A democratic Egypt may save Palestinian and Lebanese lives

When Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, one of the big dividends for Israel was the removal of a major military threat on their doorstep. Egypt had participated in wars against Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. But since the Camp David peace treaty, Israel has been able to wage war on the Palestinians and other Arab states like Lebanon without having to worry about Egypt’s military stepping in.

That may change once again if a democratic Egypt emerges from the uprising shaking the Mubarak regime. Israel has been watching the unrest in Egypt closely and has begun to publicly air their support for the Mubarak dictatatorship.

The potential for a radical change in the regional status quo–one where Israel has shored up peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, making it the preeminent military power in the region with no contest–has Israel’s military worried. Ethan Bronner’s latest report in the New York Times quotes Giora Eiland, “a former national security adviser and a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University,” as saying:

During the last 30 years, when we had any military confrontation, whether in the first or second Lebanon wars, the intifadas, in all those events we could be confident that Egypt would not try to intervene militarily

A democratic Egypt may make Israel more reticent about waging a reprise of the devastating assaults on Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09, which has been openly talked about in the Israeli press and among Israeli officials. A democratic Egypt that would reflect popular opinion in the country would also strike a blow against the Israeli/Egyptian siege of Gaza, as Eli Lake points out.

And the importance of this, measured in human lives, cannot be underestimated: An Israel that is afraid of an Egyptian response to their assaults could save Palestinian and Lebanese lives.

Alex Kane blogs on Israel/Palestine and Islamophobia at alexbkane.wordpress.com, where this post originally appeared.  Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

Posted in Egypt, Gaza, Israel/Palestine | Tagged , ,

{ 29 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Hoping for more tension, seems like war-mongering to me.

    My assessment of this week was that the Palestine Papers made it likely that Israel would be forced to negotiate in earnest with the PA, a good thing.

    And, that with the prospect of again being surrounded, that that would bring out the most defensive attitudes in Israel, and the worst attitudes of “we’ve got them on the run” among militants.

    • idiocr4cy says:

      It’s not war-mongering. It’s containment of Israeli’s reckless brute force power projection.

    • Shingo says:

      Hoping for more tension, seems like war-mongering to me.

      Think of it as a call for restraint Witty.

      You know, like the warning conveyed to Hamas that firing rockets brings consequences.

      My assessment of this week was that the Palestine Papers made it likely that Israel would be forced to negotiate in earnest with the PA, a good thing.

      Your assessment was clearly delusional, seeing a there is nothing or no one FORCING Israel to negotiate in earnest with the PA.

  2. occupyresist says:

    Israel has been watching the unrest in Egypt closely and has begun to publicly air their support for the Mubarak dictatorship.

    Before:
    Arab dictatorship bad – no partners for peace/Arab society not capable of democracy.

    After:
    Arab dictatorship good – partner for peace/Arab society not ready for democracy.

    This gives me a headache.

    • andrew r says:

      It’s really predictable. Did you really think even one person touting Israel as the only democracy in that region would care if an Arab state achieved democracy?

    • Sumud says:

      occupyresist ~ a headache? This is cause for celebration!

      It was only 18 month ago the unpopular uprising in Iran electrified the world, fuelled in part by 24/7 coverage on American networks. To the casual observer Egypt is Iran redux, and the failure of the green movement in Iran will only make people (I believe) root for the Egyptian people ever harder.

      Decades of non-stop slandering of arabs/muslims is blowing up in the hasbarists face: now Egyptians are being presented as heroes (one of the local papers here in Australia, which normally has very weak coverage of the ME, referred to them in a headline as ‘freedom fighters’), the enemy is Mubarak and Israel is backing him. Israel then, is also the enemy. Their lack of political savvy is truly breathtaking!

      We were discussing the region a while ago – and you were sounding a little hopeless about change. What about now?

      • occupyresist says:

        Hell yeah! it is a cause for celebration! I need to learn never to say never!** I HOPE THAT EGYPT GETS IT’S FREEDOM, THEN ANNEXES HEJAZ. WE WOULD BE HAPPY TO SECEDE, SCREW THE OIL. WE ALREADY SPEAK SOMETHING CLOSE TO THE DIALECT, maybe closer to Jordanian BUT STILL!!! That’s a move I would welcome ‘with flowers and candy’, especially if I get to vote! Plus we might actually retain what’s left of the Ottoman and other structures Al Saud is all-too-happy to demolish!!

        OK, I’m being sarcastic. But still…the idea has merit. The only think KSA won’t give up is the title of ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’. Too deflating for their mishlah-clad egos.

        There were protests in KSA on Friday and Saturday. Some say Friday’s protest was inspired by Saad Al Faqih but I think these claims are false. He might have sparked the idea but in the end I think that Egypt had more of a hand in that and the protesters were outraged over the recent floods in Jeddah that might have taken upwards of 300 lives. Some say there were 150 protesters, and that 30 of (to this day) have been detained. Gov is afraid that a spark could become a contagion.

