Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt Today, Egypt Then

The Winnipeg Free Press relates to the current Egyptian situation by recalling 30 years ago:

Israel rethinking its defence

For the first time since its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, Israel finds itself politically besieged.

When Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat signed their peace treaty in Washington on March 26, 1979, the regional political landscape was totally different.

Turkey was Israel's strategic ally, and the Khomeini Revolution was busy establishing its Islamic institutions in Iran. Lebanon's Hezbollah was non-existent, as was Hamas.

Now, Syria and Hezbollah are establishing themselves as the dominant forces in Lebanon; Jordan risks becoming the next target of the "Facebook Revolution"; Hamas is holding firm in the Gaza Strip and challenging the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Even if the peace treaty with Egypt is not abrogated, Israel has to take into consideration the possible rise in power and influence of Muslim Brotherhood in the Nile Valley. This dramatic change in the political landscape forces Israel to re-examine its defence doctrine, that is still based -- to a large extent -- on the peace with Egypt.

Despite the excellence of its intelligence services and technological superiority, Israel was caught off-guard. The reason? Israel was focused mainly on security and strategy and less on domestic issues -- like unemployment, poverty and corruption and their impact on the regime's stability.

Israel, for example, didn't understand that for many Egyptian students, their university degree was no more than a membership card in the "club of the unemployed."

Therefore, when the demonstrations hit the Cairo streets last Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among only three regional leaders who called President Hosni Mubarak and expressed hope that he would overcome the crisis.

The other two were Saudi King Abdullah and the Emir of Kuwait.

...Under Mubarak, Egypt kept the Sinai desert semi-demilitarized. It sealed the Gaza Strip in an effort to prevent smuggling of arms and terrorists in support of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It also played an important role in the struggle against Iran's nuclear ambitions.

This situation enabled Israel to reduce its military budget from 23 per cent of GNP in 1979, to 11 per cent today. A change in Egyptian military doctrine would force Israel to increase its military budget, at the expense of vital social services. Israel would also be forced to mobilize more troops to protect its Egyptian border.

What is even more serious -- a new Egyptian regime with enhanced Muslim influence potentially could lead to war with Israel in the future and could encourage Hamas in Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan...

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