of author interviews with Brotherhood members and leaders that the author, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, conducted before, during and after the revolution. The book’s wealth of detail may challenge the lay reader, but it is indispensable not just for its account of how the Brothers failed so disastrously at governing Egypt but equally for its analysis of how Washington failed so completely to understand them.


The Muslim Brotherhood is the world’s oldest and largest Islamist organization, founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a schoolteacher in Ismailia. At the time, Egypt was a nominally independent monarchy under de facto British rule, and Ismailia epitomized that reality. The city had been built on the Suez Canal by the Europe-obsessed Khedive Ismail Pasha, and it teemed with foreigners profiting from the British-controlled waterway. In Ismailia, Europe’s political, economic and scientific supremacy over the world of Islam was impossible to ignore.


This state of affairs tormented Banna. Islam, the pious teacher was convinced, offered all that its adherents needed for political, material and moral uplift. His motto—and the Brotherhood’s still today—insisted: “Islam is the solution.” Banna’s program was bottom-up. First would be the “reform of the individual.” These individuals would then foster model Muslim homes, which would collectively form a faith-based, God-fearing society—an “Islamic state,” in Banna’s words—that would eventually link up with similarly Islamized societies to restore the caliphate, the centuries-old Islamic super-state abolished by Turkey’s secularist government in 1924. The Brotherhood would be a vanguard to that end, carefully selecting only those whose commitment to its mission was absolute.


Today becoming a Brother is an arduous five-to-eight-year process of rising through highly stratified ranks. Upon achieving the last of these—akh ‘amal, or “active Brother”—the inductee declares himself a “loyal soldier,” vowing “not to dispute commands” and to expend his “efforts, money and blood in the path of God.” Christian Democrats these are not.


And yet the day before Mr. Mubarak’s resignation, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assured a House committee that “the term Muslim Brotherhood is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular.” The White House too seemed unaware of the kind of movement that might replace Mr. Mubarak. On Feb. 1, 2011, just a week after the protests began, President Obama declared that a change of government in Cairo “must begin now.” (By comparison, it was five months before he said the same about Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.) When Mr. Mubarak stepped aside 10 days later, a U.S. diplomat later recalled that Mr. Obama’s advisers toasted with vodka and beer.


In the months after the revolution, the Brotherhood vowed not to seek the presidency or a majority in Parliament, lest these actions scare off Egyptians wary of its Islamizing mission. Both pledges ultimately faded away. When the group’s first choice for a presidential candidate was disqualified on a technicality, the honor fell to an uncharismatic functionary: Mohammed Morsi.


If the Obama administration knew little about the Brotherhood, it knew even less about Mr. Morsi. Mr. Trager, however, had interviewed him two years before in Cairo and knew him as an enforcer of internal dissent within the Brotherhood and a devotee of Sayyid Qutb, the Brotherhood ideologue who was executed by the nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser and whose message has inspired al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and Anwar al-Awlaki. “Our program is a long-term one, not a short-term one,” Mr. Morsi told Mr. Trager. “Our goal is not to become governors. Our country should be governed . . . by Islam.” By the time of the summer 2012 elections, it was clear that the Brothers had shunted aside other opposition forces—the non-Islamist “liberals” that so enamored Western observers—who, in any case, were barely organized and enjoyed scant public support. With Mr. Morsi poised to take the election, Mr. Trager writes, U.S. officials began “beating a path to the Brotherhood’s door.” No one was more surprised by Washington’s embrace than the Brothers themselves.


Once elected in June 2012, Mr. Morsi took to governing with an ineptitude that shocked even the author. The Brotherhood, he writes, “had no real policy vision apart from stacking the Egyptian government with Muslim Brothers or like-minded officials.” To lift Egypt’s faltering economy, for example, Mr. Morsi’s government offered the “Renaissance Project,” which promised to cut inflation by half, “protect the dignity of the poor,” and double the number of families getting social security. How it would achieve these seemingly contradictory objectives was never explained. The economy thus neglected, Mr. Morsi proceeded to target the press, charging four times as many journalists with “insulting the president” in his first seven months as Mr. Mubarak had over 30 years. Then, in November 2012, Mr. Morsi made a power grab the likes of which even Mr. Mubarak hadn’t dared, placing his decrees above judicial scrutiny. Weeks later, he rushed through a constitution drafted by Brotherhood and Salafist MPs.


As dissent mounted over the following months, Mr. Morsi turned to the comfort of conspiracy theories: It was foreigners, Mubarak regime remnants or powerful business interests fomenting the unrest. Once the dissent had turned into mass rallies, bigger than anything in 2011, he dismissed them to anxious U.S. officials as inconsequential. In June 2013, when the Brotherhood equipped hundreds of its cadres with helmets, shields and sticks to “protect the revolution,” it foolishly confirmed fears of pro- and anti-Morsi mobs clashing in the streets, thereby bolstering the military’s mandate to intervene…

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


On Topic Links


Egypt Court Overturns Death Sentence for Ousted Leader Morsi: Times of Israel, Nov. 15, 2016—An Egyptian appeals court has overturned a death sentence handed down against ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in one of four trials since his 2013 overthrow, a judicial official said.

Egypt on the Verge of Crisis?: Walter Russell Mead, American Interest, Oct. 25, 2016—All is not well in Egypt, as the government implements unpopular austerity measures to shore up its floundering economy. As average citizens feel the pinch, they are increasingly blaming President al-Sisi as calls grow for mass street protests.

Egypt Juggles Its Friendships as Russian Influence Surges: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2016 —Balancing acts are precarious by definition and, as Egypt is finding out, even a small move can have cascading consequences.