        Saturday’s protests in front of the Jeddah municipality were peaceful and were limited to demands to fix infrastructure, replace all municipality officials, and investigate those who gave people permits to build in areas that were exposed and the crappy dams. They were cleared up in under 30 minutes.

        Looking at the volunteers going around helping people affected in areas that are surrounded by water or who lost their homes, people in this entity called Saudi have so much potential…if only we didn’t have oil.

        BUT WAIT: link to twitter.com

        :D:D:D:D:D:D

        **The word acrobats that pro-Israelis/Israelis keep making do give one a headache sometimes.

        follow me at occupiedbrain if you twitter.

  3. eee says:

    Really? Egyptians would be willing to die for Palestinians or Lebanese? Are you dreaming? During Cast Lead Hezbollah did not shot one rocket. During the Lebanon war Syria did not send any soldiers to help Lebanon, but Egypt would risk its people and economy to fight Israel?

    How will Egypt attack Israel? Send troops to the Sinai without air cover?

    • lysias says:

      Israel seems to think opening the border between Egypt and Gaza would amount to an attack on Israel.

    • Taxi says:

      You really don’t know ANYTHING about Arabs, eee. Not even the first thing.

      And you expect us Americans to die for israel in her perpetual wars of choice against the brown skinned people of the region, ie Arabs and Iranians.

    • Shingo says:

      During the Lebanon war Syria did not send any soldiers to help Lebanon, but Egypt would risk its people and economy to fight Israel?

      They didn’t need to send any soldiers to help Lebanon, seeing as Hezbollah was kicking Israel’s ass all on it’s own.

      Of course, you are forgetting that the Syrians had just been driven out of Lebanon.

      How will Egypt attack Israel? Send troops to the Sinai without air cover?

      Why would they do so without air cover. Egypt has F16′s eee. You know, the same you guys use to bomb people in Gaza?

    • Walid says:

      “… During Cast Lead Hezbollah did not shoot one rocket.” (from eee’s outdated MFA hasbara handbook)

      eee, they didn’t give you notes on Hizbullah’s Sami Chehab, currently in an Egyptian jail allegedly caught trying to smuggle weapons to the Palestinians during the Cast Lead massacres or of Hizbullah’s call to the Egyptian people to rise “by the millions” against the Egyptian regime’s shutting of the Rafah Crossing during Israel’s turkey shoot of civilians. Israel has been spoiled by the complacency or the collaborating of Arab “moderate” regimes but these, starting with Egypt, have begun to fall one by one.

      In an article picked up by the Jamestown Foundation in March 2009, Nasrallah stated:

      “Those who believe that this war is being waged on the Hamas Movement or the Hamas government are mistaken; the war is being waged against the Palestinian people… The contradiction with the Islamic resistance factions in Gaza is not due to their ideological, religious, or intellectual affiliation. It is, however, due to the program of the resistance… What is being fought in Gaza today is not the Islamic title or the Islamic movement, but what is being fought is the resistance’s platform” (al-Manar; December 31, 2008).

      Nasrallah’s analysis of the war aimed at increasing the sense of solidarity and unity of the Arab world, and openly defied the views of Arab regimes such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, or the Palestinian Authority itself, which had been critical of Hamas’s actions and insisted on its responsibility for the war.

      The Confrontation with the “Arab Moderate Regimes”

      Hezbollah’s reframing of the war in Gaza also allowed the organization to use the ongoing hostilities to chastise the above-mentioned Arab regimes, with Hezbollah’s head of international relations Nawaf Mousawi criticizing the “suspicious silence” of Arab leaders, and Secretary General Nasrallah conducting a verbal campaign against Egypt.

      In particular, Nasrallah delivered harsh criticism of Egypt for not opening the Rafah Crossing during the Gaza War, and called on the Egyptian people to protest against their government; “Let the Egyptian people take to the streets in the millions. Can the Egyptian police kill millions of Egyptians? No, they cannot” (al-Manar December 28; 2008).

      link to jamestown.org

  4. And the importance of this, measured in human lives, cannot be underestimated: An Israel that is afraid of an Egyptian response to their assaults could save Palestinian and Lebanese lives.

    the balance become Palestinian and Lebanese lives or American Jewish campaign contributions.

    no brainer.

  5. Avi says:

    A system of Checks and Balances is the hallmark of American democracy. Between the judiciary, the executive and the legislative branch — theoretically, at least — the American people are supposed to get a fair system of government. So, in essence, those who reject such checks and balances in regard to the power structure in the Middle East are rejecting one of the cornerstones of American democracy.

  6. Taxi says:

    Mubarak will leave, blood on the streets or not.

    A new democracy will be set up in Egypt that will mainly busy itself with it’s immediate and urgent civic needs ie employment, inflation, food, healthcare, education, etc.

    And as far as foreign policy is concerned, this new government will begrudgingly and on the ‘strong’ advise of the top Egyptian military brass, maintain the peace treaty with (paranoid) israel for the foreseeable future. And perhaps this is sage advise for a fledgling and hungry-for-bread democracy.

