Happy 4th of July
I was surprised to see that Fox News, CNN, Sky News and France 24, together with Israeli Channels 10 and 2, were quick to term the downfall of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a military coup. While the Egyptian army played a crucial part in the dramatic events that transpired over the last five days, the leading role was played by the Egyptian people. The army in this case played the facilitator, but was in no way the instigator.
Yes, it was the army that gave the ultimatum to Morsi, and it was the army that placed him under virtual house arrest and brought tanks into Cairo. Yet this was done not out of a lust for power but out of concern for Egypt’s national interests. General Al-Sisi is well aware of what happened to his predecessor Tantawi when he tried to rule Egypt during the interim period between the toppling of Mubarak and the elections, and does not want to follow a similar fate. In helping to bring down Morsi, the army was following the will of 14 million Egyptians out on the streets. Acting as the responsible adult, the army made sure that the inevitable downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood did not deteriorate into widespread violence.
The term “military coup” does not do justice with the real process that has taken place in Egypt over the last two years since the on-start of the Arab Spring. The core of this process is the basic civilian aspiration to be free in ones country – the aspiration to lead a normal political, social and economic life. The simple message of this revolution, and perhaps of all the other revolutions taking place in the Arab Muslim world, is that the ruler is the one who needs to fear the people, and not the people who need fear the ruler. The Muslim Brotherhood, a religious totalitarian movement in essence, did not and could not understand this basic aspiration.
Likewise, this outcome also serves to correct the false prophets who claimed that the Arab Spring would inevitably be taken over by Islamic extremists. The Egyptians have shown that the Arab political revolution not only rejects the dictatorship of despots, but also the dictatorship of Islamic religious clerics.
It’s not over yet. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Arab world’s most influential and largest Islamic movements, and the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states, will not take this slight easily. It took them over 90 years to come to power in Egypt, and they will not go out without a fight. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, Egypt’s problems are still there. With a crippled economy and a fractured society, the challenges facing Egypt during Morsi’s rule will continue to challenge any ruler in Egypt. It will take a huge effort by the Egyptians, coupled with serious international support, to stabilize the situation and prevent further political upheavals.
As for Israel, the blow suffered by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt translates into a waning of Hamas power. Hamas made the choice to willfully turn its back on political and financial support from Iran and Syria, and it may now lose the substantial support it expected to receive from Egypt. This directly weakens its position in relation to the Islamic Jihad and the other Salafist organizations in Gaza, who may feel emboldened enough to openly challenge Hamas’s authority by breaking the status quo with Israel (see “Honor Among Thieves”). The Egyptian crisis may also have economic effects on the West Bank, as 100,000 Palestinian academics who usually find work in Egyptian educational institutions, may end up jobless.
There is a commonly held belief in Israel that the changes in the Arab world warrant caution and “responsible” behavior. It is precisely this line of thought that may lead us to catastrophe. The IDF is warning that the economic crisis and a freeze in talks is bringing the situation in the West Bank to boiling point. Instead of conservatism, this reality warrants immediate activism.