Russian-Egyptian Cooperation in the War on Terror: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Nov. 9, 2016— Exercise "Defenders of Friendship 2016," a joint Russian-Egyptian counter-terrorist exercise, took place in the territory of the Arab Republic of Egypt in the area between the city of Alexandria and El Alamein, on October 15-26, 2016.







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

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

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

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


On Topic Links


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

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

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

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



Mohamed Soliman

Washington Institute, July 29, 2016


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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





  CAIRO AND THE EGYPTIANS LIVING IN ISRAEL                                                               

                            Haisam Hassanein                           

Jerusalem Post, Aug. 3, 2016


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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





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

Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2016     


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


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


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


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


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


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





INFLUENCE WITHER AWAY                                                              

Liam Stack                                                                                                 

New York Times, Aug. 2, 2016


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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




On Topic Links


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

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

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

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




Crossing the Nile: Egypt’s Return to a Role in Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, July 11, 2016— On November 15, 2012, Washington-insider Sidney Blumenthal wrote an email to secretary of state Hillary Clinton sharing information from sources with “direct access” to Western intelligence services.

Hamas and Egypt Make Amends?: Oren Kessler & Grant Rumley, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, June 21, 2016— A steady stream of reports in recent weeks has suggested that Egypt is burying the hatchet with Hamas.

ISIS Comes to Gaza: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, July 11, 2016 — Hamas denies it up and down.

Transitioning to a New Middle East: Ted Belman, Arutz Sheva, July 11, 2016— The Obama era opened with his Cairo speech, in which he embraced Muslims in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular.


On Topic Links


5 Years of ISIS Terror on Israel’s Southern Border: IDF Blog, June 20, 2015

What Next, Egypt’s Sissi Speaking in the Knesset? Well, Maybe: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, July 11, 2015

With Egypt’s Blessing, Israel Conducting Drone Strikes in Sinai — Report: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, July 11, 2016

Another Golden Era in Israel-Africa Relations: Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom, July 4, 2016





Seth J. Frantzman                                                         

Jerusalem Post, July 11, 2016


On November 15, 2012, Washington-insider Sidney Blumenthal wrote an email to secretary of state Hillary Clinton sharing information from sources with “direct access” to Western intelligence services. The day before Israel had killed Hamas terrorist mastermind Ahmed Jabari in Gaza. Now it looked like fighting would increase between the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, said he was concerned that he was “unable to exert significant influence” over Hamas and that fighting might spiral out of control. What if Egypt were drawn in, the Egyptian worried. General Abdel Fatah Sisi assured Morsi things were under control. “Military Intelligence officers were meeting secretly with their Israeli counterparts” and Israel had agreed Egypt might play a positive role in mediating the conflict. According to the report Sisi understood Jabari had been killed for his role in kidnapping IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Morsi felt pressured by Islamists to stand up to Israel, but Sisi expressed concern. Morsi was “a new leader with a precarious hold on his country which creates a dangerous environment,” wrote Blumenthal. “Al-Sisi has not shared this particular view with the Egyptian President.”

A little over seven months later, Morsi was gone and Sisi was in power. It’s clear now from the secret dispatches that Sisi feared for the security of Egypt, and was deeply concerned over sectarian tensions and the rise of Islamist and terrorist groups, especially in Sinai. Sisi’s first year in power was spent shoring up his support and removing the tentacles of the Muslim Brotherhood from power. In late May 2014 he was elected president by an overwhelming majority. After several years of uncertainty, Sisi sought to return Egypt to stability and a renewed role in the region.

Before the Arab Spring overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February of 2011, Egypt had worked closely with Israel on security issues. For instance, according to a US diplomatic cable, in 2009 Mubarak warned US General David Petraeus that Qatar and Syria were paying Hamas $50 million to keep captive IDF soldier Schalit captive. Mubarak obviously wanted Schalit released. After his overthrow, there was a hiatus in relations with Israel as Egypt turned inward.

Two months later he got his first chance to play a role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when war broke out in Gaza in July. Mahmoud Salem at Al-Monitor claims the Gaza war gave Sisi a major victory. It “changed the balance of power in the Middle East conflict, sidelined Qatar, Turkey and Hamas, placed all the cards in the hands of Israel, the Gulf States [minus Qatar] and Egypt and none of them gave any weight to the Obama administration, which was unprecedented.” Turkey had had close relations with Morsi, whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan viewed as a fellow-traveler in the world of political Islam. After 2013 relations between Turkey and Egypt soured to a kind of cold war.

This outcome was the result of a view that the US was weakening its support for its traditional Egyptian and Saudi allies in the region. This was symbolically evident in the snubbing of President Barack Obama by Saudi Arabia in April of this year when he was greeted by low-level functionaries on the tarmac during a visit to the kingdom. Sisi had been dismayed by the US administration’s policies on Egypt. Documents show that Sisi warned the Americans about threats to US interests in Egypt in 2012, and it seems he was not given credit for his attempt to care for the Americans.

In March of 2015 Sisi gave two interviews in which he spoke of his interest in working with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Bret Stephens claimed “Egypt’s security cooperation with Israel has never been closer.” Sisi told The Washington Post he speaks to Netanyahu “a lot” and that he wanted to achieve a “historic deal” with Israel. In late May and early June Egypt said it supported renewed Israeli-Palestinian talks with Sisi as mediator. Meanwhile France has been pushing its own initiative, which Israel has rejected. The Palestinian ambassador to Cairo said Egypt’s involvement does not “contradict” the French plan.

Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s very public visit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday was the culmination of Egyptian efforts to return relations to where they had been before the Arab Spring. As Herb Keinon noted in The Jerusalem Post, it was the first visit since 2007 by an Egyptian foreign minister and showed Sisi’s attempts to become a central player in diplomacy in Jerusalem. Shoukry spent time with Netanyahu at his office and then later at his home. There is no doubt this is an important step for Israel and Egypt, but to what end? Coming on the heels of the reconciliation with Turkey and Netanyahu’s trip to Africa, one gets the impression Israel has emerged from its diplomatic slumber of the past six years. This isn’t coincidental. Turkey has also reconciled with Egypt. That illustrates not just a return to pre-Arab Spring normalcy, but a realization that the terrorist-chaos in Iraq and Syria is the real problem. Shoukry said the extremism is an “existential threat to peoples of the region.”

Cairo has traditionally been one of the main centers of culture and influence in the region, alongside Damascus and Baghdad. The wars in Syria and Iraq have virtually destroyed Baghdad and Damascus’ influence, which leaves Egypt in an excellent position. Egypt has also largely stayed out of the sectarian Sunni-Shi’ite conflicts, unlike Saudi Arabia and Iran whose regimes are ruled by clerics. This puts Egypt in a special position, and its connection to Israel is important. The problem is that there is more than an impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace issue. With Hamas in power in Gaza, and a lack of a clear solution to the Palestinian yearning for a full-fledged state, only incremental peace issues can move forward, such as improving the Palestinian economy or freedom of movement. A greater Egyptian role in the PA-controlled areas and an emphasis on stability will be good for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is now in his 80s. The return of Egypt to its role with Israel also shows the irrelevance of the Western powers and the need for greater regional diplomacy.                                    




HAMAS AND EGYPT MAKE AMENDS?                                                                        

Oren Kessler & Grant Rumley                                                                                      

Foundation for Defense of Democracies, June 21, 2016


A steady stream of reports in recent weeks has suggested that Egypt is burying the hatchet with Hamas. The Washington Post saw an “unlikely alliance” between the two, Al-Monitor floated the prospect of “reconciliation,” and Haaretz suggested that Cairo is offering the group “another chance.” In short, the reports suggest the two sides are setting aside decades of animosity to confront the shared threat posed by Sinai Province, the affiliate of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Sinai Peninsula. If it sounds like a stretch, it’s because it is.


The first notions of a budding Egypt–Hamas rapprochement appeared in March, when Cairo welcomed a rare delegation of Hamas political figures from the Gaza Strip, which the group controls. Egypt also reportedly began tamping down on anti-Hamas rhetoric in official media. The following month, Hamas deployed forces to Gaza’s border with Egypt in a bid to show Cairo that it is serious about stopping smuggling of arms to Sinai Peninsula fighters.


Egypt and Hamas have a long and acrimonious history, and contrary to reports of an imminent rapprochement, their relationship remains icy. Hamas has fostered a black-market tunnel economy in Gaza for nearly a decade, ever since Egypt and Israel blockaded the Strip after Hamas seized power there in 2007. That smuggling network, in turn, has simultaneously enriched and armed Sinai Province, whose insurgency has killed hundreds of Egyptian servicemen since the 2011 ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Since the military’s 2013 ouster of Mubarak’s Islamist successor, Mohamed Morsi, the military has waged a fierce campaign against the tunnels, destroying as many as 2,000 and creating a half-mile long “buffer zone” between Israel and Egypt. In this case, “buffer zone” is a euphemism for razing thousands of homes to make life difficult for would-be smugglers. In talks to end Israel’s 2014 war with Hamas, it was Cairo that took the strongest position against allowing Hamas to build a seaport to Gaza or easing the blockade on the Strip.


Moreover, Hamas is an acknowledged offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian army’s decades-long nemesis, which it removed from power along with Morsi before jailing tens of thousands of its members. Egyptian officials have described the Brotherhood as the “mother” of all other extremist groups, and tend to view ISIS, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood as three heads of the same terrorist beast. Cairo labels Hamas’ military wing a terrorist organization, and has accused it, in league with the Muslim Brotherhood, of the June 2015 assassination of its top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.


One of the deepest veins of Egypt-Hamas tension is the latter’s relationship with Sinai Province. It is true that Hamas and ISIS have significant ideological differences. ISIS has declared Hamas an apostate group and has denounced its Brotherhood parent group for engaging in the political process rather than joining the global jihad. For its part, Hamas has slammed ISIS for distorting Islam, as when the group beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians last year on a Libyan beach.


Squeezed by Egypt on one side and Israel on the other, Hamas has striven to persuade Cairo that it means no harm.Still, the two groups have previously shown themselves willing to set aside ideology for the sake of their own financial and strategic gain. Hamas might well view ISIS as a threat to its rule in Gaza (Hamas forces regularly clamp down on Salafi preachers in the enclave), but it has no qualms about supporting ISIS’ efforts against the Egyptian military in Sinai. Indeed, if there is any rapprochement occurring across the Egypt-Gaza frontier, it is between Hamas and Sinai Province. 


Both Egyptian and Israeli officials have cited intelligence that the two groups are growing close.  Arms smuggling has diminished in recent months—a result of Egypt’s relentless campaign against Hamas’ tunnels—but otherwise, the relationship between Hamas and Sinai Province is business as usual. Hamas has provided medical care to dozens of Sinai Province fighters in Gaza over the last ten months, and a number of former Hamas activists have found their way into the peninsula to join the ISIS affiliate. All of this proceeds under the watchful eye of Hamas’ military wing.


