The Middle East took a sharp turn for the worse this week with the ascension to power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In what was perhaps the worst possible outcome for Israel and the West, Mohamed Morsy, the Brotherhood’s presidential candidate, was declared the winner of Egypt’s elections on Sunday.

This marks the first time that an avowed Islamist has been elected to lead an Arab state. And not just any Arab state, but Egypt – the largest, most powerful and influential country in the Arab world.

Incredibly, some Westerners have greeted the news with inexplicable optimism bordering on childlike glee, cheerfully celebrating the free expression of the Egyptian public’s popular will while blithely ignoring the horrifying choice they have made.

But don’t let various pundits and talking heads fool you when they deploy loaded terms such as “moderate” to describe the Muslim Brotherhood or its leaders.

Morsy and his comrades are a band of extremists and fanatics bent on religious, social and political domination whose agenda does not stop at the Egyptian border.

Their victory at the ballot box is nothing less than a strategic disaster, one which poses grave dangers to the national security interests of Israel and the United States.

It will undermine the already tenuous stability of the region, further embolden radical forces throughout the world, and buoy Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Brotherhood and maintains close ties with the organization.

Consider the following.

On June 15, two days before the second round of Egypt’s presidential vote, terrorists based in Sinai fired a Grad rocket into southern Israel.

According to Israeli security officials cited by Haaretz (June 17), Hamas ordered the attack at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood, which presumably wanted a provocative anti-Israel action to stir up the Egyptian masses and rally them behind its candidate.

Egypt shares a 15 km.-long border with Gaza, and is likely to ease various restrictions on the movement of people and goods to the Hamas-controlled territory.

This will strengthen Hamas’ grip on the area and provide it with an important pipeline for funding, personnel and perhaps even increased weapons transfers.

It is therefore no wonder that the terror group could barely contain its delight over the news of the Brotherhood’s victory, with Hamas leader Mahmoud a- Zahar crowing that it was “a historic moment and a new era in the history of Egypt” as well as “a defeat for the program of normalization and security cooperation with the enemy [Israel],” (AFP, June 24).

In the run-up to the vote, Morsy and his supporters made a number of chilling statements which give the lie to their alleged moderation.

Back in May, when speaking to a gathering of Cairo University students, Morsy reportedly said, “The Koran is our constitution, the prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal,” (Voice of Russia, May 13).

And in Morsy’s official biography, which appears on the Brotherhood’s Englishlanguage website, Ikhwanweb.

com, it proudly lists him as a “founder-member of the Egyptian Resist the Zionist Project Committee.”

A brief glance at the site is all that is needed to see that the Brotherhood makes little effort to hide its hostility to the Jewish state.

Take, for example, a post dated April 20, which quotes Dr. Farid Ismail, a member of the Brotherhood’s parliamentary commission, as saying the following: “We reject normalization under any name, and refuse to visit Jerusalem while it is under Zionist occupation, even if the visit happens to be without visas from the Zionist entity.”

And in a statement published on February 21, the Brotherhood declared that it “condemns Zionist attempts to strip Jerusalem of its Islamic identity and to completely Judaize the Holy City” and demanded “urgent action... to put an end to the Judaization of Jerusalem.”

Even if Morsy declared earlier this week that he will respect Egypt’s international agreements, does anyone really believe that such an intemperate and uncompromising ideologue will truly abide by its terms and live in peace with Israel? The more likely scenario is the one mentioned back in the book of Exodus (1:8): “And there arose a new king over Egypt who knew not Joseph.”

Yediot Aharonot’s veteran defense analyst Alex Fishman is no alarmist, but in the wake of Morsy’s coronation, he felt compelled to write that, “This is no longer the same Egypt. It is no longer the same border. The peace treaty is dying, and we better start to change our way of thinking.”

Sadly, Fishman is correct.

Israel woke up this week to a new outpost of radicalism along its southern border, the nascent Islamic Republic of Egypt.

Don’t be surprised if within a decade, we once again find ourselves confronting the Egyptian army, as Cairo steadily drifts ever deeper into intolerance and zealotry.

There is no doubt that the Egyptian people have handed the Islamists a big victory at the ballot box and in the process condemned themselves to misery and defeat.

The only question now is whether they will take the rest of the region down with them.

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