Some New Middle East Strategic Equations

Instead of discussing each country and political entity separately, in this article I would like to look at the current situation thematically. My thesis is that the media have been so preoccupied with day-to-day events, that most of the pundits and commentators have failed analyze and methodically examine where the countries in the region are going and where they are likely to be in the next five or ten years. In other words, I would like to take you on a balloon ride to look at the forests and not the trees.


I would also like to begin this article a bit differently than is usual. I want first to give you a conclusion I have come to…and only then begin at the beginning.


The conclusion is that many of the events and trends we are seeing today are the direct product of centuries of Arab history and Islamic culture—not some sudden or new intellectual flowering. And the reason why the media have ignored some of the most significant trends is that they keep looking for something new in the story because they believe that they have already exhausted previous subjects.


That, by the way, is why, with the exception of particularly gruesome videos that emerge from Syria for example, the daily killing there has virtually disappeared from the television news headlines.


And that is also is why the pundits, as was the case during the first round of elections for the president of Egypt, were so surprised when their predictions do not come true.


The real place to look for meaning in many of the current events is to seek it by delving into the past.


The fact is that few journalists have studied the history and culture of the region, so they tend to get trends wrong, misinterpret events, or simply describe occurrences with jaw-opening awe—not just in the Arab world, but in Israel too. For example, think about all the media brouhaha that followed Israel’s decision to free more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of Gilad Shalit. Try as they might, most of the pundits couldn’t understand the logic—or the long Jewish history of “pidyan shvuim” (ransoming captives) that lay behind the decision.


But now let’s look at a few of the major trends in detail.


On the surface, the situation in Syria, Egypt and Libya appears to be chaotic. If one looks only at the videos of what is going on in the streets in Homs, Sana, Cairo and Tripoli, that is the natural conclusion that any normal human being would come to. The pundits have tried to explain the ongoing violence as, depending upon the country, battles between secularists and Islamists, fights between Sunnis and Shiites, and conflicts between members of the old regime and revolutionaries.


This is all true. But to my mind, there is a far more fundamental conflict going on in all these countries. Probably the most striking result of the past year’s events is that the century-long battle within the Arab world over whether an Arab state should be based on nationalism or Islamic, universalist traditions is now, finally, coming to a head. In other words, will the Arab states seek a place in the global order, which is based on Western theories of nation states and national rights, or turn inward and become more isolationist and theocratic?


Islam’s idealized political state has always been the caliphate.


In theory, at least, a caliphate is supposed to be run by a strong leader who can control the centrifugal forces of tribalism. That leader is supposed to be appointed by a council of Islamic scholars, called the “Shura,” and then to live in a condominium relationship with these self-appointed masters of Sharia law.


In the past, this basic concept, when modified to allow for hereditary rule, led to the creation of three caliphate-type empires—the Umayyad, the Abbasid and finally the Ottoman Empire, which only expired finally after World War I.


To devout Moslems, the reestablishment of the caliphate has always been the default option and devout desire–especially when other systems of government fail. One of the major developments of recent times has been a growing desire by Islamic fundamentalists in both the Moslem Brotherhood and the Salafist groups to introduce a “purer” caliphate than those that ran great empires. There were four such non-hereditary caliphates, each of which lasted for only a short period in the interregnum between Mohammed’s death and the rise of the Umayyad empire, which brought with it hereditary political rule for the first time in Islamic-governed territories.


An alternative to rule by a caliphate or an aristocratic family began to emerge in the Levantine countries in the late 19th century, when European culture began to penetrate the Moslem world after the European colonialists began moving inland and out of their isolated trading outposts on the coasts.


However, from the outset, the very idea of nationalism as a political framework was considered by fundamentalist believers in Islam to be a politically-cancerous foreign implant that challenged the very premise of Islam governance—that Islam is the only true, universal religion and way of life…and therefore any government based on Moslem precepts must, ipso facto, be pan-national.


Nationalism, as a political concept, entered the Islamic world as a result of the work of largely-native Christian political prophets, who had always feared and suffered under Islamic hegemony, Moslem Arabs who had studied in Europe and had become at least partially secularized, and the European colonialists who believed they had a duty to “enlighten” the locals. From the outset, though, all these individuals and groups were considered by Moslem believers to be heretics.


