Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Rejectionists in Egypt | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The most popular word in the Egyptian arena is “no”. The word no is uttered dozens of times every day with regards to local issues: No to military trials, no to remnants [of the former regime], no to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), no to presidential elections before a constitution is in place, no to the constituent assembly, no to the electoral commission and no to disrupting the presidential elections.

The word no is also used prominently when it comes to overseas issues: No to borrowing from the World Bank, no to US aid, no to exporting gas to Israel, no to preventing civil society organizations, and so on. The newest is “no to Saudi Arabia”, because of the Egyptian named Ahmed al-Gizawi arrested at Jeddah airport in possession of narcotics.

Of course, the Egyptian citizen can say no as many times as they want to their own government, but they cannot impose their opinion outside their own country. Egypt can close its embassy in Riyadh, prevent its Egyptian citizens from travelling to Saudi Arabia, prevent the Saudis from entering Egypt, and cut all bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia. These stances can all be emphatically represented by the word no. However, Egypt cannot prevent a foreign state from arresting an Egyptian, in accordance with the laws of that state, and cannot prevent the punishment that he is sentenced to.

Those who call for Egypt to cut ties with the state with the greatest overlapping interests, i.e. Saudi Arabia, or to withdraw Egypt’s labor force from there, want to impose their demands at the expense of other Egyptians whom they did not consult.

If the Egyptians want to say no to all these interests, that is their business and their right, but the question that remains is: Who is authorized to say yes or no for the Egyptian people? Demonstrators, parliamentarians or the expected president? Sovereign Egyptian decisions should be issued by the Egyptian state, not through television talk shows or demonstrations.

The world has been waiting for about a year for the Egyptians to decide upon their state project. A year ago Qatar promised to give the Egyptians US$ 10 billion, but only after a president was elected. The UAE made a similar pledge. The World Bank has refused to provide aid whilst it awaits Egypt’s political birth. The new Egyptian regime is still in a state of formation, whereby almost half of it has been completed with the elections of both houses of parliament; the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council. What remains is the constitution, the election of the president, and subsequently the government. Then the Egyptians will be able to make their own crucial decisions with regards to foreign affairs, but at the moment we are witnessing a state of competition, with each party seeking to humiliate others and gain popularity and emotional weight, and most of the time when they say no it has no logic behind it.

For example, those who say no to borrowing from the World Bank to secure Egypt’s critical financial situation perhaps are unaware that countries such as Spain, Romania, Greece and others are all now standing in a queue in front of the IMF and World Bank, and there is no sense of a loss of dignity for them. Likewise, those who want to cancel Egypt’s foreign aid, like that it receives from the United States, are ignoring that this aid is part of a complex relationship and mutual interests. Most countries in the region aspire to receive annual US aid such as that granted to Egypt, to the value of around US$ 1.5 billion, which exceeds the aid granted to all other Arab countries combined.

As for the battle of the accused Egyptian Ahmed al-Gizawi in Saudi Arabia, if it was true that that Saudi Arabia had an agenda against him, then he would have been refused a visa immediately and thus prevented from entering the country. Secondly, al-Gizawi is a non-factor for many people, particularly the Saudis, compared to the dozens of other famous Egyptian critics or supporters. Thirdly, Saudi Arabia contains the largest Egyptian community in the world outside their own country. Interestingly, this community is ranked second in Saudi Arabia in terms of living standards, citing the least issues or problems. Fourthly, the Saudi work regulations, which some people are complaining about, apply to all communities and nationalities, and are not an exception targeting the Egyptians.

The Saudis, and anyone else concerned about what is currently being issued from Egypt, must realize that Egypt today is a ship in a rough sea without a captain, awaiting the results of the long Egyptian marathon.

I am confident that matters will work out in their natural course, and Egypt’s foreign relations will not change greatly whether the next regime is a civil one, or consists of retired military figures, or the Brotherhood, or the Nasserites. Saudi-Egyptian relations have remained for nearly three quarters of a century, and they have withstood the most trying of circumstances. The Egyptian monarchy fell in 1952 and relations continued with the new regime. The late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was enraged when Saudi Arabia refused to support him in his agreement with Israel in 1979, but relations were then restored, as happened previously with the late President Jamal Abdul Nasser.

The truth is that the new Egypt, regardless of the forces that will administer its policies in the future, will grow increasingly interconnected with Saudi Arabia given the circumstances. Egypt boasts the third highest gross production in the region, after Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which means that Egypt’s economy is larger than that of Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Libya combined, in terms of economic strength. But Egypt cannot activate this strength without good relations with the major economic countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia.

Those who threw bricks at the Saudi Embassy in Cairo were actually throwing them at the Egyptians in Saudi Arabia, already concerned about the chaos on the Egyptian street and the conflicts between various political forces to rule the country. Some may be shocked to learn that many of the 1.5 million Egyptians in Saudi Arabia declined to transfer their savings to their home country last year, fearing the consequences that the chaos may pose for their earnings, such as the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, the bankruptcy of Egyptian banks, or the anarchical political and security situation.

Those who undertook the Egyptian revolution must preserve their country’s gains, and not mix between them and the gains of the former regime.