Experts: Israel should lobby for Sisi – but quietly

Israeli analyst says Israel should support new Egyptian gov't behind the scenes because in the Middle East “whoever Israel supports loses legitimacy,” warns such support can also lead to terror attacks against Israel.

August 20, 2013 07:00
3 minute read.
Protesters cheer with drums near a poster of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo

Anti-Morsi protesters hold up Sisi poster 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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In light of recent reports that Israel is lobbying the US and Europe to support the military-backed government in Egypt, Israeli experts believe that this should be done behind the scenes and not be publicized.

The New York Times reported on Sunday, quoting an Israeli official, that Israel is aggressively lobbying for the Egyptian regime because it is the best option available at the moment. The Jerusalem Post also reported Sunday, quoting an official, that Israel is worried about Egypt falling into chaos.

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Mordechai Kedar, director of the new Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) at Bar-Ilan University, told the Post in an interview on Monday that Israel should indeed be lobbying for the international community to support Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, but that it must be done quietly.

Israel should help the new regime in any way it can behind the scenes – if the regime needs a loan, Israel should help it get one; if it needs help getting food aid, Israel should facilitate that.

However, in the Middle East, he said, “whoever Israel supports loses legitimacy.”

“If we want to support side A, we should say we support B – that way B will lose legitimacy and A will come out better,” he said, adding, “Our kiss is the kiss of death.”

In addition, Kedar said that publicizing this kind of diplomacy not only brings criticism from Islamists but also can lead to terror attacks and increase their motivation to act against us.

Chuck Freilich, a senior fellow at the Belfer Center of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a former deputy national security adviser in Israel, told the Post that he thinks The New York Times is over-hyping the story, making the lobbying campaign seem like a huge operation, when this is what any country does when faced with a crisis.

For Israel, he said, “this is a crucial issue,” and of course it must turn “to everyone who has influence on the issue.”

Freilich agrees with Kedar that Israel should act quietly and noted that the fact that it got into the press and is being amplified is because “everyone is looking for an Israeli angle, because that is what sells newspapers.”

“When Israel is invoked, it becomes toxic,” he said, adding, “Sisi doesn’t want this out that Israel is lobbying for him – the Muslim Brotherhood will leap on this.”

Freilich went on to say that Israel does not want to see a cutoff in US aid to Egypt, which would also decrease whatever influence the US has on the regime.

“The military is the only party keeping the country stable, pro-peace with Israel, and moderate,” he said.

The US loves talking about a transition to democracy, but elections brought the Nazis to power in Germany and Hamas in Gaza, Freilich said.

“The Muslim Brotherhood is fundamentally an anti-democratic organization,” stated Freilich.

The ousting of former president Mohamed Morsi is “really good news for Israel, the region, and the world,” he concluded.

Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told the Post he thinks that the leak to The New York Times by an Israeli official is significant because it shows that “in back channels, there are likely a lot of talks,” adding that this is because the future of the Egyptian state is a “vital interest of the State of Israel.”

He noted that the Obama administration finds itself in the peculiar situation where its three major allies in the region – Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel – all support the ousting of Morsi and back the new regime.

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