    Yet I project that soon enough thereafter, Egypt being an organic Arab country, will return to re-resurrecting old defense treaties with other Arab and regional states such as Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

    This would be Egypt’s ultimate natural inclination and progression.

    So I gotta tell you guys, whichever way I look at the Rubik’s Cube of the mideast, I keep seeing israel going against the organic grain of the region (due to it’s deluded belief in exceptionalism etc). We will see this when soon enough the new Egyptian government will start insisting on opening the Gaza crossing.

    This will be the first hurdle that israel and the new Egypt will face. This will be the real test of Egypt’s liberation and the principles of it’s liberation.

    We live in such exciting times indeed.

    Pinch me!

    • Shingo says:

      We live in such exciting times indeed.

      That’s an understatement.

      I remember John Pilger being asked if he could forsee any change in the ME, about the time that the US invaded Iraq. he said there was no way, given that the US was too powerful.

      Here we are 7 years later and the US is on it’s knees and the whole Western power structure in the ME is collapsing, and even the necons are turning on Israel. Who would have believed it?

      • seafoid says:

        The US made such a horse’s ass of Iraq it is barely believable.
        And Afghanistan (GDP USD 8.4bn) will cost the US USD 110bn in 2011 and the US is making zero progress there. And the military now takes up 25% of US Government spending. They might as well just burn the money. There would be less casualties and it wouldn’t do any PR damage.

    • Surcouf says:

      Taxi – You are right in saying that the real test of Egypt’s liberation will be the Egypt-Gaza border issue. If ElBaradei is part of a national salvation government it won’t be long before it’s put on their agenda.

      Last April ElBaradei was saying that Gaza was the world’s largest jail. He was very critical of Mubarak’s decision, at the insistence of US and Israel of course, to construct a steel wall along the border with Gaza. His quote : “The logical solution to the problem would be to close the tunnels and open border crossings while creating a free trade zone in Rafah where Palestinians can trade and then return to Gaza.”

      On the peace process : “The peace process has become a stupid joke which we talk about without achieving any progress,” adding that “the Arabs should back their negotiation option with force and deterrence.”

      Neocons and right wing Israelis hate him with passion because he was outspoken about the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the US-led invasion in 2003 when he was heading the IAEA.

      Now, do you think that Washington wants this guy to head a new national salvation government.

      • Taxi says:

        “.. you think that Washington wants this guy to head a new national salvation government”?

        Washington and tel aviv are crying into their milk over this dilemma .

        They actually believed that after Mubarak ‘retires’, they will have l’il Mubarak for another ooooh thirty years and so therefore made no contingency plans or alternative Egyptian alliances in the meantime.

        Tunisian and Egyptian protesters have turned the tables and changed the middle east forever.

        Who knows? Perhaps washington and tel aviv will eventually recover from this sudden and dizzying slap in the face by the hand of history.

        But they’re sure left behind for now.

        • Walid says:

          “… “.. you think that Washington wants this guy to head a new national salvation government”?

          Don’t fret for the Americans; if Baradei takes over, they’d immediately tell him about the facts of life and what’s expected of him, or else!

        • occupyresist says:

          I don’t wish that on Baradei. Let him be a vehicle for change then step aside or focus on improving education and sciences with Ahmed Zweil – it’s better for them and for the people.

  7. andrew r says:

    “Egypt had participated in wars against Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973″

    Could we not speak loosely about this? There was no “Israel” to attack in ’48; there was some guy in Tel Aviv proclaiming the state of Israel. The Zionist militias that were built up during the Mandate era would still have to spread out and conquer Palestine even if no Arab armies had intervened. Israel invaded Egypt in ’56 and ’67. Only ’73 can be called a war against Israel and even that was only against its forces in occupied territory.

    I haven’t heard much about the war of attrition (’69-’70) so I don’t know if that’s properly considered a war between Israel and Egypt.

  8. tommy says:

    A democratic Egypt is what Washington and Israel’s rulers fear the most. An Egypt that defends Palestinians and Lebanese will not be tolerated without severe economic and materiel consequences from the US and Israel, so it is difficult to believe, without a Soviet enabler, that Egypt will attempt to wage war with Israel. Nevertheless, Egypt may be able to foil increased Israeli territorial expansion and deliberate targeting of civilians with a belligerent voice. Egypt has been quiet for a long time, and Israel needs another nemesis.

  9. seafoid says:

    “An Egypt that defends Palestinians and Lebanese will not be tolerated without severe economic and materiel consequences from the US and Israel”

    Israel can’t pauperize Egypt any more than Mubarak has. Regional peace is the same as debt restructuring. There is an easy way to do it and a hard way.

    link to ft.com

    “There is a rationale to delay if you really think you can make it through, but there is a tendency for delay unnecessarily, because the costs are exaggerated by financial markets,” Mr Stiglitz says. “If debt is going to have to be restructured, it’s better to be sooner than later.”

  10. I look forward to the elections. Then Egyptians will get to discuss their proposals, and assess what they believe is important to them.

    Democracy will result if those that regard themselves as vanguard, listen and propose, for sober dialog and ratification process.