An overwhelming majority of Egyptians support replacing US economic aid with funds from Iran or Turkey, according to new poll results, while the proportion of those viewing the treaty with Israel as positive has remained steady at just under half.
Eighty-two percent of Egyptians questioned opposed US economic aid to Egypt – according to figures released this weekend by the US-based Gallup polling organization – up from 71% in December 2011 and 52% last April.
The latest figures, released in 2010, show US assistance to Egypt at $1.7 billion – the fifth-highest foreign aid package after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel and Iraq. Still, $1.3 billion of that sum is earmarked for military purposes, and Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has given no indication it intends to cut its portion of Washington’s package.
Egyptians’ attitudes toward US aid appear to have soured at the same time as American and European NGO employees faced charges of illegally accepting foreign funds and stirring unrest. The military council closed the NGOs in December, but subsequently allowed US authorities to post bail for the 16 Americans involved and help them leave the country.
Still, the NGO saga continues to stir strong emotions among ordinary citizens in Egypt, and the country’s parliamentary speaker – representing the Muslim Brotherhood – has called for an investigation into how the decision to remove the travel ban was issued.
A Gallup poll released last month found 56% of Egyptians view closer relations with the US as bad for their country, up from 40% in December of last year. Just over a quarter say closer relations with Washington are a positive thing, compared with 41% who favor closer ties with Iran and 60% with Turkey.
Turkey has been one of the biggest winners of the Arab revolts, as people around the Muslim world look to its ruling Justice and Development Party as a model for combining Islamic values with economic growth (the number of Egyptians expressing approval for the Ankara government grew 22% since April 2011 to 37%).
US President Barack Obama has made rapprochement with the Muslim world one of his signature foreign policy objectives, making a well-publicized address in Cairo in June 2009 and calling for the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak – a key US ally for three decades – just days into the popular uprising against him in February 2011.
Still, the latest results indicate only 19% of Egyptians express approval of US government policy, while 65% disapprove and the rest are undecided.
The number of Egyptians who view the peace treaty with Israel as a good thing remained largely steady since 10 months ago at just under half, while 42% said it was bad and the rest were undecided.
On the whole, Egyptians said they view their country as a rising power on the world stage. Nearly eight in 10 Egyptians expect the country’s geopolitical position to improve due to Mubarak’s resignation, around the same figure as in the immediate aftermath of the longtime president’s ouster.
Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh – a presidential contender and ex-Brotherhood leader who left the group after it said it wouldn’t field a candidate – told Egyptian TV last month that as president, he would not maintain relations with anyone who “harms the relations of Egypt.”
Asked it he would recognize Israel, he said, “I have not recognized Israel to this day, and will not recognize Israel... But my refusal to recognize Israel does not mean, in any way, that I will impose my view upon the Egyptian parliament or Egyptian people, or that I will impose what I believe in at the expense of Egypt’s interests.”