By the 1930s, political intellectual life in the main cities of the most important Arab states had become largely divided between the nationalists, the so-called “modernizers,” and those who sought an Islamic renewal. The best-known examples were the Islamic activists in Egypt who formed the Moslem Brotherhood and the secularists who went on to form the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq.


Once the colonialists left or were driven from the region after World War II, (and left behind them multi-tribal nation states often ruled by unpopular monarchs) a hybrid ideology, called “Arab nationalism,” which viewed the entire Arab world as one nation, swept the main countries in the Levant. Its primary preacher was Egypt’s Gamal Abdul Nasser. However, as had so often happened in the past, tribal affiliations, regional jealousies and realpolitik quickly undermined Nasser’s project to unite the whole Arab world under Egypt’s tutelage.


Instead, in the years following Nasser’s death, and up to the recent Arab revolts, the system of governance in the Arab countries in the Levant and North Africa became one of heavy-handed authoritarianism, based on crony politics and backed by support from the military.


Now, of course, this form of authoritarianism has been challenged by the rebels in the streets.


Although the media have focused almost entirely on the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood and the Salafists in Egypt, an even more striking example of what is going on in the Arab Mediterranean states has been taking place in Israel’s back door. The Palestinian state, envisaged in the Oslo agreements and the cornerstone of the so-called “two state solution,’ has now, effectively been divided into two quasi states. One is Islamist and is based in Gaza, and the other, which, at least titularly, is based on nationalist principles, remains in power in the West Bank.


Since the revolts began in some of the Arab states, most of the pundits have held up the Turkish model as one that the Islamists could and even should emulate. But the Turkish model had one basic fault that makes it unacceptable to the Arab Islamists. At least in theory, Turkey remains a secular state.


To my mind, a far more interesting experiment in Islamic rule is now going on in tiny Gaza—and if it succeeds, it could affect the course of events throughout the Arab world—and it could be emulated in places like Egypt and Syria as well..


Islamic rule in Gaza is now six years old. It has already gone through many of the phases other Arab countries are only beginning to experience. In the past 5 years, Gaza has become the only place on earth where there is a government that operates according to Islamic political traditions. Even Saudi Arabia is less purely Islamic because it is run by a hereditary monarchy.


As a result, it is fascinating to look at the compromises that the leadership in Gaza has had to make during this period because the other countries that are undergoing upheavals are likely to have to confront the same or similar issues.


The biggest difference between the Saudis and the Gazans, besides the vast difference in wealth, is that the leadership in Gaza is chosen by a secretive Shura.


Shura elections to the political leadership were held recently. Previously, the political leadership of Hamas had been assigned to the leaders residing in Syria, led by Khaled Mashaal.  After the Israeli assassinations of Sheikh Yassin and Abdel-Azziz Rantisi, the Damascus-based leaders were considered to be less vulnerable.


More importantly, the Damascus-based politicians were charged with ensuring Hamas’s survival in Gaza by negotiating deals to ensure the flow of funds and arms to Gaza via the Sinai. At least at the beginning of its rule, Hamas tried to implement its revolutionary ideology, and particularly its ideology of continuous anti-Israeli warfare. And to do so, it needed patrons willing to give it cash and guns.


At the same time, the armed wing of the movement was in the process of adopting a combination of traditional guerilla warfare and stand-off warfare, using rockets and missiles that had been newly-imported from Iran. The results, though, were devastating to the Gaza economy because Israel was capable of reacting with vastly superior military force and a blockade.


But even more importantly, Israel eventually adopted effective military countermeasures such as the increasingly-sophisticated border fence and the Iron-Dome anti-rocket defence system.


As a result, Hamas could then no longer use the battle against Israel as a diversion from what was becoming an increasingly desperate domestic economic situation.


As well, at about the same moment, the Syrian civil war had begun to turn, more and more, into a Sunni-Shia religious war. As a result, Hamas could no longer ask for support from both Shiite and Sunni states, and was forced to choose sides. In the end, after a lot of closed-door infighting, the Hamas Shura, which is Sunni, came down solidly in support of the Syrian Sunnis. Among other things, that meant abandoning Damascus as a base; and the Damascus-based leaders have now moved to places like Qatar and Egypt.


But it was not just the Shia-Sunni divisions that led Hamas to leave Damascus.


The uprising in Libya enabled Hamas to find a new source of weaponry—from smugglers who had looted the arms warehouses in Libya. A bonus was that the arms from Libya are more modern and more destructive than the ones Iran had been supplying.


