Today, the Egyptian regime faces its gravest threat since Anwar Sadat’s assassination 30 years ago. As protesters take to the street for the third day in a row demanding the overthrow of 82-year-old President Hosni Mubarak, it is worth considering the possible alternatives to his regime.
On Thursday afternoon, presidential hopeful Mohamed El Baradei, the former head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, returned to Egypt from Vienna to participate in anti-regime demonstrations.
As IAEA head, Elbaradei shielded Iran’s nuclear weapons program from the Security Council.
He repeatedly ignored evidence indicating that Iran’s nuclear program
was a military program rather than a civilian energy program. When the
evidence became too glaring to ignore, Elbaradei continued to lobby
against significant UN Security Council sanctions or other actions
against Iran and obscenely equated Israel’s purported nuclear program to
His actions won him the support of the Iranian regime which he continues
to defend. Just last week he dismissed the threat of a nuclear armed
Iran, telling the Austrian News Agency, “There’s a lot of hype in this
debate,” and asserting that the discredited 2007 US National
Intelligence Estimate that claimed Iran abandoned its nuclear weapons
program in 2003 remains accurate.
Elbaradei’s support for the Iranian ayatollahs is matched by his support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
This group, which forms the largest and best-organized opposition
movement to the Mubarak regime, is the progenitor of Hamas and al-Qaida.
It seeks Egypt’s transformation into an Islamic regime that will stand
at the forefront of the global jihad. In recent years, the Muslim
Brotherhood has been increasingly drawn into the Iranian nexus along
with Hamas. Muslim Brotherhood attorneys represented Hizbullah
terrorists arrested in Egypt in 2009 for plotting to conduct spectacular
attacks aimed at destroying the regime.
Elbaradei has been a strong champion of the Muslim Brotherhood. Just this week he gave an interview to Der Spiegel
defending the jihadist movement. As he put it, “We should stop
demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood. ...[T]hey have not committed any acts
of violence in five decades. They too want change. If we want democracy
and freedom, we have to include them instead of marginalizing them.”
The Muslim Brotherhood for its part has backed Elbaradei’s political
aspirations. On Thursday, it announced it would demonstrate at
ElBaradei’s side the next day.
Then there is the Kifaya movement. The group sprang onto the
international radar screen in 2004 when it demanded open presidential
elections and called on Mubarak not to run for a fifth term. As a group
of intellectuals claiming to support liberal, democratic norms, Kifaya
has been upheld as a model of what the future of Egypt could look like
if liberal forces are given the freedom to lead.
But Kifaya’s roots and basic ideology are not liberal. They are anti-Semitic and anti-American.
Kifaya was formed as a protest movement against Israel with the start of
the Palestinian terror war in 2000. It gained force in March 2003 when
it organized massive protests against the US-led invasion of Iraq. In
2006, its campaign to get a million Egyptians to sign a petition
demanding the abrogation of the peace treaty with Israel received
Many knowledgeable Egypt-watchers argued this week that the protesters
have no chance of bringing down the Mubarak regime. Unlike this month’s
overthrow of Tunisia’s despot Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, they say there is
little chance that the Egyptian military will abandon Mubarak.
But the same observers are quick to note that whoever Mubarak selects to
succeed him will not be the beneficiary of such strong support from
Egypt’s security state. And as the plight of Egypt’s overwhelmingly
impoverished citizenry becomes ever more acute, the regime will become
increasingly unstable. Indeed, its overthrow is as close to a certainty
as you can get in international affairs.
And as we now see, all of its possible secular and Islamist successors
either reject outright Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel or will owe
their political power to the support of those who reject the peace with
the Jewish state. So whether the Egyptian regime falls next week or next
year or five years from now, the peace treaty is doomed.
SINCE THE start of Israel’s peace process with Egypt in 1977, supporters
of peace with the Arabs have always fallen into two groups: the
idealists and the pragmatists.
Led by Shimon Peres, the idealists have argued that the reason the Arabs
refuse to accept Israel is that Israel took “their” land in the 1967
Six Day War. Never mind that the war was a consequence of Arab
aggression or that it was simply a continuation of the Arab bid to
destroy the Jewish state which officially began with Israel’s formal
establishment in 1948. As the idealists see things, if Israel just gives
up all the land it won in that war, the Arabs will be appeased and
accept Israel as a friend and natural member of the Middle East’s family
Peres was so enamored with this view that he authored The New Middle
East and promised that once all the land was given away, Israel would
join the Arab League.
Given the absurdity of their claims, the idealists were never able to
garner mass support for their positions. If it had just been up to them,
Israel would never have gotten on the peace train. But lucky for the
idealists, they have been able to rely on the unwavering support of the
unromantic pragmatists to implement their program.
