In recent weeks, protesters at the squares of Cairo spoke out loud and clear,
and for the second time in two-and-a-half years brought down a powerful
dictatorship, first a military, then a religious one. As this process continues,
even with bloodshed during the confrontation between the army and the Muslim
Brotherhood, the significance of the revolution seems exceptionally important –
the people of Egypt, mainly the young, will no longer tolerate an oppressive
ruler who fails in providing a better future.
In this, Egypt is setting a
new model of politics in the world – ongoing mass protest to replace bad
This phenomenon has precedents in the 1960s – such as the
demonstrations in the United States during the Vietnam War, in Warsaw and Prague
during the Soviet rule, and in Paris during the 1968 student protest. While
those were temporary outbursts of optimism, the Egyptians have turned mass
protest into a system – Tahrir I, and now Tahrir II.
Morsi was ousted by the people, the army was only the manager, as he had
kidnapped the revolution, betrayed democracy by enforcing a constitution close
to religious law, with abuse to minorities and women, and did not deliver on
jobs and economic development. Egyptians would not stand for this: “Walk like an
Egyptian” became a battle cry in Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, and even on
Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
This Egyptian system is more of a
“square-tocracy” than a full democracy. People, in millions, gathering at the
squares, bridges and streets, mobilized through social networks, expressing
powerful views on Facebook and Twitter.
As a result, no Egyptian ruler
from January, 25, 2011, on, not even the most despotic pharaoh, will be able to
stay in power without the legitimacy of the people, and not only at the ballot
There is also a more powerful message in the recent drama – the
marriage of religion and politics has failed. It may work in the Vatican, but
should be resisted elsewhere.
Religion has a prominent place in the lives
of many individuals as in collective culture; but when infiltrated by political
interest – when God is brought into the service of petty politics – it becomes
dangerous. People who aspire to run other peoples’ lives with Almighty
pretentions create a system of superiority, not dependent on legitimacy,
oppressing and excluding everyone who is different, should not be in government,
not in Egypt and not in any country.
Religion should be practiced at the
mosque, church, synagogue, in the home, but not at parliaments or government
Tahrir II is, in that respect, more meaningful than the
overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. What Gamal Adbel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Mubarak
failed to do, Morsi succeeded – to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood and to sideline
it for a long time.
With secular and religious dictatorships out, the
future leadership of Egypt will face a formidable double challenge: • The
creation of an inclusive political process, in which all streams of society will
have a role, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the liberal seculars, the
urban unemployed students and the traditionalist farmers in rural Egypt, women
and religious minorities. Change and reform will have to take place, not only
with a relative consensus, but also with leadership that is effective in running
• A profound reform in the economic system toward the
creation of a large, educated and skilled young middle class, through the
development of a free-market economy led by modern Egyptian entrepreneurs, as
well as a transparent and accountable public sector; an economy that with time
will become part of globalization and will be supported by American and European
Egypt’s most important resource is its young students. Their
managerial, entrepreneurial and technological know-how is essential for a reform
to succeed. Another condition is, naturally, peace.
The Egyptian “July
3rd” (when Morsi was toppled) will have repercussions for the whole region.
Egypt remains the leader of the Arab world, and in many ways, the region will go
where Cairo goes. The Arab Spring brought with it an illusion – that within the
impressive democratic change brought by the young, political Islam could find
its place, even a leading one. Initially the Islamic leaders paid the necessary
lip service to democracy and inclusion, yet with power came also the betrayal of
As a result of the Muslim Brotherhood’s defeat in Cairo,
Islamic leaders in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya will probably be weakened and are
already finding it harder to create coalitions with more liberal
It is clear today that the necessary economic solution will not
come from the Islamic parties. As in Egypt, they will find it impossible to
convince the people that they can bring a magical or divine remedy. The Arab
societies are today more interconnected and connected to the world than ever
before. One hundred million Arabs are on the Internet; they are more
knowledgeable and empowered, and will not let themselves be fooled by the old
media propaganda of archaic regimes.
In parallel, the regional forces
supported by the Brotherhood, politically or by inspiration, such as Hamas and
Hezbollah, will be weakened. They, too, with time, will face frustrated and
angry constituencies in Beirut and Gaza – demagogic preaching cannot replace
bread and butter.
The Arab Spring is now an Arab summer, and will last
its “four seasons.”
It is an ongoing mass protest fueled by a normal
human desire for a better life, education and employment, within a more just
society. In this way the Arab world does not differ from much of the rest of the
world, moving away from ideology-based leadership to a more pragmatic one, in
which managerial skills and good governance matter to people more than
flamboyant speeches or preaching.
For Israel, too, there is also an
important message emanating from the second Tahrir revolution.
have our “brotherhood,” not just Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, but definitely
Bennett and his powerful settler friends. They too believe, like Morsi, that
they are the representatives of the Almighty’s will on earth; and that we
“infidels” must follow their messianic belief in a Greater
Another “Jewish Brotherhood” is the haredim, who believe that the
law of the Bible supersedes the law of the land, and that non-Jews and women are
second class. The infiltration of organized religion into our political system
It leads to gross injustice within our society and it
distances Israel from a necessary historic peace deal with the Palestinians,
which now with the weakening of Hamas is more possible than ever.
Egypt, the political-religious drive to power must be stopped.
not an anti-religion position, on the contrary: Religion should be protected
from politics and must stay out of it. Its abuse of politics is blasphemous.
Social good is about human beings’ well-being, and what people can do for and
with other people, based on the recognition of full equality.
It is not
about dictation – secular or religious. The squares of the region must be
listened to and inclusive government leading with pragmatic effectiveness and
courageous decisions, in the name of the people not in the name of God, must
lead the way to free, just, growing and peaceful societies.
be the lesson from the second Tahrir revolution; it has now become the challenge
for Egypt, the region and Israel.
The writer is president of the Peres
Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo Accords.
Barbara Hurwitz edited this column.
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