The end result of all these events was that, during its last meeting, the Hamas Shura gave the local government leadership in Gaza all the most important political and military positions within Hamas. In particular, Ismail Haniyeh was elected as the head of Hamas’s political bureau—the top “civilian” political position in the movement.


One reason why the local leadership in Gaza was granted so much power was that, while the expatriate leadership could afford to remain ideologically pure and play politics, the local Gaza leadership had already had to begin creating real alternatives to the situation on the ground. Those alternatives involved finding compromises that were still within the framework of Sharia law.


For example, since August 2011, Hamas has imposed a one-sided “hudna” or a renewable cease-fire—something that is permitted even under the most stringent interpretation of Sharia law.


Israel has always rejected a “hudna” that was not accompanied by a change in Hamas’s charter that calls for the destruction of Israel.


So now we come to a new trend.


Just as Israel has acted unilaterally in the past, Hamas is now doing so as well in order to further its own interests, and those of its allies—especially the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood. And Israel, for its own interests, has had to tacitly accept Hamas’s unilateral actions.


Among other things, Hamas has reportedly set up a new police task force to control what the Hamas leadership has been calling “rogue organizations”—in other words, groups that fire rockets into Israel without Hamas’s permission. The official reason given is that each time rockets are fired into Israel, this gives the Israelis an opportunity to test the Iron Dome anti-rocket system in real time and under real conditions—and thus to make improvements in the system.


The only time recently when these so-called “rogue organizations” were allowed to fire off rockets into Israel was after Israel initiated an attack in Gaza in March 2012, in the wake of an attack by members of the Popular Resistance committees, who had fired on Israelis in the Negev from positions in the Sinai.


The ability by the Israelis to improve the Iron Dome may be real, but it is hardly the main reason why Hamas has been acting as it has.


To begin with, the quiet also obviously benefits the Gazans.


And among other things, in return for the quiet, Israel, without any fanfare, has loosened the blockade it had imposed on Gaza. More food and fuel are being allowed to enter Gaza from Israel, and more Gaza produce has been allowed to be exported to Europe via Israeli ports.


In other words, because there is an unwillingness by both the Netanyahu government and the two Palestinian entities to negotiate a peace settlement, what we have been witnessing is the development of a set of relations based on a seeming oxymoron—an ongoing trade in “unilateral” actions between Israel and the Palestinians. The object has been to create a modicum of stability now, without any of the parties having to commit to long-term objectives.


The danger, of course, is that this is liable to create a super-stable situation again…one in which fundamental issues are not dealt with.


And when that happens, tensions invariably build to the point when even a small spark can create a social or political explosion, such as the one that led to the first Intifada.


I cannot emphasize enough, though, that today, there is less of a chance of a super-stable relationship than in the past for the simple reason that more actors, especially extremist Moslem groups based in the Sinai, have now entered the drama. The extremists, which include members of al Qaeda affiliates and international Jihadists, feel free to attack Israel from their desert redoubts even when this is inconvenient for Hamas. The problem that Israel then faces is that Israel’s hands are largely tied. It fears attacking inside Egypt because of the repercussions such a move would have. So, it attacks Gaza instead. This then forces Hamas to respond as well—especially if one of its members is injured or killed by the Israelis.


Ironically, though, small-scale violent events of this sort may actually benefit both Israel and Hamas because they release political tensions that might otherwise rise to intolerable levels.


But that is not the only trend to arise out of the current situation.


And now we get into a complex web of interactions, inducements and motivations that would make Machiavelli or Metternich proud.



But even before I enter the maze, I have to review a few points I have made in other articles.


First, Sunni Islam has no central leadership as such. It requires that a believer choose a scholar to use as a model and then to follow all of that scholar’s dictates. However, a scholar is not bound by any other scholar’s precedents—and not even his own previous decisions. The idea behind creating a Shura is that some format is needed so that the leadership can produce a working consensus among leading scholars for policies that will accord with Sharia law. Once the Shura decides on a policy, everyone in the movement is expected to obey its orders. In other words, the Shura takes on the same role for the group that individual scholar does for the individual member of the group.


For example, the Moslem Brotherhood’s victory in the first round of the Egyptian elections came as a surprise to many. But they shouldn’t have been surprised at all. The Brotherhood’s Shura had decided to back Mohammed Morsi and it then demanded that its followers follow the Shura’s decisions without question. Absolute discipline is one of the Brotherhood’s fundamental demands of its members.