Hamas’ political leaders have refused to weigh in on the extent to which they support Sinai Province, thus allowing the military wing to handle the relationship (including by transferring anti-tank missiles) with almost full autonomy. Still, Hamas is playing with fire: the more it treats wounded ISIS fighters or hosts high-level ISIS commanders, the more support for the jihadist group is likely to rise within Hamas’ ranks. It will also face increased pressure from Egypt, which has responded to Hamas’ growing collusion with ISIS by clamping down on transit points between Gaza and Sinai. For example, Cairo has kept Rafah Crossing—Gaza’s one official entrance point to Egypt—largely closed this year, opening it for just six days over the past three months.


Squeezed by Egypt on one side and Israel on the other, Hamas has striven to persuade Cairo that it means no harm. Last month, Hamas officials claimed that the group had saved Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi from a plot hatched by the rival Palestinian movement Fatah (a bizarre claim given Egypt’s closeness to the latter). More recently, Hamas has doubled down on its insistence that its struggle is limited to fighting Israel, and has “nothing to do with Egypt.” Beyond the talking points, however, old enmities die hard. Egypt and Hamas continue to have fundamentally divergent interests, ones that don’t lend themselves to quick fixes. With mutual animosity running this deep, rumors of any reconciliation between Egypt and Hamas are just that.                                                            



ISIS COMES TO GAZA                                            

Khaled Abu Toameh

                                                  Gatestone Institute, July 11, 2016


Hamas denies it up and down. Nonetheless, there are growing signs that the Islamist movement, which is based in the Gaza Strip, is continuing to cooperate with other jihadi terror groups that are affiliated with Islamic State (ISIS), especially those that have been operating in the Egyptian peninsula of Sinai in recent years.


This cooperation, according to Palestinian Authority security sources, is the main reason behind the ongoing tensions between the Egyptian authorities and Hamas. These tensions have prompted the Egyptians to keep the Rafah border crossing mostly closed since 2013, trapping tens of thousands of Palestinians inside the Gaza Strip.


In 2015, the Egyptians opened the Rafah terminal for a total of twenty-one days to allow humanitarian cases and those holding foreign nationalities to leave or enter the Gaza Strip. This year so far, Rafah has been open for a total of twenty-eight days. Sources in the Gaza Strip say there are about 30,000 humanitarian cases that need to leave immediately. They include dozens of university students who haven't been able to go back to their universities abroad and some 4,000 patients in need of urgent medical treatment.


Surprisingly, last week the Egyptians opened the Rafah terminal for five days in a row, allowing more than 4,500 Palestinians to leave and enter the Gaza Strip. The unusual gesture came on the eve of the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr. However, the terminal was closed again at the beginning of the feast on July 6.


The renewed closure of the Rafah terminal coincided with reports that efforts to end the tensions between Hamas and Egypt hit a snag. According to the reports, the Egyptian authorities decided to cancel a planned visit to Cairo by senior Hamas officials. The decision to cancel the visit, the reports said, came in the wake of the dissatisfaction of the Egyptians with the way Hamas has been handling security along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The closure of the border crossing came as a blow to Hamas's efforts to patch up its differences with Egypt and pave the way for easing severe travel restrictions imposed by Cairo on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.


In recent weeks, Hamas announced that it had deployed hundreds of its border guards along the shared border with Egypt in order to prevent infiltration both ways, especially of jihadi terrorists who have been targeting Egyptian security personnel and civilians in Sinai. However, the Egyptian authorities remain extremely skeptical about Hamas's measures. Egyptian security officials are convinced that Hamas is not serious about preventing jihadi terrorists from crossing the border in either direction. Moreover, the Egyptians suspect that Hamas maintains close relations with some of the ISIS-affiliated groups in Sinai, and is providing them with weapons and medical treatment.


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has refused to conduct high-level contacts with Hamas since he came to power in 2013. His regime views Hamas as a threat to Egypt's national security. The few meetings that did take place between the two sides were restricted to security issues; that was why Sisi entrusted his General Intelligence officials to conduct the discussions with the leaders of the Islamist movement who visited Cairo in the past months. Apparently, the Egyptian skepticism towards Hamas is not unjustified.


In recent weeks, reports have surfaced that leave no doubt as to cooperation between Hamas and ISIS groups in Sinai. These reports, the Egyptians and Palestinian Authority argue, provide further evidence that the Gaza Strip remains a major base for various jihadi terror groups that pose a real threat not only to Egypt's national security, but also to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, as well as neighboring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. Reports have also emerged that some of the jihadi terrorists in Sinai have been receiving medical treatment in hospitals in the Gaza Strip, with the approval of Hamas. The terrorists, who are wanted by the Egyptian authorities, are believed to have entered the Gaza Strip through smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt.


According to one report, one of the terrorist leaders from Sinai, Abu Sweilem, was documented lying in bed at the Abu Yusef al-Najjar Hospital in the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. The report said that Abu Sweilem was hospitalized under the heavy guard of members of Hamas's armed wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam. It said that he, and other terrorists wanted by the Egyptian authorities, were admitted to the Gaza Strip hospital in return for weapons given to Hamas by the Islamic State in Sinai, which is known as Wilayat Sina'…

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



TRANSITIONING TO A NEW MIDDLE EAST                                                               

Ted Belman                                                                                                

Arutz Sheva, July 11, 2016


The Obama era opened with his Cairo speech, in which he embraced Muslims in general and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. He planned to depose the secular dictators and replace them with the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus Qaddafi, Mubarak and Assad were marked for removal in that order. The EU was on board.


