While I’m not an expert on Egyptian politics, I can’t help speculate on what Pres. Morsi’s assumption of absolute powers may mean for his country’s relations with Israel and the U.S. Especially in light of the critical role he played in negotiating and jawboning Hamas for the ceasefire that ultimately ended the war, and the close working relationship he developed with Pres. Obama.
Morsi took power supposedly in order to avoid interference from a court system that was largely a holdover from the Mubarak era, and which supposedly overturned many efforts at reform since the Revolution. He promised that he would relinquish his powers once a new constitution was written. But history is littered with similar promises of those who went on to become tyrants. It’s instructive that many Egyptian liberals and human rights activists have excoriated Morsi’s move and find nothing redemptive or justified in it.
So let’s assume that Morsi does become an Egyptian strongman in the Mubarak mold, but with Muslim Brotherhood credentials. To be clear, I’m not presuming this WILL happen. Only what could be the result if it did. It seems that such a leader becomes even more of a danger to Israel than Morsi as leader of a constitutional government. Without checks and balances, he needs only to listen to his own constituency and they’re far less sympathetic to Israel than the average Egyptian.
Yes, he will still need to consider his relations with the U.S. and the foreign aid it dispenses. That will restrain him to a degree. So Egypt’s relations with Israel will remain a balancing act. But it seems to me that Egypt under a Morsi-strongman model becomes far more dangerous to Israel’s domination of the region. For example, it becomes possible to imagine that Egypt might fully open its border with Gaza and possibly permit arms to flow through it to Hamas. He could abrogate the Sinai Treaty or demand it be re-negotiated. Again, I’m not saying this will happen. But it could.
If Israel’s leaders were smart (which again, they aren’t) they’d recognize that the Middle East is becoming a more dangerous place for them by the day. Best to sue for peace and get the best deal possible before things get worse. Imagine for example, a Muslim Brotherhood style government coming to power in Syria. Then Israel moves from having two strongmen who it bought off in Egypt and Syria, to having hostile forces controlling two of the major frontline states. Jordan, which has been a bulwark of stability in relation to Israel is also facing upheaval with calls to replace King Abdullah. What about if Israel loses yet another Arab puppet ruler on its doorstep?
These are questions which, if any Israeli leader is contemplating, they’re certainly contemplating based on faulty assumptions which will permit further faulty judgments and policies in future. The tragedy of latter-day Israel.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.