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Celebration in Gaza for the Mursi Vctory in Egypt

Israel dismayed by Mursi Victory

According to some Israeli strategic thinkers, “darkness” has descended with the victory of the Islamist current in Egypt’s presidential race, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied Jerusalem…

Celebration in Gaza for the Mursi Vctory in Egypt

Palestinians wave green Islamic flags that represent Hamas and the Egyptian national flag as they celebrate the victory of Mohamed Mursi in the Egyptian presidential elections, in Gaza City on Sunday

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic remarks, the Israeli media reacted to the victory of president-elect Mohamed Mursi gloomily, mournfully and sometimes hysterically.

Netanyahu said Israel respected the democratic process in Egypt, calling on President Mursi to maintain the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Israel expects continued cooperation with the [new] Egyptian administration on the peace accord between the two countries, which is in the interest of the two peoples and contributes to regional stability,” read a terse statement issued by Netanyahu’s office.

As of now, Netanyahu has not sent a formal letter of congratulation to the new Egyptian leader.

Other Israeli officials sought to reassure Israelis, arguing that Mursi’s powers would be diluted by the Egyptian military and that his time and energy would be devoted to Egypt’s internal and economic problems, not to Palestinian affairs.

Nonetheless, prominent Israeli commentators almost unanimously caricatured a depressive image of relations between Israel and Egypt under Mursi, with the main headline of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot newspaper reading “Darkness in Egypt”.

Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran journalist and editor-in-chief of Ynet, the English-language website of Yediot Aharonot, noted that for the first time in Egypt’s history, the country’s government adhered to what he called “blatant religious ideology”.

He dutifully ignored the fact that the current Israeli government is essentially a government of rightwing and Talmudic parties whose extremism, racism and fascism make the Islamists of Egypt look extremely moderate in comparison.

Yishai took note of the fact that Mursi was the first Egyptian president to be elected in truly democratic elections, adding that the era of secular colonels who ruled Egypt since the 1950s was over.

However, he argued that an Islamist-ideological regime, as moderate as it may be and even if it didn’t impose Islamic law on Egypt, would be hostile to Israel based on its very nature and worldview.

In addition to highlighting the so-called “terror threat”, Yishai invoked the “danger” posed by the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood to the helm of power in the most important and populous Arab country.

Hence, Egypt’s Islamicisation constitutes a very negative harbinger for secular regimes that rely on the army, not only in Lebanon and Syria, but also in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.”

Another prominent commentator, Samadar Peri, wrote that Mursi’s victory was a dangerous development for Israel.

From our standpoint, when the presidential palace in Cairo is painted for the first time in Islamic colours, this is a black day for Israel.”

Another columnist, Alex Fishman, opined that Mursi’s victory meant that everything was open and that the future was unclear.

Israel should be prepared for every eventuality, evoking the possibility of an Islamist intelligence minister, a re-examination of the peace treaty, a collapse of the economic agreement and lack of security coordination.”

The Hebrew daily, Maariv, lamented that in the new Middle East,

the fear has become reality, and the Muslim Brotherhood are in power in Egypt.”

To be sure, most Israelis are not really worried about an immediate worsening of relations with Egypt, calculating that the new Egyptian leadership will be preoccupied with domestic affairs. This gives Israeli military leaders sufficient time to draw “contingency plans” and scenarios in order to “meet all possibilities”.

And while Israel is not worried about the possibility of war, at least in the immediate and foreseeable future, Tel Aviv is concerned with the change and how to respond.

“What happens, for example, if in a year from now Mursi gives the military an order to move a division to the Sinai Peninsula for training. This would be a violation of the peace treaty, but would Israel go to war in such a case? Probably not,” wrote Yaccov Kats in the English language daily The Jerusalem Post.

Kats pointed out that Mursi’s victory would hinder Israel’s operational freedom the next time there is a flare up with Hamas, saying that air strikes in Gaza would quickly lead to a crisis with Cairo.

There is no doubt that Israel views the collapse of the Mubarak regime as a great political calamity. Indeed, the ascendancy to power in Cairo of an Islamist president must be even a greater calamity for Israeli leaders and strategic planners.

According to diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, Israel is mostly worried about the likelihood that the new Egyptian leadership will link its commitment to the Camp David Accords to Israel’s behaviour towards the Palestinians.

That would pose a real dilemma to Israel. On the one hand, Israel views stable relations with Egypt as a strategic asset. On the other hand, Israel cannot appear soft on the Palestinians, especially Hamas,” one Western diplomat told Al-Ahram Weekly.

In its 65 years of existence, Israel relied on two main pillars in pursuing territorial aggrandisement and defeating actual and potential enemies. First, securing and guaranteeing constant US political, economic and especially military backing, which gave Israel a qualitative military edge over all Arab adversaries combined.

The second pillar was courting and neutralising Arab dictators who proved highly effective in pacifying their own masses. Now, that Israel is beginning to lose the second pillar, alarm bells are sounding in the chambers of Israeli strategic planning.

Israel’s lugubrious reactions to Mursi’s win have been contrasted by almost euphoric and spontaneous celebrations by Islamist groups in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Ismail Haniyeh, the elected prime minister of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, was seen holding a picture of Mursi aloft. And as night fell, popular rallies and marches were held all over the coastal enclave. Islamist speakers hailed Mursi’s victory as a victory for Egypt, Palestine and the entire Arab world, as well as for all free men and women in the world.

