A new direction for Egypt (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Alexander Bligh 05/31/12)
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The sun is setting over Egypt these days. The last rays of democratic
light — which shine more brightly there than in other Arab countries
(but are very far from Western standards) — are steadily fading away.
A long Islamic night is on the horizon, akin to the darkness in Iran.
A simple calculation of the estimated votes that went to the Islamist
candidates in the first round of the presidential election shows that
the old regime´s candidate, Ahmed Shafiq, doesn´t even have a chance
to "lose respectably."
Running opposite Shafiq in the second round of elections (to be held
June 16-17) is Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim radical who espouses Islamic
religious rule over Egypt. Only an utterly unexpected turn of events
could change the picture taking shape: By the end of June the head of
the largest and most important Arab country will be a radical Islamic
president. Radical Muslims, to varying degrees, also make up more
than two-thirds of the parliament at his side.
The developments in Egypt are a harbinger of bad things to come for
Israel and for Western interests in our region. Nevertheless, U.S.
President Barack Obama, in the midst of his own presidential election
campaign and proud of his administration´s decision to withdraw
troops from Iraq, can do nothing but respect the decision of the
Egyptian people and offer to work with the new regime, whatever it
turns out to be.
Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is displaying a sound
and cautious diplomatic policy, and will certainly continue to
publicly express its desire to maintain the 1979 peace agreement
between the two countries. Neither Israel nor the U.S. has an
interest in highlighting the risks involved in the rise of an Islamic
regime in Egypt.
Meanwhile, Egypt is already on the verge of becoming an economic
burden on the rest of world: By June 30 it must notify the
International Monetary Fund of its agreement to a number of austerity
measures in order to receive financial aid. It´s difficult to see how
the new government would agree to this.
Technically, the new president will not be able to formulate a new
economic plan in only two weeks. Fundamentally, the new government
will seek to emphasize the poverty issue and blame it on the ruling
military council, which it will say has continued Mubarak´s corrupt
Moreover, considering the economic conditions in Europe and the U.S.,
it is almost impossible to point to a potential source of foreign
economic aid, aside from the IMF and the World Bank. A lack of a
clear and comprehensive economic plan will only further exacerbate
Egypt´s financial problems, giving it a low credit rating and
creating problems when it comes to getting foreign loans.
At a time when economic pressure is felt at home, putting former
senior regime officials and military council leaders on trial could
be a short-term sedative for the masses on the street. After the
process of blaming past leaders is exhausted (or perhaps
simultaneously), the finger of blame will begin pointing toward
external targets such as Israel and the U.S.
Despite all this, we mustn´t err in thinking that, despite their
religious zeal, the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Egypt wouldn´t
recognize the steps necessary for their rule to be deemed legitimate
in the eyes of the international community. Islamic leaders used
technological innovations during the mid-1990s to propagate their
message of radical Islam, and were capable of identifying sources of
strength and weakness.
Therefore, it is hard to believe they would rush to tear the peace
agreement with Israel to shreds. On the other hand, they will likely
pressure the U.S. "to bring stability to the region" by agreeing to
change fundamental aspects of the treaty, until it is gradually empty
of any substance.
Any student of international relations knows that most of the world´s
revolutions since the French Revolution have ended in all-out war, at
most five years from the time the change took place. War unites
people around a new regime, which exploits conflict to demonstrate
how it differs from the old regime.
This is a lesson that Israel must fully internalize by the time the
second round of voting ends in Egypt.
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