After supporting the takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood headed by Mohamed Morsi, he backed the takeover of Syria by the Muslim Brotherhood in collaboration with the newly Islamist Turkey, headed by Recep Tayyid Erdogan, extolling him as his best friend. Simultaneously, beginning in 2009, he reached out to Iran.  He wanted to embrace it as an ally rather than to designate it as an enemy. His efforts culminated in the disastrous Iran Deal which provided a tail wind to Iran’s hegemonic ambitions. He overlooked the fact that Iran was a long standing ally of Assad’s and was fighting to resist his removal which was Obama’s stated goal.


Obama’s reach exceeded his grasp. Libya, sans Qaddafi, is in chaos. The Egyptian military under Gen al Sisi is in power. He indicted Morsi for treason and banned the Muslim Brotherhood again. Obama called this takeover of power a coup, thus preventing the US from supporting him. Russia and Saudi Arabia have moved in to take up some of the slack. Even though Turkey, the Gulf States and the Muslim Brotherhood shared his goal of removing Assad, they have not succeeded due entirely to Obama’s lack of leadership and unwillingness to fight.


His removal of the last of the US military forces in Iraq and his willingness to have Iran manage Iraq gave rise to ISIS. At first, Turkey and the Gulf states supported ISIS which was Sunni and was seen as a proxy to stop Iran expansionism and topple Assad. The US over time began to see ISIS as a bigger threat than Assad and started to support the Kurds, whom they originally shunned, so that they would fight ISIS. They did this even though Turkey was adamantly opposed.


Obama announced that if Assad used chemical weapons, that he would be crossing America’s red line. Rather than enforce that red line, he seized on a lifeline that Russia offered, namely, to work to remove the chemical weapons with the cooperation of Assad. This was a major turning point in the war as Russia proceeded to take on a greater role in the fighting with America’s blessings thereby enabling Syria to stabilize and go on the offensive.  Russia was not so much interested in defeating ISIS as they were in stabilizing Assad and taking back some territory.


Meanwhile Obama’s plan to have the Muslim Brotherhood with the backing of Turkey, replace Assad, is no longer operative. The Muslim Brotherhood as a player in Syria is no longer discussed, let alone active. Turkey, which started out with grandiose ambitions to recreate the Ottoman Empire and to assume the mantel of Sunni leadership, has abandoned such ambitions and is working to contain the self-inflicted damage its policies have caused.


Erdogan’s embrace of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood has strained relations with Egypt where they are banned and actively fought.  Egypt is also partnering with Israel to neutralize and contain Hamas in Gaza and all insurgents in Sinai. His bellicose statements and actions regarding Cyprus have resulted in new alliance between it and Israel based on their mutual interest in defending and developing their new found gas reserves. Greece too has joined that alliance. Erdogan has enraged the Russian bear by shooting down one of its fighter planes. As a result Russia has imposed sanctions on Turkey and is supporting the Kurds who are an anathema to Turkey…


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




On Topic Links


5 Years of ISIS Terror on Israel’s Southern Border: IDF Blog, June 20, 2015 —Israel’s border with Egypt has long been volatile, with terror groups shaking the stability in Northern Sinai. Our newest threat in the region is an offshoot of a deadly international terror organization: ISIS in the Sinai.

What Next, Egypt’s Sissi Speaking in the Knesset? Well, Maybe: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, July 11, 2015—In the three years since Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took control of Egypt, relations have been steadily warming between Jerusalem and Cairo.

With Egypt’s Blessing, Israel Conducting Drone Strikes in Sinai — Report: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, July 11, 2016—Israel has carried out drone strikes against terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula in recent years, according to a Bloomberg news report Monday that quoted an unnamed former senior official.

Another Golden Era in Israel-Africa Relations: Boaz Bismuth, Israel Hayom, July 4, 2016—Sixteen years ago, The Economist ran a cover story called "Hopeless Africa." Back then, even the most passionate Africa-philes were pessimists.








Between Paris and Cairo: Balancing Security and Diplomacy: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, May 31, 2016— The loss of EgyptAir 804 on its way from Paris to Cairo – suspected to be an act of terror – happened to coincide with efforts by both France and Egypt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Netanyahu and the Peace Charade: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, May 31, 2016— Israel’s critics lambast its government as incorrigibly right wing and unwilling to advance the peace process.

The 'Peace Processors' are Back: Richard Baehr, Israel Hayom, May 26, 2016— There are certain things those who "know and understand the world" purport to know and understand.

For Middle East Peace, Look to Israel’s Arab Partners: John Hannah, Foreign Policy, May 16, 2016— Speculation is rife that President Barack Obama will make one final stab at putting his mark on the Middle East peace process before he leaves office.


On Topic Links


French Summit on Middle East Peace: Five Reasons Not to Expect Much: Aaron David Miller, Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2016

In Surprise Move, Netanyahu Says He’s Ready to Negotiate Based on Saudi Peace Initiative: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2016

Why Israel Should Not Adopt Unilateral Initiatives: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, June 1, 2016

Peace: A Deceptive, Dictatorial Word: Martin Sherman, Israel Hayom, May 20, 2016




BETWEEN PARIS AND CAIRO: BALANCING SECURITY AND DIPLOMACY                                                         

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman                                                                                         

BESA, May 31, 2016  


The loss of EgyptAir 804 on its way from Paris to Cairo – suspected to be an act of terror – happened to coincide with efforts by both France and Egypt to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. No causal connection should be imputed. But for both countries, their perceptions of broad regional security considerations play a significant role in driving their diplomatic initiatives. That insight should, and apparently does, inform Israeli policy responses.


