This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
So I was wrong. President Obama does have a plan to cut off American aid to Egypt. Possibly. That is, if things keep going the way they’re going. Whatever that means in the real world.
But I can’t get too down on myself for missing the President’s aid plan. Obama has played it close to his vest. In fact, he’s kept it a secret. It was leaked to the press only yesterday by Vermont’s Senator Leahy, no doubt with the permission of the President. This raises the question as to whether Obama has lost his vaunted oratorical skills along with the transparency he promised to be the hallmark of his presidency.
Actually I’m surprised Obama was able to keep his secret for so long, what with the broad sweep of NSA spying. Or perhaps the Snowden effect has taken its toll and possible leakers are keeping a low profile. Now I’m wondering if Obama’s secret plan may have been found out during the detention and questioning of Glenn Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow Airport yesterday. Does Snowden still have access to the President’s email?
The pundits tell us that American aid is paltry, especially compared to our other Middle Eastern allies. They’re pouring billions of petrol dollars into an autocratic regime just like theirs. And who needs American security intelligence when Israel can supply everything it receives from the US free of charge?
This doesn’t solve the mystery of why Obama kept our possible aid cut-off secret. The billion dollar question remains. Perhaps that’s one of the conundrums the Arab Spring helped birth.
With Mubarak on the road to freedom and summary execution the rule of the day, Egypt’s devolution into a fascist dictatorship has arrived. If Egypt emerged from its present travails within a decade it would be a miracle. What that portends for Egyptians is obvious. So, too, with Israel and the Palestinians. Israel is part and parcel of the revived autocratic-led region. Palestinians will be neglected, contained and disciplined.
The Arab Spring is the September 11th of the second decade of the 21st century – a springboard for a decade of retrenchment, repression and war all around. Egypt’s plight is a gift to Israel. For Palestinians, Egypt’s plight is the last nail in their coffin.
In the Middle East that is evolving think about Palestine circa 2023. During these – also quite secret – Israeli-Palestinian negotiations think what is and what isn’t on the table. Though we primarily focus on Jerusalem and the West Bank in the present round of negotiations, the situation in Egypt has led to a further crackdown – and collusion with Israel – on Gaza. If there’s little if anything for Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank, there’s less for Gaza.
This doesn’t bode well for the Palestinians living in the broader Middle East either. When the siege within Palestine intensifies and Middle East dictatorships feel threatened, Palestinians become convenient scapegoats. Israel is only too happy to join the hunt.
On the bright side, there’s always Europe. The New York Times reports that the European Union is preparing an emergency session on suspending aid to Egypt. As you may have noticed European morality has ascended as its power in the world declines. Nonetheless, when you read what’s on the EU’s mind, it’s depressing.
Europe’s historical amnesia is amazing – as if its various empires didn’t carve up the Middle East into its present configuration. Of course, that doesn’t stop it from weighing in on the present crisis. Describing Europe’s diplomatic advantage over the US, an EU official is quoted as follows: “Unlike Washington, we were seen as having no historical baggage, no hidden agenda, and we used it to see everyone. They saw the added value we could bring by talking to everyone. That was the European advantage.”
Where does that leave the EU in terms of policy? Another EU official responded – at least in his mind – clearly and forcefully: “It is absolutely important for Europe’s foreign relations to be engaged constructively in Egypt and at the same time respond to the situation.”
Can President Obama’s secret aid plan and Europe’s constructive engagement trump the will of alliance between Israel and Middle Easter dictators? Stay tuned – with little hope.