In contrast, Fatah’s reactions have been generally circumspect, lacking the enthusiasm characterising reactions by Islamists.

Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas has congratulated Mursi in a formal letter. However, it is widely thought that Fatah is worried that Egypt under Mursi will be closer to its rival, Hamas, a fear downplayed by the new Egyptian leadership.

3 Responses to Israel dismayed by Mursi Victory

  1. happeh July 1, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    “In contrast, Fatah’s reactions have been generally circumspect, lacking the enthusiasm characterising reactions by Islamists.”

    Abbas has had his head firmly lodged in Netanyahu’s but since 2008 when all Western reporting from Gaza and the West Bank was cut off.

    It is hard to react enthusiastically when your voice is muffled by the rectum surrounding your head.

  2. who_me July 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    “Israel dismayed by Mursi Victory”

    why did i expect to chalabi jr’s name attached to this ….ah, article?


  3. Ariadna Theokopoulos July 1, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    “WhoWhatWhy” — For those versed in the black arts of propaganda, the hijacking of Arab Spring must be a beauteous thing to behold.

    First came evidently spontaneous uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Then some up-and-comer in Washington or London or Paris had a brainstorm, a new twist on a very old idea: if you can’t beat em, join em. Or even better, co-opt them, and use them for your own purposes.

    The old way of getting rid of “inconvenient” leaders was so 20th-century—in the case of Saddam Hussein, a monstrous lie followed by a massive bloodletting on both sides.
    Tahrir Square suggested how to bring down a regime in a manner far less costly and far more palatable to the public: lots of medium-sized and little lies, war through Twitter, war through expendable proxies. Provide financial incentives to key figures to publicly renounce the old leadership, create a steady stream of heart-rending moments and photos and allegations, generate endless “human rights violations” by baiting the government into a military response, then very publicly petition international bodies for redress of humanitarian concerns.

    Muammar Qaddafi, a fiercely independent, quasi-socialistic African transnationalist, was the guinea pig. A brilliant disinformation campaign isolated him, authentic domestic grievances were encouraged, and a whole war was conducted on behalf of the West with nary a Western soldier putting boots to ground.

    Next up: Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. So began, again, the covert arming of real domestic opponents, and an extensive and variegated propaganda campaign.

    As with Libya, Western countries were covertly overthrowing a Middle East regime, just as they have done over the decades. And, as before, the media said not a word about what was really going on. So the public did not really understand, and there was practically no debate at all.

    A Diverse Media, But a Single Message

    Thanks to the Internet, we have what appears to be a more diverse range of media offerings than ever before. We know the corporate-owned American media won’t take any kind of risks to warn us about what is going on.
    We are lucky we have alternatives: easy access to high quality foreign media (BBC, Guardian, Al Jazeera and the like). And we have a plethora of “alternative” media, from Left to Right to Other.

    With this cornucopia of competing entities, we have every reason to expect that we will get good, hard-hitting, tough-minded reporting and analysis. Right? Wrong. Almost no news organization of any note, of any kind, has called Libya and Syria for what they really are.

    ….. All have seemingly fallen victim to a superb propaganda strategy that associates critical reporting and critical thinking on Syria with defending a regime (that is of course dictatorial and brutal) against “the people.”

    The “Limited Hangout”

    Yet one more example of how this debilitating game is played was on display the other day in the New York Times, just one of many news organizations that have essentially acquiesced in this sophisticated Western power propaganda operation.

    The paper, whose reporting on Syria has been lackluster at best, finally provided us with a peek at what is actually going on. But the revelations were spun so as to benefit those seeking to depose Assad—and bury the matter of foreign sponsorship in plain sight.

    The Times piece, under the headline, “C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition,” begins:

    A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers.

    Let’s stop and consider what is being said here. If the CIA is “operating secretly,” then what are “American officials and Arab intelligence officers” doing publicizing their efforts? Are these leakers courageous whistleblowers, risking a nice visit to the Bradley Manning Hall of Detention? Don’t bet on it.

    The reason we are being told about this, in all likelihood, is that they want us to know. Why? Because this is, in spy jargon, a “limited hangout” that hides the real truth. By “leaking” potentially controversial material, they get ahead of the curve, and by framing it in the most benign possible way, they control any discussion. Read on, please:

    The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said. The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.

    So there’s another soft spin: covert American operatives are helping keep weapons “out of the hands” of terrorist groups. Or, to be precise, out of the hands of terrorist groups opposed to American interests, while channeling them to terrorist groups more amenable to our policies in that region. The identity of these friendly “opposition fighters” is not stated, but they are presumably groups the CIA approves of— perhaps because they were originally created or at least co-opted by these very same CIA people. Of course, the history of Western support for selected terrorist groups in this region is not encouraging; recall the extensive CIA funding of anti-Soviet mujahedeen who morphed into anti-American fighters (including Taliban and Al-Qaeda) after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan ended in 1989.

    The Times article goes on to say that the US is not providing arms but that US allies—particularly Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar—are. What it neglects to mention is that the US provides arms to these allies, and all but tells these countries what to do with those arms. The trick: Washington uses these intermediaries in order for the US to say that it is not involved in overthrowing the Assad regime.