Today this news, which was released on Friday, takes precedence.
From the NY Times:
“The White House on Friday threw its weight behind Egypt’s resurgent protest movement, urging for the first time the handover of power by the interim military rulers in the Obama administration’s most public effort yet to steer the course of the Egyptian democracy.
“‘The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately,’ the White House said…
“The statement is a significant escalation of the international pressure on the generals because the United States is among the Egyptian military’s closest allies.
“But speaking out against the military could be a risky bet for White House if the transition to democracy moves out of the hands of the military to less predictable civilian control.
“Since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has held itself up as the sole guardian of Egypt’s stability against chaos and radicalism.”
Undoubtedly, encouraging the “transition to democracy” would be what the Obama administration would cite as its goal in pressuring the military this way. But for anyone with eyes in his head to see, it is clear that we are headed towards that radicalism. There is not going to be a Western style liberal democracy emerging from the chaos that is Egypt today. That much is a given, as clear anything might be. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is waiting in the wings, ready to take control. (More on this below.)
Put simply and boldly: President Obama is giving the Muslim Brotherhood a boost. In doing so, he is enhancing dangers for Israel, and for the US.
Should I be surprised? Not really. After all, he invited members of the Brotherhood to his speech in Cairo over two years ago. But I’m more than a bit angry.
Obama pulled the rug out from under Mubarak last February, thereby helping to generate the current situation in Egypt. Now, the Times piece explained that, “the United States is among the Egyptian military’s closest allies.” But no, better to have said, had been among the military’s closest allies. For he has attempted to pull the rug out from under them, as well. The world is watching and the lesson is that the US cannot be trusted as an ally. There will be a price to pay for the president’s behavior.
What makes his policy here even more reprehensible is that he wouldn’t back the Iranian street against the current Iranian regime. How selective is his support for “democracy,” and how perverse.
And so…the president is a menace to the West. And I advise everyone who thinks that Obama is doing a good job in the White House to seriously consider his behavior in this regard.
Israel has been very critical of this move by Obama: “The U.S. is repeating the same mistake it made during the first revolution in Egypt, when it called on Mubarak to turn over the government,” said one diplomat. The Israeli Foreign Ministry is now sending messages via its ambassadors in Britain, Germany and France to do nothing that would shake up the structure of the government in Egypt.
Middle East analyst Barry Rubin has been following events in Egypt closely and put out a new piece today.
“During the Mubarak era, Egyptian foreign policy was based on a pragmatic consideration of Egyptian national interests. That included supporting regional stability rather than wasting resources on losing battles to destroy Israel or seeking Egyptian leadership of the Arab world…
“Now those mistakes are likely to be repeated, although it is not clear to what extent. The new-old Egypt is likely to try to battle Israel in some way, to promote Islamist subversion elsewhere, and to seek Egyptian leadership in the Sunni Arab Muslim-world.
“For Egypt-Israel relations, the removal of the military from power (probably sometime around June 2012) will mean a turn toward total hostility. (Emphasis added, but note that this is what Obama would advance.)
“For all practical purposes, this would mark the end of the peace treaty even if there is no actual war. Whether or not the treaty is formally reviewed or abrogated doesn’t matter in terms of this practical impact. US policy, enamored of the Muslim Brotherhood and not warmly supportive of Israel, will be useless on these issues. (Emphasis added, but mark this well.)
“That doesn’t mean, however, that Egypt would go to war against Israel. The main danger is that Hamas would try to lure Egypt into the conflict by attacking Israel. In such a case, however, Egyptian actions might be limited to letting Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist volunteers cross into the Gaza Strip to fight while permitting money, weapons and foreign terrorists to pour into Gaza to help Hamas…
“While the impact of Egyptian policies would be anti-American, Cairo would do the bare minimum necessary to keep the Obama administration deluded that this is not the case. Such a success might come with minimal effort.” (Emphasis added. But note this well, too, please!)
At the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Netanyahu suggested that it may be time to recalibrate its security needs and increase defense spending. This is in light of what’s happening across this entire region; as one person present at the meeting explained, “People here are very concerned about Egypt. It looks now as if the revolution is going in a certain direction. Wherever the Arabs vote, the Islamists are winning.”
Netanyahu has been referring to the situation as “unprecedented regional instability” — the biggest shakeup since the Ottoman Empire collapsed and the allies carved new nations out of what had been that empire.
The prime minister obviously sees the need for a heavy investment in defense.
Let me turn now to some other events within Israel — involving the prime minister — that require a closer look.
We have seen in recent months a welcome move by activist MKs to promote legislation that would strengthen not only Israeli democracy, but the nationalist position within Israel. I am able to link the two because it is the left-wing anti-nationalist elements of the nation that have leveraged control for a long time.
One of those bills — proposed by Likud MKs Danny Danon and Yariv Levin — was designed to regulate which public petitioners — associations, most notably NGOs — would be permitted to file petitions with the High Court of Justice. Requirements for petitioning the court were that the case be significant to the country’s general public, that its foreign funding sources be disclosed to the court, and that its petition be done jointly with someone directly affected by the case.
