If Israel Respects Egyptian PM, It Should Also Work with Hamas

Article Summary
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has announced Israel's intention to cooperate with the new Egyptian President Morsi. Efraim Halevy writes that now that Israel has recognized the legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, there is no longer any reason not to work with the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood: Hamas.

The flood of statements and declarations by Egypt’s President-elect Mohammed Morsi testifies to his inexperience in dealing with the media. We should thus grant him a period of grace and wait for a while before we rush to draw conclusions from this or that statement of his.

In the first address he delivered after being declared the victor in the Egyptian presidential election on Sunday, June 24, Mohammed Morsi announced that his regime would honor all of Egypt's international commitments. He refrained from explicitly referring to the peace agreement with Israel or mentioning Israel by name; however, commentators believe that it is Egypt's peace treaty with Israel that he was alluding to in his victory speech.

In an interview with an Iranian news agency the following day, Morsi told listeners in Tehran that he was reaching out to Iran and that he hoped to establish with it a new strategic balance in the region. Meanwhile, the massacre of the Sunnis in Syria by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces carries on with the assistance of Iranian Shiite militias sent out on this mission by General Ismail Qa'ani, deputy-commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's al-Quds Force. Sooner or later, Morsi is bound to recall the massacre of some 20 thousand Muslim Brotherhood members in Syria [the Hama massacre of February 1982], carried out at the time under the orders of Bashar's father, then-Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.

The situation in Egypt is no doubt quite complicated, and it is still too early to anticipate what kind of arrangement will be established between Egypt's top military brass and the Muslim Brotherhood. Will the military decisions to dissolve the just-elected Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament and strip both the parliament and the incoming president of key executive and legislative powers remain in force? Will the newly elected president put together a cabinet representative of the varied range of sects and views in Egypt's diverse ethnic and political arenas? To answer these questions, we will have to wait patiently for the regime in the Second Republic of Egypt to take shape and stabilize.

The new Egyptian leadership will have to formulate its policy shortly with respect to the ongoing bloodshed in Syria and make a decision before long as to its future relations with the Saudi royal court, which the Muslim Brotherhood has been seeking to overthrow for several decades now. Until quite recently, the Saudi Arabian leadership used to publicly lash out against the Muslim Brotherhood, blaming the movement for the majority of problems plaguing the Arab world. It would be interesting to hear the first declarations of the newly elected Egyptian president addressed to the Saudis or the Saudi-controlled media. Egypt is in desperate need of Saudi support. Will urgent material needs prevail over ideology and theology? It seems that Morsi has a lot of homework to do.

The Israeli government has wisely decided to refrain from any public statements for the time being. The only official statement made in connection with Egypt's presidential election is that issued by the Prime Minister's Office. And it indicates where the wind is blowing in Jerusalem. The message delivered is that Israel respects the democratic decision made by the Egyptian people and "looks forward to continued cooperation with the Egyptian regime on the basis of the peace agreement between the two countries, which is a common interest of the two nations."

The Israeli statement makes no reference, and rightly so, to the ideological doctrine of the new regime in Cairo. It does not burrow into any of the articles in the Muslim Brotherhood's authoritative documents setting forth its doctrine. Nor does it mention the fact that Abed el Rahman al-Banna, the brother of the Muslim Brotherhood's founder, visited Israel in 1935 and established here the first Islamic organization that fought against the Zionist movement back in the 1930s.

Likewise, the Israeli statement judiciously skips over the history of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was one of the staunch advocates of the Muslim Brotherhood and enjoyed Hitler's hospitality in Berlin at the height of the Second World War. The Israeli prime minister has certainly done right when choosing not to dwell on all these.

It should be noted in this context that this is the second time the Muslim Brotherhood has risen to power in the Middle East. The first time, as we all know, was when Hamas, the Palestinian sister movement of Cairo's Muslim Brotherhood, won in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections the majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament, in the most democratic elections ever held in the Palestinian Authority.

At this point, following the recent round of hostilities between Gaza and Israel, and now that the Prime Minister's Office has issued its statement, there is no longer any justification for nor is there any sense in adhering to our policy with respect to the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It seems that we too, here in Israel, have our homework to do.

The author is an Israeli lawyer and intelligence expert, an ex-Mossad chief and former head of the Israeli National Security Council.

Found in: halevy, muslim brotherhood, muslim, israel, hamas, gaza, egypt, blockade

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