Cairo protesters freedom signs 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
WASHINGTON – The White House is seeking to reassure Jewish leaders concerned
about the turmoil in Egypt, telling them in a conference call late Wednesday
that US policy is not to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.
RELATED:Clinton condemns attacks on reporters, protestersMubarak: I'd resign, but Egypt would descend into chaos
Many in the
pro-Israel community have been concerned that the waning position of Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak and his regime will empower the Muslim Brotherhood and
are fearful that the US could contribute to its rise by viewing the Islamic
group as a legitimate Egyptian political player.
On Monday, White House
spokesman Robert Gibbs said that “it is clear that increasing democratic
representation has to include a whole host of important non-secular actors,” and
since then US officials have given varying signs on their openness to seeing the
Muslim Brotherhood take part in a coalition government.
At the same time,
the US has increased its calls for Mubarak to oversee a transition immediately,
and for the installment of a widely representative democratic governance
On a call to Jewish organizational officials, senior Middle East
National Security Council adviser Dan Shapiro said US policy is not to deal with
the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas, a US-designated terrorist
organization, according to participants in the off-therecord call.
Shapiro also indicated that the US would not dictate the composition of the next
Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel and
now the vice president of the Brookings Institution, pointed out that America’s
options for dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood are limited given its strong
role in the Egyptian political scene, and that its participation in a new
government in some capacity might be inevitable.
“It’s a very risky
proposition, but that’s the world that we now live in, in which the Muslim
Brotherhood is a powerful [institution], and it will be extremely difficult to
exclude it from the political process,” he said.
Shadi Hamid, director of
research at the Brookings Doha Center, who joined Indyk in a discussion on the
Egyptian turmoil Thursday, said that while the Muslim Brotherhood would pose
challenges to the US given its stance on the peace process, counter-terrorism,
minority rights and other issues, right now the group is planning to have a low
“Up until now the Brotherhood has played a very
limited role. They have not been very visible in the protests, but that’s by
design,” he said. “The Brotherhood is well aware that if they have a prominent
role, this will stoke the fears of the international community and particularly
the US, so the Brotherhood is sensitive about that.”
The group does plan
to become more active but is emphasizing that it doesn’t plan to take a
leadership role and will instead support a coalition led by Mohamed ElBaradei,
the former UN International Atomic Energy Agency head, according to
Some members of the Brotherhood have been so concerned about a
backlash that they have made a statement to “allay some fears,” saying they
would abide by the peace treaty with Israel, Hamid added. He noted, however,
that many question the sincerity of such statements.
“I think we have to
recognize that they aren’t extremists like in Iran or elsewhere. In terms of
what their objectives are here, they aren’t going to try to win an election even
if they could,” he said, suggesting that the group instead would focus on
rebuilding the organization after years of repression. “They are aware this
would either provoke the regime or provoke the international community.”