The news in Israel this past week has been dominated by just one story– and that is the story of Egypt. The rapid fall of Mohammed Morsi has captivated the center of news. At first, Israeli commentators could not believe what they were seeing. From the moment the Egyptian army issued their ultimatum it was clear there could be only one outcome.
Watching the various reactions to the shocking transformations in Egypt have been strange and enlightening. Over the past year I have used twitter as a source of firsthand accounts of the news. Over the course of the past few months I have significantly increased the number of Egyptians I have been following. As a result, while sitting in my apartment in Tel Aviv, I often felt I had a minute-by-minute account of events in Cairo. The events in Egypt this past week have been historic and could have long-term implications for the future of the entire Middle East. The end of the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has profound implications– implications that are even more significant than its rise to power. First, and foremost, this popular uprising represents the first significant setback the Muslim Brotherhood organization has suffered in recent years. The Egyptian people have answered a resounding “NO” to the Brotherhood’s sales pitch that only an Islamic government could solve the problems of the country. The Egyptian people answered that Islam was not the answer. The Egytian revolt represents a serious setback not only for the MB in Egypt, but also for their proxies in Gaza (i.e. the Hamas), and even for Erdowan in Turkey. Suddenly the rise of political Islam is not longer assured.
For Israel and the United States the developments in Egypt are particularly important. Despite whatever temporary modus vivendi Israel reached with the Morsi government– through the military– a long-term peace is very hard to maintain with religious-based rivals. America, who despite “the religious right” remains the epitome of secularism, will always be considered an enemy of political Islam. Therefore, the developments of the last week were particularly encouraging.
You would not have thought that anything positive transpired in Egypt—if you listened to American media and particularly if you heard sound bites posed by some of prominent politicians. Many called for cutting off American aid to Egypt, in response to what they called “a coup”. The reaction of President Obama and the American government was met with a combination of derision and disbelief from Tahrir Square. The Egyptian protesters even began a social media campaign to convince CNN to stop calling their actions a “coup”, rather, refer to it as a “revolt”. A revolution is what the masses that filled Tahrir Square believe they came out to achieve. What Egypt–and the world– need now is a massive program to solve the economic problems of Egypt.
With the Muslin Brotherhood no longer in power the world should rally around the new Egyptian government and ensure its success. This is a very tall order. When Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Accords there were 30 million Egyptians; today there are 80 million. I can’t forget what a very smart Israeli Journalist (whose expertise was the Arab world) said to me a year and a half ago– before the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. “ What scares me is not the Brotherhood coming to power, but rather, the image of millions of hungry Egyptians storming our borders looking for food and work. I cannot get that image out of my mind. I hope, but doubt, that our leaders (both in the U.S. and Israel) are thinking about that potential reality. Meanwhile, President Obama has been absent. To date, Obama has chosen to speak through 3rd level spokesman– saying little– while Egyptian liberals (who should be America’s natural allies) are furious at America, for its perceived support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
There are a number of other issues I could write about tonight- (e.g. “draft reform”– that is not, reforming our ports– that will have little effect on prices, and/or the changing of the political system that will bring no change.) However, I have gone on long enough for tonight.