How Will the Forced Exit of Egyptian President Morsi Affect Israel?
The stunning developments in Egypt, the most populous Arab country and Israel’s largest neighbor, have many wondering how the Jewish state will be affected.
With the ouster last week of the Muslim Brotherhood-aligned president, Mohamed Morsi, amid massive protests by much of the citizenry, the military has taken over and is set to select an interim president. (Egyptian media reported Sunday that the new frontrunner is Ziad Bahaa El-Din, a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, who is seen as a liberal.)
Egypt has been a nation in turmoil/transition since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring uprising of early 2011. While US President Barack Obama lauded the “revolution” and subsequent installation of the democratically chosen Morsi in the country’s first free elections, more critical thinkers realized that the rise to power of the Islamist, Israel/West-hating Muslim Brotherhood over the more moderate Mubarak was not great news.
Apparently, the Egyptian people agreed, although for different reasons. Choosing to focus on the implementation of Shari’a, or strict Islamic law, at the expense of the economy, Morsi and his Brothers allowed the country’s finances to fall into disarray – with the Egyptian currency losing more than a tenth of its value, leading to food and fuel shortages and ever-increasing unemployment.
Now, whatever the motivation, the rise of what is expected to be a more moderate regime is good news for Israel. While Morsi and his Brotherhood were hostile to the peace treaty established between Cairo and Jerusalem by Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, the new military-backed candidate is more likely to follow Mubarak’s old lead and maintain the “cold peace” with its Israeli neighbor that has been in place since 1979.
The new government will likely get straight to work on improving economic matters; accordingly, interim presidential candidate El-Din is viewed as someone whose focus will be on improving the slumping economy and propping up crooked government institutions. A more stable country on its borders with a more satisfied citizenry (numbering over 80 million!), as opposed to a warring nation plagued with unemployment, is definitely a positive development for Israel.
It’s hard to say whether the Egyptian events will impact Israel-Palestinian peace talks, which are again a hot topic thanks to the US. Washington is pushing Israel to take a seat opposite Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the negotiating table, but with the Arab world’s ever-evolving borders and regime changes – as witnessed over the past few years in Egypt, the ineffectiveness of the Arab League and the Hamas takeover of Gaza – who is to say that the PA is truly empowered to make peace on behalf of the Palestinians? Israel will not want to find itself in a situation where it makes hard concessions to a government that becomes irrelevant shortly thereafter.
As former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman said late last week, “Egypt is not just any country, and there can still be surprises.” Indeed, Brotherhood supporters protesting Morsi’s ejection clashed with the Egyptian army early Monday morning. The Brotherhood claimed 37 were killed, including 5 children, with more than 500 wounded.
The upshot? It is too soon to predict what will happen. Israel – along with the rest of the world – will just have to wait and see.