It was initially believed by most pundits that the Brotherhood would try to avoid actually taking over the reins of government because it had no workable plans for resolving Egypt’s myriad social and economic problems. But rule was so tempting that the Brotherhood decided to break its previous promises and, having now won the presidency, it now has little choice but to confront Egypt’s endemic problems.


For that reason, just as Hamas needs the Brotherhood for moral, political, diplomatic and logistical support, the Brotherhood needs for Hamas to succeed in running its fiefdom in Gaza. That is because in its own interest, the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood needs a working political model to accompany its otherwise-useless slogan that “Islam is the answer.”


Gaza and Egypt face similar problems, but on a vastly different scale. In particular, both economies have been devastated to the point where any amount of aid can only be a palliative.


In the period since Mubarak was ousted, Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves have dropped by two-thirds. Unemployment and the government budget deficit have both risen ominously. The government now has to pay about 17 percent in interest on the money it borrows to cover the deficit.


As well, and most people don’t realize this, Egypt is also a net importer of oil. In fact, the latest batch of tenders for supplying oil that the government has issued indicates that, as a minimum, in the second half of this year, Egypt, will be importing about 33 percent more diesel fuel, worth an estimated 1 billion dollars, than it did last year.


Thus, the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood needs Hamas as never before because it needs a place where small pilot programmes in running a failed state according to Sharia law can be set up.


The need has been given greater urgency because the novice Brotherhood politicians who were recently elected to the Egyptian parliament have been shown to be not merely inexperienced neophytes, but also incapable of confronting real issues—and thus coming up with any practical solutions to the country’s ills. Prior to its dismissal by the Supreme Constitutional Court, the only substantive debates in the parliament were over religious issues and how and when to apply Sharia law.


Those debates highlighted one of the central problems any Arab government anywhere will have to face in the future.


And now we come to one of the most important issues confronting Arab politicians that, to the best of my knowledge, has not been discussed anywhere.


As I mentioned earlier, every devout Moslem is expected to choose a scholar to emulate in both thought and deed. This means that when it comes to politics, a political official is expected to be less of a representative of a particular constituency—as is the case in the West—and more of a leader who is charged with telling his supporters what to think and how to act. This approach and expectation, which is derived from the Moslems’ ancient past, applies equally to so-called secular politicians as it does to hard-line Islamists.


We saw an example of this deeply-embedded belief in a study published in 2012 by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. A poll taken among Israeli Arabs found that 63 percent of these Israeli citizens favoured some form of national service. Not only that, 73 percent said that they would agree to Israel defining itself as a “Jewish State” if the Arabs in the country were guaranteed equal rights. However, another study at Haifa University, which agreed with the Jerusalem Institute’s findings, also discovered that if, as part of the questioning, the interviewees were told that their political leaders opposed both proposals, the level of support for these two proposals fell to 24 percent.


When the Israeli Arabs’ secular leaders in the Balad and Ram Tal parties were questioned about the findings, they were not surprised at all. As Balad leader, Jamal Zahalka, put it: “That’s our job…to lead…to tell people what to think.”


That belief, by the way, is one of the reasons why it has been so easy for so many Arab politicians to avoid taking responsibility for their failures and instead to blame Israel for their domestic policy failings.


Parenthetically, this situation goes a long way to explaining why so many Israeli Arab leaders have focused on almost every issue except acquiring real political equality for their constituents. Their incapacity to negotiate with the Jews has led them to place issues such as Israeli attacks on Gaza at the forefront of their public remarks, and to tell their voters that issues such as the Israeli naval attack on the Mavi Marmara, (the Turkish ship that tried to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza), are the ones that should be given primary place on the Israeli Arabs’ political agenda.


The problem that this attitude has created outside Israel is that the Shura policy-makers have never had to confront real-world issues. Generally-speaking Moslem clerics have studied nothing more than religious texts and have always been able to live off charity. They have never had to think about issues such as crop yields or replacing a collapsing sewage system. That is why one of the leaders of the Egyptian Brotherhood was able to say with a straight face that even though his country was facing economic collapse, it should not accept an IMF loan. The reason he gave was that the loan required Egypt to pay interest, and interest is forbidden under Sharia law. Therefore, as he put it, if he had to choose between the loan and, in his words “going to hell,” he would forego the loan.