Unlike the starry-eyed idealists, the so-called pragmatists have no
delusions that the Arabs are motivated by anything other than hatred for
Israel, or that their hatred is likely to end in the foreseeable
future. But still, they argue, Israel needs to surrender.
It is the “Arab Street’s” overwhelming animosity towards Israel that
causes the pragmatists to argue that Israel’s best play is to cut deals
with Arab dictators who rule with an iron fist. Since Israel and the
Arab despots share a fear of the Arab masses, the pragmatists claim that
Israel should give up all the land it took control over as a payoff to
the regimes, who in exchange will sign peace treaties with it.
This was the logic that brought Israel to surrender the strategically
priceless Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in exchange for the Camp David accord
that will not survive Mubarak.
And of course, giving up Sinai wasn’t the only sacrifice Israel made for
that nearly defunct document. Israel also gave up its regional monopoly
on US military platforms. Israel agreed that in exchange for signing
the deal, the US would begin providing massive military aid to Egypt.
Indeed, it agreed to link US aid to Israel with US aid to Egypt.
Owing to that US aid, the Egyptian military today makes the military
Israel barely defeated in 1973 look like a gang of cavemen. Egypt has
nearly 300 F-16s. Its main battle tank is the M1A1 which it produces in
Egypt. Its navy is the largest in the region. Its army is twice the size
of the IDF. Its air defense force constitutes a massive threat to the
IAF. And of course, the ballistic missiles and chemical weapons it has
purchased from the likes of North Korea and China give it a significant
stand-off massdestruction capability.
Despite its strength, due to the depth of popular Arab hatred of Israel
and Jews, the Egyptian regime was weakened by its peace treaty.
Partially in a bid to placate its opponents and partially in a bid to
check Israeli power, Egypt has been the undisputed leader of the
political war against Israel raging at international arenas throughout
the world. So, too, Mubarak has permitted and even encouraged massive
anti- Semitism throughout Egyptian society.
With this balance sheet at the end of the “era of peace” between Israel
and Egypt, it is far from clear that Israel was right to sign the deal
in the first place. In light of the relative longevity of the regime it
probably made sense to have made some deal with Egypt. But it is clear
that the price Israel paid was outrageously inflated and unwise.
IN CONTRAST to the Egyptian regime, as the popular outcry following
Al-Jazeera’s publication of the Palestinian negotiations documents this
week shows, the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority is as weak as can be.
Yitzhak Rabin, the godfather of the pragmatist camp, famously argued
that Yasser Arafat and Fatah would handle the Israel-hating Palestinian
Street, “without the Supreme Court and B’Tselem.”
That is, he argued that it made sense to surrender massive amounts of
strategically critical land to a terrorist organization because Arafat
and his associates would repress their people with an iron fist,
unfettered by the rule of law and Palestinian human rights
And yet, the fact of the matter is that Arafat commanded the terror war
against Israel that began in 2000 and transformed Palestinian society
into a jihadist society that popularly elected Hamas to lead it.
The leaked Palestinian documents don’t tell us much we didn’t already
know about the nature of negotiations between Israel and Fatah. The
Palestinians demanded that the baseline of talks assume that all the
disputed territories actually belong to them. And for no particular
reason, Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert agreed to these historically
unjustified terms of reference.
While this was well known, in publishing the documents, Al- Jazeera has
still made two important contributions to the public debate.
First, the PA’s panicked reaction to the documents exposes the
ridiculousness of the notion that the likes of Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb
Erekat and Salam Fayyad are viable partners for peace.
Not only do they lack the power to maintain a peace deal with Israel.
They lack to power to sign a peace deal with Israel. All they can do is
talk – far away from the cameras – about hypothetical, marginal
concessions in a peace that will never, ever be achieved. The notion
that Israel should pay any price for a deal with these nobodies is
The Al-Jazeera papers also expose Livni’s foolishness.
Just as she failed to recognize the inherent weakness of the Lebanese
state when she championed UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which
called for the Hizbullah-dominated Lebanese army to deploy to the border
with Israel at the end of the 2006 war, so Livni failed to understand
the significance of the inherent weakness of Fatah as she negotiated
away Gush Etzion and Har Homa.
And she didn’t need Al-Jazeera’s campaign against the PA to understand
that she was speaking to people who represent no one. That basic fact
was already proven with Hamas’s victory in the 2006 elections.
THE TRUTHS exposed by the convulsive events of the past month make it
abundantly clear that Israel lives in a horrible neighborhood. It is a
neighborhood where popular democracy means war against Israel.
In this neck of the woods, it is not pragmatic to surrender. It is crazy.