In mid-August, US President Barack Obama interrupted a golfing trip at Martha’s
Vineyard in Massachusetts to condemn the military junta in Egypt for its violent
attack on the Muslim Brotherhood government leaders. Obama canceled a series of
joint American-Egyptian military exercises called “Bright Star.”
refrained from using the “coup” word for what had happened in Egypt in July
(though that is it was), because doing so would have entailed calling in
question America’s $1.5 billion annual aid package to the most populous Arab
Now, as America faces huge budgetary woes and increasingly looks
to scale down its involvement in our region, the White House is considering
cutting, if not halting, US economic and military aid to Egypt.
would be a major turnaround in consecutive administrations’ policy. The Reagan
administration did not cut off aid in 1981 after the assassination of Egyptian
president Anwar Sadat. The Bush administration refrained from punishing Hosni
Mubarak when, in defiance of a promise to Washington, he rigged elections and
sent thugs to beat and kill protesters. Nor did Obama cut US aid after the
ouster of Mubarak in 2011.
Would such a cut hurt Israeli-Egyptian
relations? In talks with Washington back in August, Israel argued that it would.
Such a cut might make it harder for Egypt to fight the security deterioration in
the Sinai Peninsula, argued the officials.
They also said that ending US
aid might endanger the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.
relative peace between the two countries has allowed Israel to direct limited
military resources elsewhere, whether to the North, on the border with
Hezbollah-controlled southern Lebanon, or in the West Bank.
Though US aid
to Egypt is not linked to the Camp David Accords, Israel’s defeat of Egypt in
the Yom Kippur War facilitated both. Anwar Sadat wanted to break away from his
alliance with the Soviet Union, and the US was more than happy to step in. At
the same time, Sadat signed a peace agreement with Israel. Now Israel is
concerned that a cut in aid might lead Egypt to annul or amend the
But should Israeli official be arguing for continued US aid to
Egypt and be quoted in the international media doing so? Admittedly, Israel
prefers the military junta that calls itself the National Salvation Front to the
coalition of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi Islamist that took power in
Egypt’s 2012 presidential elections.
The Jewish state, however, gains
nothing by saying so publicly, particularly at a time when Americans are arguing
that it is a matter of national self-respect to halt aid to Egypt in response to
the coup, even if it would have little chance of influencing the new military
Besides, maintaining a peace treaty with Israel continues to be
an Egyptian interest. If Egyptian leaders were convince this ceased to be so,
they would not be deterred by the threat of losing US aid. And Egypt, like
Israel, has an interest in maintaining law and order in the Sinai
Hundreds of billions of dollars have not cinched for the US
the loyalty of Nouri al-Maliki’s regime in Iraq or Hamid Karzai’s regime in
Money and aid and networking, it appears, do not buy
Therefore, Israel should not be overly concerned with the
prospect of the US cutting aid to Egypt.
As long as Cairo has an interest
in maintaining good relations with Israel it will do so, regardless of US aid.
If on the other hand for whatever reason Egypt’s leaders cease to see peace as
important, the $1.5b. in aid will do little to stop the slide.
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