Thursday, June 21, 2012 | return to: news & features, international


Egypt’s anti-democratic moves may be good for Israel

by uriel heilman, jta

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Egypt’s military coup is now nearly complete. That may be distressing for Egyptian democracy, but it could help the Israel-Egypt relationship.

The June 17 decision by military rulers in Egypt to rewrite the country’s constitution — a move that strips much of the power of the Egyptian presidency — confirms what many skeptics had warned about since Hosni Mubarak was deposed in February 2011: This wasn’t so much a revolution as a military coup.

It was the Egyptian army that played the decisive role during the 2011 uprising, siding with the people against the regime and overthrowing Mubarak. It was the military’s leaders who then assumed control of the country. And it was the army that again intervened this week in the middle of a presidential election that would have delivered control of the country to the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi.

Protester outside Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo carries a sign that reads “No to Shafik and the Muslim Brotherhood, and down with military rule, too.”   photo/jta-wessam deweny-cc
Protester outside Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo carries a sign that reads “No to Shafik and the Muslim Brotherhood, and down with military rule, too.” photo/jta-wessam deweny-cc
A few days before last weekend’s presidential vote, in which Morsi edged Ahmed Shafik, a former Mubarak-era prime minister and air force general, the military dissolved the country’s Islamic Brotherhood–dominated parliament. It did so by declaring that up to one-third of the legislators were elected illegally. The Brotherhood controlled 47 percent of seats in the body after Islamist parties captured more than 65 percent of the votes in Egypt’s first real democratic elections six months ago.

The moves against the parliament and the presidency make clear that Egypt’s military rulers are unwilling to cede power to a democratically elected government, especially if elections empower the Muslim Brotherhood.

“With this document, Egypt has completely left the realm of the Arab Spring and entered the realm of military dictatorship,” Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said in widely quoted comments.

“It is a soft military coup that unfortunately many people will support out of fear of an Islamist takeover of the state,” Bahgat told the Associated Press.

That may be bad news for democracy and the Egyptian revolution, but it could be good for Israel.

Ever since Mubarak was overthrown, Israeli leaders have wrung their hands over increasingly bellicose signals from their neighbor to the south, once a key ally and broker between Israel and the Palestinians. Leading Egyptian political figures have threatened to cancel or promised to “review” the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

In April, the state-owned Egyptian gas company canceled its contract to supply Israel with natural gas; its pipeline to Israel has been attacked 14 times since the country’s revolution. Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has been used as a staging ground for terrorist attacks against Israel, including a deadly one on June 18.

If the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas, were to take control of Egypt, Israelis feared things would get much worse.

After Israel was struck June 15 by Grad rockets, unnamed Israeli security analysts told the daily Haaretz that the Muslim Brotherhood had encouraged the attacks. It’s not clear whether the analysis is true or who launched the rockets. Neither was it immediately clear who was behind the June 18 border attack that killed an Israeli contractor; Israeli forces returning fire killed two of the attackers from Egypt.

Despite this latest move, it’s far from clear whether Egypt’s military rulers — led by army field marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, or SCAF — have successfully fended off the challenge by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Many Egyptians have denounced as illegal the dissolution of parliament and unilateral rewriting of the country’s constitution by the military leaders.

“The SCAF has become a state above the state with wide legislative and executive powers, a veto on constitutional and other political matters, and stands immune to any challenges,” a liberal member of Egypt’s parliament, Amr Hamzawy, wrote in Arabic comments posted to Twitter and then reported by Egyptian daily Al-Ahram. “We need to use all peaceful means to challenge this dangerous scenario, as it is a national duty and a necessity.”

Still, the election gives the Brotherhood’s Morsi some modicum of authority. Whether the Brotherhood will use that authority to challenge the army or seek some sort of accommodation with Egypt’s military rulers remains unclear.


Posted by theother
06/21/2012  at  06:39 PM
very honest headline

seems J Weekly clearly does NOT value democracy. a military coup that will keep Egyptians oppressed and J Weekly lends its support. Your anti-Arab racism is simply despicable.

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Posted by dcherson
06/22/2012  at  08:29 AM
This is yet another example

This is yet another example of stupidity in foreign policy for Israel.  Whatever and whomever preserves us is ok.  But is it ok to abuse the rights of 80 million Egyptians?  Just as it was right to give tacit support to the previous regime in South Africa, Iran,  It’s holocaust thinking that counters what should be more intelligently based foreign policy.