All of this is exceedingly pertinent, because there are very left-leaning NGOs that will petition the court solely in order to further their political agenda. What is more, frequently they are NGOs that are receiving funding from abroad, so that the political agenda they adopt may not even be that of the Israeli general public.
As MK Levin it, “The bill will put an end to the absurd situation in which foreign elements intervene in the affairs of the State of Israel and flood the legal system with petitions whose main goal is to weaken Israel from within.”
And yet, a cry went up (from the left) that this was undemocratic, as everyone should be able to petition the court. But this is nonsense. In the US, the Supreme Court may be petitioned only by someone who has standing in the case — that is, who would be affected.
But here we have a situation in which Peace Now, supported by funds from European nations with a strong pro-PA agenda, is able to go to the High Court and say it objects to a particular outpost in Samaria, when no Arab is objecting to it and claiming he is affected.
Such a petition, it should be added, would has a reasonable chance of being entertained by the High Court because that court is inclined to the left itself. This is well understood here in Israel.
There was at least a chance that this legislation might have made it through the system. That is, until yesterday, when Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that he was opposed to any legislation that would limit the High Court.
That was the kiss of death and the Ministerial Committee on Legislation has now rejected it.
The question then, is why Netanyahu took the position he did. He understands full well what the situation is.
I am able to come to no conclusion other than that he dropped the ball on this one: He caved to left wing pressures.
Today I spoke with Moshe Eyal, Associate Director of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel. He was rather optimistic, in spite of the fact that this particular legislation was effectively blocked. For he says progress is being made in educating the public to what is going on and now there are Knesset members prepared to act:
“We are beginning to see a weakening in the post Zionist hegemony in the court system and a decline in the influence of other countries on the political views of the State of Israel…we rejoice in the essence of the process…since until now legal terms were used as a cover for post Zionist political opinions which we are now able to change…
“We plan on continuing our work to strengthen the State of Israel as a Jewish state, to bring about proper democratic rule and to protect the human rights of groups which have been abandoned by existing organizations.”
Please note: Moshe Eyal, speaking for the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, will be in the US from December 5 – 14. He will be primarily in the NY area but is prepared to travel. His goal is to raise funds and awareness for the Forum.
If you have a serious interest in having him meet with your group, let me know.
Another decision was made by the prime minister on Friday that I want to mention here:
I have written extensively in the past weeks about the Mughrabi Bridge, which leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount, and is the only access to the Mount for non-Muslims. The current wooden bridge was considered temporary when it was put up after the existing bridge was destroyed by weather conditions. For some time now there have been plans extant for its replacement by a permanent bridge but the work has not taken place because of various objections from the Arab world, and most notably the Wakf — the Islamic Trust that administers matters on the Mount. Totally fallacious charges were made that Israel was digging under the Temple Mount in order to bring down Al Aksa Mosque on the Mount.
This was clearly a turf dispute, with the issue being one of who has the right to make decisions regarding the bridge. And it was quite obvious that it was time for Israel to move on this — in particular as the current bridge is deemed unsafe — and assert Israeli authority .
At long last, the work was due to start this past Sunday (or late Saturday night) — beginning with a 72 hour period in which destruction of the present bridge would be done followed by construction of the new bridge. But on Friday, Netanyahu called for yet another delay. This was because of warnings he had received from both Jordan and Egypt regarding the fact that this construction would cause unrest.
In the case of Jordan, it was said this work might spur riots that could spread to Judea and Samaria. This seems not an insurmountable crisis. Generally speaking, it is unwise idea to be intimidated by threats of violence — these threats are fairly ubiquitous and are used as a political tool by the Arabs. As it was, the IDF was supposed to deploy in anticipation of unrest in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria.
However, the matter of Egypt is something else. For working on the bridge now — when that work is being widely represented as a move by Israel to usurp what belongs to the Muslim world and to do damage to a site of Islamic sanctity — seems unwise in the face of the situation in Egypt. There is no question but that this would be parlayed by the Muslim Brotherhood into a reason for further unrest in Tahrir Square and nearby mosques.
In fact, there is a very good chance that the Brotherhood would utilize this as a campaign point — a reason why the people of Egypt need them at the helm of their government so that they might take strong action on behalf of the Islamic world. Anti-Israel sentiment broadly plays into the hands of the Brotherhood.
And so here I think Netanyahu’s judgment was proper and he made the right decision. The election in Egypt is hardly a trivial matter. At the moment, he has delayed the work for a week, but he will be consulting with officials (unidentified) in order to resolve the matter.
A correction: The very positive video about Israel that I wrote about yesterday will be shown on PBS in south Florida, but it is not a PBS film. It was made by Rafi Shore of JerusalemOnlineU — http://www.jerusalemonlineu.com/.
Sorry for the error (and thanks to Judy B. for catching it).
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.