But Gaza and Egypt together have another reason why they now want to come up with imaginative solutions.


As a result of the civil war in Syria, the Syrian branch of the Brotherhood has managed to resurrect itself, phoenix-like from the ashes of Alawite oppression. As a result, it has also begun exerting greater influence over the assemblage of opposition forces in Turkey. In particular, it has been taking increasing control of the relief stations that the opposition has established inside Syria. This grassroots work is similar to the strategy adopted years ago by the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, and it could very well influence which parties in Syria emerge with an upper hand if and when the Assad regime falls.


If the Syrian rebels manage to create autonomous areas within Syria, as they now hope to do, someone is going to have to rule those areas successfully if the rebels are to gain a critical mass of supporters elsewhere in the country.


Who will run those areas, and whether they can be run properly has become a matter of paramount strategic importance to the Egyptian branch of the Brotherhood.


The reason is that, according to the Israeli security services, there has also been a significant rise in the number of world jihadists, whom the Syrian government allowed to sneak into Iraq, now returning to Syria and organizing to overthrow the Assad regime through the use of extreme violence. These jihadists are direct competitors to the Moslem Brotherhood and they very well could eventually form a core of violent, anti-Brotherhood, regionally-destabilizing group if and when Assad is overthrown.


So what the two Brotherhoods both need to do is to plan for how to deal with public unrest and public issues quickly—despite the fact that their countries’ treasuries have been gutted.


In other words, at the very moment that the so-called “axis of evil” of Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza that President Bush spoke of, is under pressure or possibly even collapsing, an axis of the Moslem Brotherhood, ranging from Tunisia to Syria is in the making—and Gaza, as a test site for self-governance under Sharia law, may be taking on an outsized role in that process…that is, if Gaza’s leaders can get their act together.


And that is a big “if.” With no practical, tested advice currently available from their Moslem Brotherhood mentors, the leadership in Gaza now has little choice but to rely more and more on its own decision-making.


Israel has now been very gently but warily entering this mire because it has no choice. It cannot stand back and say something like “it’s the Egyptians’” or “It’s the Gazans’ problem.”


That is because Israel’s security is not just dependent on military force. There are an almost innumerable number of ways in which domestic events and chaos in Egypt and Syria cannot but have an impact on Israel.


For example, a very serious issue that could have a catastrophic impact on Israel, but which has, again, been ignored by the media is that the recent instability in Egypt has meant that two diseases there have reached epidemic proportions. They are foot and mouth disease that affects cattle and Newcastle’s disease that can devastate chicken runs within days. Both diseases are endemic to this region, but Israel has been largely successful in eliminating them. However, should the Egyptian epidemics spread to Gaza, Gaza could become a continuous source of infection in Israeli chicken runs and cattle herds.


The only way to prevent the devastation of the agricultural sector in Israel would be to set up a joint programme with the Gazans. But that is easier said than done because, as I said, Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas. It needs a go-between whom it can trust. A trade in unilateral actions can only take the two sides just so far.


And now the mire gets thicker.


From all the hints we have been getting, Israel, in quiet backroom talks, has been trying to manipulate the current situation to its advantage—not by making any dramatic moves, but by nudging the Egyptians and the Gazans to create a new modus vivendi that would go beyond trading unilateral actions.


From the dribs and drabs of comments that have been leaked from Israeli security sources, it would appear as though the Israelis are trying to nudge Egypt and Gaza into a de facto condominium relationship with Israel. And the key hinge of this relationship will be the Egyptian military. In fact, it is becoming ever clearer that for all the bluster about civilian rule in Egypt, the position of the Egyptian military, has been strengthened in recent months.


Just look at the facts as we now know them. From all the leaks we have been given, Israel has probably already agreed to increase the number of Egyptian infantry battalions permitted in the Sinai under the peace treaty, from 12 to 16. Not only would this allow the Egyptians to better fight the growing terrorist presence in the peninsula, it would also be a sop to both the Egyptian military and to the country’s newly-elected president, whoever he turns out to be.


Both the military and all the candidates for president had made a revision of the peace treaty—especially the clauses dealing with the Egyptian army’s presence in the Sinai—a central issue. A formal “unilateral” decision by Israel to increase the Egyptian troop numbers in the Sinai could thus provide the Egyptian leadership with a chest-thumping way of climbing down from the diplomatic branch they have climbed out on—and bolster the prestige of the military.