Policymakers in Israel have ample reason to be apprehensive about French peace initiatives. For many reasons, most notably the pressure exerted by a large and vocal Muslim minority, French leaders have shown themselves ever more eager to endorse schemes in support of Palestinian demands. At moments of crisis, such as the internal EU debates during the Gaza fighting in 2014, it was France that took the lead in driving through to EU endorsement a position on permanent status that reflected Arab demands on borders, Jerusalem, and the interpretation of UN resolutions. This drive to impose "parameters" is inimical to Israeli interests.


France is planning to convene a conference on the Middle East peace process in Paris on June 3, to be attended by assorted international and regional players – though not by the protagonists themselves. Israeli reactions to this initiative have been subdued, and recent visits to Jerusalem by the French prime minister and foreign minister were amicable. To account for this, it is necessary to take a broader look at regional dynamics and at French policy responses, which tend to align closely with Israeli positions on the issue that truly matters: the need to face up to the threat posed by radical Islamist totalitarianism.


On more than one occasion, French positions and actions on this subject have been more reassuring from an Israeli point of view than those of our American ally. For example, France served as the hard-line anchor of the P5+1 (or, as they prefer to count it, the E3+3). It was France that raised questions about reliability and implementation (even as it was French business interests that were among the first to bang on Tehran's doors). In terms of action against Islamist terror groups, French forces have done more than most, including a dramatic campaign in Mali. Equally important is the French reluctance to buy into the illusion that the Muslim Brotherhood could be a stabilizing partner, as well as the ongoing relationship between France and the current regime in Egypt.


It is against this background that Israeli leadership has taken a cautious line in response to the French peace initiative. Israel did make the point repeatedly that the French initiative would prove counterproductive, insofar as it would move Palestinian leadership even further away from compromise at the negotiating table. But the point was not made aggressively, and French motives and friendship with Israel were never subject to question. The tempered Israeli response reflects, above all the importance of broader regional imperatives in Israel's current diplomatic calculations.


The same applies to Egypt, which on May 28 led the Arab League in endorsing the French initiative. From an Israeli perspective, there is little in recent history to commend Egyptian intervention in the Palestinian negotiations. Citing their "expertise" (khibra) in diplomacy with Israel, Egyptians have all too often helped harden Palestinian positions and demands. Egypt’s role in the last territorial adjustment, the Hebron Agreement of 1997, was so problematic that King Hussein of Jordan had to be pulled in to mitigate the consequences of its involvement.


However times change. The regional realities in 2016 have generated a very different relationship between Israel and Egypt. The countries both face the same threats to their security – Iran, IS, and the Muslim Brotherhood – even if the Egyptian order of priorities is the reverse of the Israeli. The level of security cooperation is unprecedented, and President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi has said so explicitly to foreign visitors. Energetic cooperation, including economic, is within reach, particularly in view of the easing of friction following the December 2015 release of Israeli Beduin Odeh Tarabin after a long and unjustified incarceration. Egyptian forces have acted vigorously in Sinai and have executed a systematic campaign to eradicate the tunnel system supplying Gaza, operating well above treaty specifications and with Israel’s explicit consent. Those forces have become an important part of Israel's security equation in the south.


In this context, it is easier to understand why Egypt's recent forays into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process have been greeted warmly by Israel. Sisi went so far, in a speech on May 17, as to openly intervene in Israeli politics, calling (upon request?) for the center-left to join a broad unity government. This move generated a strikingly positive response in Jerusalem. In explaining the choices he made in his recent cabinet reshuffle, Netanyahu spoke of intensive efforts underway for some time to revive peace efforts with the help of key regional players. This was a thinly veiled reference to Sisi, and probably also to the Saudis, whose close association with Sisi was recently cemented by the Egyptian decision to return the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi sovereignty.


In short, the measured Israeli reaction to the latest flurry of diplomatic activity reflects its security imperatives, as well as its newly discovered sense of being a significant regional player rather than a besieged small state in a hostile sea.


As to the forthcoming peace conference, there is little reason to be sanguine. As expected, Palestinian positions have been hardening in response to the diplomatic effort (and to what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas views as cleavages within Israeli society, as his latest speech at the Arab League indicates). The concept of compromise, raised once again by John Kerry in recent weeks, remains alien to Abbas’s negotiating posture. Hence, Abbas’ rejection of any recognition of Israel's identity as the embodiment of the right of the Jewish people to self-determination, and of any interim step short of "a Palestinian state on all of the land taken in 1967 with its capital in Jerusalem"…

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




NETANYAHU AND THE PEACE CHARADE                                                                                     

Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                                                 

Commentary, May 31, 2016



Israel’s critics lambast its government as incorrigibly right wing and unwilling to advance the peace process. Those criticisms grew shriller in the last week after Prime Minister Netanyahu expanded his coalition by bringing in the Yisrael Beitenu Party and making its leader Avigdor Lieberman minister of defense. But on Monday, the same Netanyahu who embraced a two-state solution and expressed willingness to give up most of the West Bank as part of a negotiated agreement, took one step further to try and make clear that Israel is serious about peace. Netanyahu did what no other Israeli leader has done by saying he was willing to negotiate the terms of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative first suggested by Saudi Arabia and embraced by the Arab League.


After swearing Lieberman into his new office, Netanyahu said the following: “I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors. The Arab peace initiative includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians. We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative so that it reflects the dramatic changes in the region since 2002, but maintains the agreed goal of two states for two peoples.”


