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Egypt, Israel and the prospects of war - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Last week, Egyptian armed forces stopped demonstrators demanding the liberation of Jerusalem and trying to cross the Sinai desert from continuing their advance to the border with Israel, while also preventing the demonstrators from advancing toward the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

Despite the failure of the demonstrators, we witnessed the first test of new Egypt’s foreign policy towards Israel. The Syrian authorities, on the other hand, opened the Golan to demonstrators against the Israeli occupation in the hope of winning over Syrian and Arab public opinion, The Egyptian leadership, however, ignored public opinion. Perhaps it was worried that the price would be higher than political propaganda. We should keep in mind that Egypt had made many concessions, such as the detention of former President Mubarak, his two sons, his spouse, and senior members of his regime. However, the unsuccessful attempts will not put an end to the demands of some Egyptians who wish to repeal all the agreements that the Mubarak and Al-Sadat regimes signed with Israel over the past four decades. Popular pressure on the government and the military council will increase to make more concessions. Otherwise, the people will descend on the Al-Tahrir Square to change the regime once again.

Can the current temporary Egyptian leadership or the future one repeal the Camp David Accords and risk war with Israel? Legally, Egypt cannot do so unless it decides to fight militarily to hold on to the gains of the agreement without its obligations. If Israel remained silent at the closure of its embassy in Cairo, it will not allow the advance of Egyptian troops to the Sinai and that will inevitably lead to war between the two countries. I do not envision this to happen even if an Islamic group, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, wins the presidency and the majority of the parliament seats. I mean that it is unlikely that any future leadership in Egypt, regardless of its color and slogans, would be prepared to wage war on Israel. For another 10 years, Egypt’s economy would not be strong enough to bear the cost of an open-ended military front. In the past, the world was divided into two camps and Egypt was the most prominent ally of the Soviet Union that was ready to finance any confrontation against the enemy camp. Egypt’s domestic economic burdens were also lighter in the early 1970s when the population of Egypt was half what it is at present. Successive Mubarak governments failed to rein in the population explosion lest they anger the street, and so the population grew. It has become the biggest danger threatening the country’s national security.

There are no prospects for war between Cairo and Tel Aviv unless a new situation generated by the new revolutionary conditions arises, such as if the elections divide the Egyptian street acutely and turn the opposition into a key player that would drive the ruling regime to adopt popular decisions at the expense of the supreme interests. It is certain that the pressures and propaganda against the Camp David Accords will continue. However, the Egyptian opposition is aware that it will not able to persuade its people to open a front with Israel at a time when the Palestinians, the rightful owners of the issue, have closed the fronts with Israel. This is particularly true since the balance of forces is not in Egypt’s favor.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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