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Posted by theother
06/22/2012  at  12:48 PM
More than stupid.

i am beginning to doubt even the sanity of those who would cheer such things. Even as J Weekly and JTA offer cheery headlines, tens of thousands of Egyptians are in the streets in Tahir. It’s not over. So what possible good would a rational person see in coming down on the side of a military dictatorship that quite possibly may not last more than a few more weeks? Even if somehow, with US support, the dictatorship does prevail in the short-term, this would only add to backlash against Israel.

Let’s be clear, this is not good for the *people* of Israel, but keeping Egyptians oppressed is only good for preserving the status quo of oppression of Palestinians. If the editors really cared about Israel’s international status, it would work tirelessly to end that oppression and support full freedom for all.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
06/22/2012  at  06:12 PM
Theother and Fellow JVP'ers Clearly Don't Care about the Lack of Rights for Women,

gays and Coptic Christians which the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood would usher in. Is it democracy when an elected party plans to overtly discriminate vs half the population, Egyptian women, and various minorities? And where is any condemnation of these Sharia advocates by JVP when they say they would like to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel?

‘Course, it’s likely that members of JVP were among the foolish lefties who supported the replacement of the Shah with the Iranian theocracy. After all, any political regime which opposes Israel is championed by the JVP. And when such regimes initially wrap themselves in the mantle of faux democracy, loony lefties like JVP are suckered every time.

BTW, theother, where were criticisms by you and JVP of Arabic thugs such as Guadaffi, Saddam, the former Yemini leader, Ben Ali, Nasrullah, the leaders of Hamas and Arafat when they were riding herd over their people (and some still are)?  We never heard a peep from JVP concerning those dictators, probably because they have long supported, aided and abetted Palestinian terrorism vs Israel.

And of course, Assad, who for years gave a safe haven to the pro-genocidal leaders of Hamas, is now butchering his own people. The silence by JVP on Assad’s murderous assault upon his citizens is deafening…

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
06/22/2012  at  06:39 PM
Here is JVP's Take on "Democracy"

The German people freely and fairly voted Adolf Hitler into power. And the people JVP regularly champions, those fine advocates of Jewish genocide, Hamas, were freely and fairly elected as the leaders of the Palestinians.

Yes, its regimes such as the above that JVP lionizes if their stance is that a “popular” election is sacrosanct. And apparently, this is precisely what these loathers of Israel support…

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Posted by Pete
06/23/2012  at  06:23 PM
Wake up

The “only democracy in the Middle East” wishes to remain the only democracy.  One problem, it is a democracy built on forgeries.  Property sold to yeshiva wives by a dead man.???? Wake up people.

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
06/23/2012  at  07:10 PM
Well, Pete--It's Crystalline What...

you are.

So Israel isn’t a democracy? It’s amazing what ignorance such bigotry engenders.

Oh Pete: do you think the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors practice democracy and equality toward women, gays and dissidents? How do your ideological predilections justify the incessant human rights abuses by the Palestinians and your other Arab pals?

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
06/24/2012  at  09:21 AM
Celebrate JVP--Your Fine Stalwarts of Human Rights Won...

And apparently your paranoia of US and Israeli interference has not been exhibited.

Now you can relax as the Muslim Blubberhood, founders of Hamas, wreck the peace treaty with Israel and suppress any semblance of rights women, gays, Coptic Christians and dissenters currently enjoy in Egypt. We all know how happy this will make you…

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Posted by Dan Spitzer
06/24/2012  at  11:01 AM
Ham-Ass Joins JVP in Celebrating Blubberhood Victory

As well they should, when one considers that the Egyptian Muslim Blubberhood founded Ham-Ass.
Now, under their new elected president, comes this statement from Blubberhood leader Mahmu Zahar. Zahar characterized the presidential victory of his party “a defeat for the programme of normalisation and security cooperation with the enemy,” referring to Israel…

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Posted by Jack Kessler
06/24/2012  at  01:30 PM
An argument over a misunderstanding

Is a popular dictatorship a democracy?  Is it democratic to oppress and disenfranchise women even if 51% support it?  If Joe Stalin or Adolf Hitler were vastly popular (they were) and would have won even fair elections, did that make their regimes democratic? 

Shari’a by its own terms and principles is fully totalitarian.  It dictates every aspect of life, and in some detail.  Yet its implementation requires the subjugation of the female half of the population, the subjugation of the 12% of Egyptian who are Coptic Christians, and does not tolerate even the presence of Jews.

There can be no democracy without rights and freedoms no matter how many votes the regime gets. 

An election that puts a totalitarian regime in power, may be many things, but democratic is not one of them.

Democracy is not just the assent of 51%.  It also requires freedom of person, of speech, of assembly, and so on.

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