Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Egypt will not go to war with Israel over Lebanon


President Mubarak stated , en route to Cairo today, that Egypt had no intention of going to war with Israel over Lebanon..

"The Military of Egypt's purpose is solely to protect the country, and does not have any other objective,"

The odds for Egypt going to war this time, is as high as Egypt getting a vice president , anytime soon. There has been no diplomatic signs in that direction, quite the opposite. In 1982 and 2000 the Egyptian ambasador to Tel Aviv was recalled, this time , it has probably not even been up for discussion. The last two years has seen the warmest relations yet, between Egypt and Israel in the 27 years of cold peace, since Camp David.

¨The new government led by PM Ahmad al Nazif is very much focused on economic reform , and within that framework the anouncement of a trade treaty between Egypt , USA and Israel(QIZ), where the crucial part was the establishment of tax free zones, where Israeli high tech equipment should be part of the Egyptian products created soley for export. Eventough the precentage of the Israeli contribution ammounted only to 11 %, the symbolic significance of this treaty touched on the extremely delicate issue of nornalization of relations with Israel. Since the Camp David accord , Egypt has had " a cold peace " And normalization has been taboo in the political circles in Cairo, as well as among ordinary people. And now Ehud Olmert , the Israeli deputy PM sat next to Hosni Mubarak in Cairo,in what looked like a deal forced upon the egyptians without Egypt getting anything in return. This caused an uproar in the egyptian media. It did not help that Mubarak in a sudden change of heart, a week prior to the agreement announced to the world that Ariel Sharon was indeed the man with whom to make peace. Of course as the icing on the cake of the newfound "lovestory" between Egypt and Israel came the hosting of the Sharm al Sheikh summit and the subsequent return of the Egyptian Ambassador to Tel Aviv.¨

Part of the political opposition has demanded that relations with Israel be frozen, and the largest opposition group the Muslim brotherhood with 88 out of 444 seats in parliament want´s a referendum on the Camp David agreement.

The Hizbullah and their leader Hassan Nasrallah has gained a lot of popularity in Egypt since the kidnappings of the two israeli soldiers, two weeks ago. Religious and secular alike among opposition groups, has taken him to their hearts, as the only one who stands up to Israel. 50 years on the day after Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal and faced the tripatriate agression, which proppeled him into an icon for a generation of Egyptians, Arabs and people across the whole third world, the poster of Nasrallah will be just as an integral part of the demonstration, as the poster with Gamal Abd al Nasser is. Security has clamped down on demonstrations in support for Lebanon and Palestine the last two weeks, the latest, last friday at the al Azhar mosque. Yesterday´s demonstration was held at al Tahrir Sq, in downtown Cairo and was attended by approximately 1000 people.

The political leadership on the other hand, has opted for another course, publicly critizing Hizbullah, for provoking the israeli response togheter with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, being portrayed as moderates, and taking a historical stance by the americans, but in fact their stance, comes from fear rather than strength. This is the troika, that for more than a year have been talking about the Shia crescent as a threat to the stability of the region. Mubarak made a blunt remark about Shiítes being loyal to Iran , rather than to their country of origin, this at a critical time in Iraq, when the negations on forming the new government was in total gridlock.

The official egyptian response to the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon has also been slow, while NGO´s have been convincingly rapid in helping their fellow Arabs, something reminiscent of the government handling of the Cairo Earthquake 1992.

Perhaps this new shift in policy is about to change for the normal business as usual positions, or is the government reversing it´s stance, to accomodate¨the egyptian street? This is hardly the case, they want to be part of Condi´s and Ehud´s new Middle East. Where democracy and rule of law is as lacking, as cheap oil.

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