February 2, 2011 Mubarak Counter-Attacks- Barak is Under Fire

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

February 2, 2011 Mubarak Counter-Attacks- Barak is Under Fire

Well, I was surprised today together with every other observer of Egypt. The assumption I had been making, along with everyone else, was that if the military would not fire on the demonstrators it would be over for Mubarak. No one expected a counterattack by so-called supporters of Mubarak. In truth, none of us should have been surprised. The Egyptian security police number 2,000,000. I have no doubt that the "pro-Mubarak supporters" are mostly members of the security services. The attacks on the journalists were clearly coordinated.

The events of tomorrow will be key. It could turn into Egypt's Tiananmen Square moment– if the attacks on the protestors continue, and they are forced out of the square. However, if the protestors cannot be forced out of the square, it will be the end of the regime. Unfortunately, today's events will no doubt radicalize the opposition, making it even harder to bring about a peaceful transition.

I must say I am surprised by the astonishment shown by reporters to the fact the army had not stepped in to defend the anti–Mubarak demonstrators. It is one thing for the army to refuse to fire on the demonstrators, but it's quite another thing to passively stand aside and allow the deonstrators to be attacked.

Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech today in which he stated that Israel has nothing to fear from a democratic Egypt. Clearly the Israeli government has realized that even if it privately wishes for Mubarak to succeed in putting down the revolt, that was not a good place for Israel to be– The only western state seemingly rooting for Mubarak.

It seems that most Israelis shared my sheer disgust regarding the proposed appointment of an interim Chief of Staff. When they woke up this morning to the news that Barak refused to extend the current Chief of Staff's term by even a few days to allow for the nomination of a new Chief of Staff a firestorm developed. The news regarding filling the vacancy in the Chief of Staff position was only overshadowed by the images from Egypt. When Yair London asked Channel 10’s military correspondent the question: "There must have been some good reason for this (Barak's refusal to extend Ashkenazi's term as Chief of Staff) other than ego... After all, these are responsible people in charge of Israel’s defense." The Military correspondent's blunt answer was, that in his opinion, for the last year he did not think that had been the case.

Everyone agreed that the suggested appointee for the interim Chief position was a qualified General. However, the fact that until 3 months ago he had been retired for three years, and has never held any of the key roles that have traditionally been a prerequisite to becoming the Chief of Staff fanned the criticism of Barak's decision on all level, including with members of the government. As of tonight, the special meeting of the cabinet called for tomorrow to approve the appointment of an interim Chief has been postponed.

Thomas Friedman was supposed to be on sabbatical writing a new book, but I guess the fast pace of events convinced him to start writing again. Today's column is worth a read: BE. Before Egypt. A.E. After Egypt. My old friend Yossi Klien Halevi had the counnterpoint Israel, Alone Again?

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