Though left-wingers and pundits have embraced the Saudi proposal as a real breakthrough for peace, there were good reasons why Israel did not rush to embrace an idea that included recognition of Israel and an end to the conflict. The Saudis presented it as a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. Its terms required Israel to give up every inch of land it won in 1967, including Jerusalem. It also said that peace must also include a “just” and “agreed upon” solution to the question of Palestinian refugees, a poison pill that is equivalent to calling for an end to Israel as a Jewish state that seemed incompatible with the notion that its sponsors were truly prepared to live in peace. It was later adjusted to imply the possibility of some territorial swaps, but the refugee clause remains problematic because the only “just” solution to that problem in the eyes of the refugees and the Muslim world is a “right of return” that means the elimination of Israel. Many in the peace process crowd continue to ignore the fact that a nearly equal number of Jewish refugees from Arab and Muslim countries were forced to flee their homes after 1948.


In spite of all that, Netanyahu has just said he’s willing to talk about it and, provided that it be changed to reflect certain obvious problems, such as the refugees and the sheer impossibility of giving the Golan Heights back to a Syria wracked by civil war and the rise of ISIS, it could even serve as the starting point for negotiations. But in spite of that, do you think Netanyahu will get any credit for this? Will the Palestinians leap at his suggestion? Will the United States, the Diplomatic Quartet or Western European nations like France, which are so interested in starting their own peace process, start devoting their efforts to following up on this opening? Of course not.


The international community is heading to Paris later this week to hold a conference at which they’ll discuss ways to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority was invited. The Palestinians are happy about that because their sole object isn’t peace, let alone statehood, but rather avoiding direct negotiations with the Israelis, even with a third party involved. That’s because they know that in such talks, they’ll sooner or later be required to either accept a peace offer or reject it and once again alert the world to their inability to end the conflict. The PA rejected offers that would have given them statehood, including possession of almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem three times (2000, 2001, and 2008) and refused to negotiate seriously with Israel in 2014 when Secretary of State John Kerry restarted talks. They far prefer diplomatic exercises such as the one promoted by the French because it diverts attention from their intransigence and heightens Israel’s diplomatic isolation without actually bringing a peace that they don’t want any closer.


Given that even Palestinian “moderates” such as PA leader Mahmoud Abbas have made it clear they won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn and regard all of Israel as “occupied” territory, it’s not clear what new initiatives will accomplish. But in the face of growing international pressure, Netanyahu has demonstrated, as did his predecessors, that Israel is still willing to negotiate and to contemplate painful decisions that involve risk. But don’t expect him the administration or the Europeans to take the prime minister up on his proposal, let alone to prod the Palestinians to negotiate directly with Israel.


Nearly 23 years after Israel began taking grave risks for peace with the signing of the Oslo Accords, “progress” toward an agreement has only been measured in one currency: Israeli concessions. At no point, has the international community come to grips with the grim fact that Palestinian national identity is inextricably tied to the war they have been waging on Zionism for a century. If pressure is needed, it should be on the Palestinians to finally take the “yes” for an answer they’ve been offered for several decades…    

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



THE 'PEACE PROCESSORS' ARE BACK                                                                                  

Richard Baehr                                                                                                     

Israel Hayom, May 26, 2016


There are certain things those who "know and understand the world" purport to know and understand. These things are the seeds for most opinion journalism and "news" reporting in the current era. The perils of climate change are certainly near the top for the informed commentariat, despite the fact that most people, certainly most Americans, rate this a virtual nonissue, not even among their top 10 issues of concern. The planet may have experienced an average temperature increase of one degree centigrade or less over the last 165 years since the start of the industrial revolution. But supposedly, according to the media, catastrophe is at hand.


The need for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is another one of those "big" stories that are never far from the news lead, on which the groupthink consensus is never challenged. This week, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman managed in one column to repeat pretty much every accepted wisdom about Israel today that counts as opinion journalism among the "well informed." This is no particular achievement for Friedman, who has been recycling his columns on Israel for decades, always with the same sage advice for Israel, a country he is trying to save from itself.


According to Friedman, the government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is destroying Israel by building settlements in the West Bank and by including ministers who happen to represent segments of the population that agree with Netanyahu on security issues. Netanyahu has shifted Israel hard to the right and is thereby closing off chances for peace with the Palestinians, Friedman claims. In time, he adds, the window to achieve a two-state solution will close (as it has presumably closed after every prior unsuccessful peace processing period, until it reopened with the next one).


Then, Friedman issues the only news in his column: a "threat" that The New York Times may soon begin calling Israel the state of "Israel-Palestine." Horror of horrors, this would be as brave and earth shattering for the paper of record as refusing to call the Washington football team (the Redskins) by its name, as many "brave " journalists posing as social justice warriors have chosen to do or not do, despite a recent survey suggesting that 90% of native Americans surveyed on the matter could not care less about the name of the team, and were not "insulted" by it in any case. The timing of Friedman's column is not accidental. These days, the periodic push to secure a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is back on the agenda for those with nothing better to do and those too lazy to think of something new to write about. We are in the midst of rerun season and the end result of the latest peace process will be no different than all the prior failed efforts. That should come as no surprise considering that this effort involves all the same players raising all the same solutions.


In the United States, the election this year will yield a new president. Those in the know want to "help" the new president with a plan for achieving a two-state solution. So a new document is in the works from leaders of the Jewish establishment. The new working group will produce a plan that will presumably tell the new president what he or she does not already know, or in any case lay out steps to be taken that will finally achieve what all other processors have failed to accomplish before them. Obviously, the authors of the plan have Hillary Clinton in mind and not Donald Trump, since none of the members of the new group have any interest in talking to Trump, but many want to influence or secure a job with a restored Clinton administration. There is enormous narcissism involved in such an effort, which pretends to have come up with something new while doing nothing more than rehashing the old bromides from the Saudi peace plan or the Geneva conference document from 2003.


