Will Egypt's new leader Islamize largest Arab state?

Experts are divided on whether Morsy's election will mean danger for Israel.

Mohamed Morsy supporters in Tahrir 390 (photo credit: Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters)
Mohamed Morsy supporters in Tahrir 390
(photo credit: Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters)
After the Islamist Mohamed Morsy was declared the victor in Egypt’s presidential elections on Sunday, experts were divided about the ramifications for Egypt, Israel and the wider Middle East.
Zvi Mazel, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden, said Morsy’s election victory meant that Egypt’s 2011 revolution had failed.
“It’s a confirmation that democracy is not on the agenda in Egypt,” Mazel said.
He noted that the stated goal of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, which was founded in Egypt in 1928, is to introduce Shari’a law and Islamize the world.
“Israel should worry,” he added, saying that while Morsy pledged to honor Egypt’s international agreements, he also suggested bringing the issue of the 1979 peace treaty with Israel to a referendum vote.
Morsy had said many times that his plans were to conquer Jerusalem, Mazel noted, adding that the Brotherhood would likely work to gradually create an Islamic state in Egypt.
That could result in Egyptian support for Hamas, including an open border to the Gaza Strip and open provision of weapons to the terrorist group, Mazel suggested.
Click for special JPost featuresClick for special JPost features
In recent weeks, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power after president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, have made a number of moves to secure power, including putting in place laws empowering it to veto any new constitution.
Citing recent concerns that there could be a conflict between Morsy and SCAF, which has pledged to hand over control to the new president by July 1, Mazel said it was likely Morsy would move to overturn a recent order to disband Egypt’s parliament, in which case the country’s draft constitution would have a heavy Islamic influence.
Morsy could also move to weaken the military, by retiring high-ranking generals and replacing them with his own men, Mazel said, adding that while this could take some time to accomplish it would mean that Morsy was free of the army.
Mazel said the army had failed to win its battle with the Brotherhood after Mubarak was ousted, and had been unable to reach a compromise with the Islamist movement.
The US, which failed to offer support to the army, was partly to blame, Mazel said.
“The army was isolated and attacked by the Muslim Brotherhood,” he added, noting that young Egyptians, disillusioned and unhappy at SCAF’s decrees, had also supported the Brotherhood.
While Mazel pointed to the Brotherhood’s history, its rhetoric and its stated aims of an Islamic Middle East, Dr.
Mira Tzoreff of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University offered a more optimistic view.
Tzoreff, who has written about the Brotherhood, said while Morsy would almost certainly spout more hardline Islamic-sounding rhetoric, there would likely be a gap between what he says and what he does.
To succeed politically and economically, Morsy will have to adopt policies acceptable to all Egyptians, including liberal and secular people, Tzoreff said.
“If he does that, he might succeed in unifying Egypt and pulling it out of the socioeconomic mire,” she added.
According to Tzoreff, Morsy is “theoretically capable” of succeeding, but only if he cooperates with SCAF and other parties and does not become a captive to his Brotherhood ideology.
Noting a speech Morsy made last week, in which he talked of becoming the president of all Egyptians, Tzoreff said the newly elected leader did not make any reference to Shari’a law but instead said he would support a civil state.
Even though the Brotherhood’s ideology has always been to Islamize Egypt, reality will force Morsy to take a different tack, Tzoreff believes.
Referring to claims that Morsy’s election could result in Egypt becoming more like Iran, Tzoreff said that this was unlikely to happen.
“There is quite a difference between Egypt and Iran,” she said, noting that Egypt’s Brotherhood leadership had a predominantly secular education, whereas Iran’s leaders have a completely religious background.
“Morsy himself has an engineering doctorate from an American university,” Tzoreff said. “This is very significant.”