It was no way to celebrate the first anniversary of the inauguration of Egypt’s
first democratically elected president. A state of collective anxiety gripped
Egypt as hundreds of thousands took to the streets to demand that President
Mohamed Morsi step down.
Even before the June 30 date marking Morsi’s
year in office, clashes turned violent between pro-Morsi Muslim
Brotherhood-affiliated crowds and a mostly non- Islamist coalition of
disgruntled Egyptians with little in common and no concrete game plan beyond a
consensus that Morsi must go.
Admittedly, Morsi has made major mistakes.
He did little to heal a nation wounded and fragile after the traumatic revolt
that deposed Hosni Mubarak, brought to an end decades of autocratic rule, and
set the most populous Arab nation on the road to a quasi-democratic
Instead of building bridges, Morsi sowed dissent with his
heavy-handed methods. He rammed through the 100-member Constituent Assembly –
hopelessly stacked with Brotherhood cadres and their Salafist allies – a
controversial constitution that alienated non-Islamists while shamelessly and
undemocratically ignoring the demand by the judiciary to dissolve the
And Morsi’s failure to build a more inclusive political
consensus has exacerbated an already debilitated economy that is precariously
propped up by aid from Gulf states and the US. Unrest has scared away foreign
tourists and investment.
Morsi’s future now depends on a wildcard: The
reaction of the military. The president, like Mubarak before him, is completely
dependent on the military. Unlike, Mubarak, Morsi does not enjoy a close
relationship with the army, though he has managed to oust some of his leading
Mubarak’s good relationship with the generals did not
save him. Still, Egypt’s Defense Minister Abdel al-Sisi, who said the army would
intervene if violence becomes unbearable, realizes the implications of allowing
an elected president to be shoved aside. At any rate, Morsi’s position one year
after inauguration appears as precarious as was Mubarak’s shortly before his
The loosening of the Muslim Brotherhood’s hold on Egypt could be
a positive development for Israel. It is, after all, no secret that the
Brotherhood’s ideology is antagonistic to the very idea of a Jewish state. The
rise of non-Islamic forces within Egypt could, in theory, have a moderating
effect on Cairo’s position vis-à-vis Israel.
It is too early to predict
the outcome of the unrest.
What seems certain is that the instability of
the Morsi government, which is showing no signs of recuperating anytime soon,
will be exploited by Beduin and Salafist groups operating in an already lawless
Since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, when both Egypt and
Israel sealed their respective borders with the Strip, an elaborate system of
cross-border tunnels was dug that created a lucrative industry and a class of
armed semi-criminal Beduin kingpins.
Caught in the crossfire between
Beduin and Salafists, Egyptian security forces are regularly outgunned. One
checkpoint near the Gaza border has been attacked 39 times since February 2011.
Just over a month ago, the Egyptian government was embarrassed by the kidnapping
of seven of its soldiers.
Anarchy in Sinai could mean trouble for
Though the security fence being completed along the Egyptian
border partially remedies the situation, Salafists could easily fire Grad
rockets at, say, Eilat such as the ones launched in April by the Islamist
terrorist group Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin, which it said was in retaliation for
an Israeli crackdown on Palestinians demonstrating for the release of terrorists
in Israeli prisons.
Under Mubarak, the region was largely
But the 2011 revolution destabilized an already shaky security
situation further as groups of Islamic gunmen proliferated. Now a further
deterioration in the stability of the central Egyptian government will mean even
less control over Sinai.
Whether Morsi weathers the storm or is replaced,
issues such as the price of gas and bread and the protection of basic human
rights will be the focus of Egyptians’ attention – not the worrying situation in
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