The problem with the new approach, described as a "rare show of independence," is that for over two decades, the parameters of the two-state solution have never been a mystery for these informed Jewish community leaders or their media sidekicks. They were known to left-of-center Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, and to American presidents including Bill Clinton and the two Bushes, and all others who profess to care deeply about protecting Israel's security while securing Palestinian rights and sovereignty. Israel needs to pull all its settlers out from beyond the separation fence, and offer land to the Palestinians of equal quality to what Israel would retain beyond the Green Line. Jerusalem should be an open, shared city and become a capital of two nations.


It is easy enough to write, but it may be a bit more complicated to work out the details. How will the two sides address the problem of knife-wielding terrorists trying to kill Jews in the holy city? So-called refugees would return to a Palestinian state, with a very limited right to return to Israel. Compensation would be paid for their losses, presumably by the flush Western Europeans and the Americans. The new Palestinian state would not be armed. The deal that achieves a two-state solution would call for an end to all future claims by either party. The chances of Palestinians ever agreeing to these points regarding refugees, weapons, and ending the conflict, is of course zero. The history of peacemaking between the two parties is that the Palestinians have never gotten to a yes that requires them to forgo future demands or accept that there is no right of return, or that Israel is a Jewish state. Bill Clinton could advise his wife about this…

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




FOR MIDDLE EAST PEACE, LOOK TO ISRAEL’S ARAB PARTNERS                                                 

John Hannah                                                                                                              

Foreign Policy, May 16, 2016


Speculation is rife that President Barack Obama will make one final stab at putting his mark on the Middle East peace process before he leaves office. One theory has the administration supporting a United Nations Security Council resolution that would codify terms for a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Another has Obama going it alone, delivering a high-profile speech setting out “Obama parameters” for a two-state solution.


But if Obama has anything more in mind than adding another shiny exhibit to his presidential library, he’d be wise to forego either option. Neither stands much chance of actually advancing the cause of regional peace and stability. On the contrary, they’re more likely to set it back. Instead, the president would be better advised to apply the powers of his office to a slightly more promising — albeit less headline-grabbing — effort, where his engagement might really have strategic impact. I’m talking about facilitating the burgeoning relations between Israel and America’s most important Arab friends.


It’s virtually impossible to imagine Israel and the Palestinians conducting fruitful negotiations under the current circumstances. Mistrust is at an all-time high. Gaps on the core issues are wide. Talks have been in deep freeze for over two years. For months on end, young Palestinians have targeted innocent Israelis in a wave of random stabbings. The Palestinian leadership, in particular, seems weaker, more divided, and more paralyzed than ever, utterly incapable of taking on the gut-wrenching compromises that even the most generous peace offer would require. Secretary of State John Kerry devoted his first year at Foggy Bottom to a dubious, but nevertheless Herculean effort to force-feed a deal to the parties, and failed miserably. There’s no reason whatsoever to believe that the chances for success would be any better today.


Even Obama has acknowledged that renewed negotiations, much less a peace agreement, aren’t in the cards before he leaves office. So why even toy with the idea of a big initiative that would have him — or worse yet, the U.N. — dictating terms of a settlement from on high? Advocates suggest that Obama’s purpose would be to leave his successor with the issue on a more promising or hopeful trajectory than the current unsatisfying deadlock. But given Israel’s historical objection to any outside effort to impose a solution, the more likely result is that the next president would inherit a relationship even worse than what we have today with our best Middle East ally. As for the Palestinians, if outside intervention to impose a deal rewards their refusal to negotiate, what incentive would they have to return to the table, rather than merely sit back and wait for even greater international pressure to be brought on Israel? What exactly would be more positive or hopeful about any of that from a U.S. perspective?


Truth be told, the more likely impetus for any last-minute grand gesture by the president on the peace process seems more personal than strategic in nature. Within days of taking office, Obama signaled that a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict was among his highest priorities, the deus ex machina that would right everything wrong about America’s relations with the Muslim world. Yet for more than seven years, his lofty ambitions on this front have been frustrated at every turn — as often as not, in Obama’s eyes, by the failure of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to appreciate the deep wisdom of the White House’s transformative agenda for the Middle East. The president’s credibility on Israel-Palestine is in tatters. A high-profile declaration as he prepares to leave office would offer Obama at least the possibility that his legacy on the issue could be something other than a dreary litany of failure and futility. Better his sentence in the history books read “the Obama Parameters for Peace,” than some version of “all hat, no cattle.” And if in the process he can stick it to Netanyahu and defy the Washington foreign policy establishment (aka, the Blob) one last time, well, so much the better. Mic drop moment. Obama out…                                     

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




On Topic Links


French Summit on Middle East Peace: Five Reasons Not to Expect Much: Aaron David Miller, Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2016—After 20-plus years of planning mostly failed Middle East peace conferences for Republican and Democratic administrations, I know a fatally flawed one when I see it.

In Surprise Move, Netanyahu Says He’s Ready to Negotiate Based on Saudi Peace Initiative: Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2016—Israel is prepared to hold peace talks based on the Arab Peace Initiative, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprisingly declared Monday just moments after new Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman took the oath of office, ending a month-long saga over which party would join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Why Israel Should Not Adopt Unilateral Initiatives: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, June 1, 2016—With respect to the Palestinians, the current situation can be described as stagnation clouded by terrorism: In 2002 it was Palestinian suicide bombers, and in 2016 they introduced terrorism at knife-point.

Peace: A Deceptive, Dictatorial Word: Martin Sherman, Israel Hayom, May 20, 2016—After a long absence, "peace" is back in the headlines, due in large measure to this week's visit to Israel by French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who came to try to promote a new French initiative that somehow, by as yet unspecified means, would resuscitate the moribund "peace process."