But Israel has already done more than that.


In recent months, Israel has strengthened the Egyptian military’s position immeasurably by making it the primary conduit between Jerusalem and those Egyptian/Palestinian groups that have sworn never to negotiate with Israel—specifically Hamas, The Moslem Brotherhood and the Salafists. For example, the cease fire in April 2012, the release of Gilad Shalit (the Israeli soldier held hostage by Hamas) and the ending of a hunger strike by Palestinian Arabs in Israeli prisons, were all negotiated under the auspices of, and with the direct participation of the Egyptian military.


Another, particularly fascinating exercise in Egyptian military mediation is currently under way—and it may very well be a signpost of how things will develop behind closed doors in the future.


Gaza has been suffering from a major fuel shortage. Egypt, because of its precarious economic position, can no longer afford to subsidize oil products used by the Gazans. In 2012, Qatar donated a tanker-load of petroleum products to Gaza. Israel, as usual, demanded that it be unloaded in Ashkelon, and then be shipped overland to Gaza. But the Qataris and Hamas could not accept that demand. So, instead, the cargo was offloaded in the port of Suez.


The problem that then arose was how to get the fuel from Suez to Gaza—especially when Sinai had turned into a kind of wild west zone. This then put the Moslem Brotherhood and Hamas in a fix. Hamas initially demanded that the fuel be delivered via the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Sinai.


The Israelis refused to allow the Rafiah crossing to be opened to the passage of goods without Israel being present there to monitor for potential weapons deliveries. The Gazans refused to let Israel have a presence at the border crossing.


But probably most important of all, the Egyptian military couldn’t guarantee the safe passage of the fuel without bringing in heavily-armed reinforcements that are forbidden under the peace agreement. The first trial shipments of fuel were all hijacked by the Sinai Bedouin, and the trucks burned.


The deal that was eventually negotiated allows the Egyptians to load the fuel onto tanker trucks in Suez. Immediately prior to the departure of the trucks, the Egyptian army has been permitted by Israel to bring reinforcements into the Sinai in order to create a safe corridor for the tanker convoy. The tanker trucks then enter Israel and from there drive the two kilometers or so to the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza.




So, in conclusion, let me just review some of the trends in the region as I see them.


The Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood believed that it was riding a wave—that it could replace the nationalism on which the previous authoritarian government was based, with a universalist, caliphate-type Islamic system of rule.


It was influencing political developments across the Levant and North Africa—from Tunisia to Syria.


Casting its previous caution to the wind, it broke its promise not to run for the presidency and not to run is such great numbers for the Egyptian parliament. Its authoritarian and hierarchical system of rule and its organizational skills enabled it to succeed at the polls.


But it is now caught in a bind because it has no policies to deal with any of the basic issues Egypt is facing. Hamas, which has been in power now for five years, faced many of the same problems in Gaza when it set out to rule there. Therefore, it can and is acting as a model for the Brotherhood, its patron, on how to compromise, while still keeping to Sharia law.


The most important of these compromises has involved the consolidation of a tri-cornered relationship between the Brotherhood, Hamas and the Egyptian military, not least because the military has become virtually the sole conduit to Israel.


Israel has been doing its best to strengthen that conduit, largely by giving extensive publicity to the Egyptian military’s negotiating skills and its ability to forge high-profile agreements with Israel.


The big losers so far have been the young people in Egypt who forged the revolt there, but who, because they had neither the organizational skills nor a set of policies that were attractive to constituents, were incapable of competing with the organizational skills of the Moslem Brotherhood and the old regime. Western pundits who believed that Egypt was on the cusp of creating a Western-style liberal democracy have been proven wrong.


Following the recent elections in Egypt, it is now clear that the revolt there did nothing to modify the system of governance there. The old political division between an authoritarian religious movement and an authoritarian military continues to define how the political system in Egypt is run.


Therefore, it is likely that the institutional needs of the Brotherhood and the military will continue to guide policy-making in Egypt—and the two groups’ relations with Israel.


That is to Israel’s advantage because, as the situation in Gaza has demonstrated, both these Egyptian groups can impose discipline on their members once deals are made. And both, for their own reasons, are suspicious of and seek to control populist politicians who call, for, among other things a continuation of violence against Israel.






Leave a Reply