Does The Israeli Egypt Relationship Balance the Middle East?

The United States has been grumbling about giving military aid to Egypt ever since President Mubarak was removed from office by the Egyptian Military. But what about the Israeli Egypt Relationship? The threats quieted down with the election of Mohamed Morsi as the fifth President of Egypt. The US and others bought his entire package, despite his Muslim Brotherhood ties. Apparently, the US position was Morsi was a “good choice” – according to a technocrat.

Just after a year in office, Morsi was removed from office by the Egyptian military, and subsequently the Tahrir Square in Cairo and other sites throughout Egypt have turned into mini-turf wars between the Morsi supporters and “the others.”

Morsi supporters, clearly the Muslim Brotherhood, feel they have lost what rightfully belonged to them. They had been given the keys to the kingdom by the vote of the people, and President Morsi had ensured longevity by adjusting the constitution and self-appointing himself “King of Egypt.”

With Morsi out and now about to stand trial on charges of inciting and committing violence next month, his followers have hit the streets in his defense (or offense). Violent outbursts have caused deaths and injuries throughout Cairo and other parts of Egypt.

What The Pope Has To Say

On August 14, Pope Tawadros II [of the Coptic Church] issued a statement on the violence that has overwhelmed Egypt. He directly pointed a finger at the Muslim Brotherhood for promoting sectarian clashes.

The Pope said, “the Church is on the side of Egyptian law, the armed forces and all the Egyptian civil institutions when it comes to confronting violent armed organizations and terrorizing forces, either within the country or from abroad.” It should be noted that Pope Tawadros was willing to support Morsi upon his election, however, he did say he felt the revolution was not over.

How right he was!

The Pope reminds people that they must look past the events of what is happening in the public squares [Tahrir] in order to fully understand what is really happening in Egypt, and know who is at fault. He said, “The attacks on government buildings and peaceful churches terrorize everyone, whether they be Copts or Muslims. These actions go against any religion, any moral code and any sense of humanity.”

According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), the Coptic Church also had a lot to say about the way the Western media has reported on the crisis in of Egypt.

It expressly speaks of “false broadcast by the Western media,” and urges an “objective” revision to be made of the descriptions given to the actions of those “blood-thirsty radical organizations.”

The Coptic Orthodox Church says that “instead of legitimizing them [Muslim Brotherhood] with global support and political coverage while they are trying to wreak havoc and destruction upon our beloved land, report all events truthfully and accurately.”

Pope Tawadros reaffirmed his support for “national unity” and rejected any form of “international interference in our internal affairs.”

AINA reported, “the Pope is at the top of the Islamists” assassination list.” Similarly, Dr. Naguib Gabriel, President of Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said “82 churches, many of which were from the 5th century, were attacked by pro-Morsi supporters in just two days.”

St. Tadros Coptic Church burning. How will unrest affect Israeli Egypt Relationship
St Tadros Church, Minya burns after being attacked by an angry Muslim Brotherhood group in Egypt

The US Position

In typical US method, on October 9th the Obama administration announced $260 million in military equipment ready to ship to Egypt would be “postponed indefinitely” and the funds would be redirected away from the government to aid groups. US officials “vaguely stated the aid cuts would continue until credible progress was made towards a real democratic transition.” In all, the US is preparing to cut as much as $1.5 billion in aid.

Meanwhile, the reaction from around Egypt concerning the US decision to cut off millions in aid to the country is mixed. Many see it as a betrayal of trust and a breach of treaty. Others looked upon the cut in funds as a positive move – a path to Egyptian Independence. For many others, the cut in funding is seen as a break in dependency “from a manipulative superpower.”

Once again, Washington should be reminded that we have never been successful at pushing our “brand of democracy” on another country, particularly in the Middle East when we do not respect their culture, customs and religion.

Egyptians Comment On US Interference

Twitter is hot with Egyptians sharing their comments about the US interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.

What Does Egypt’s Aid Have To Do With Israel?

In 2007, the United States signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding outlining a US military aid package to Israel totaling $30 billion. From 2009 to 2018, the United States is scheduled to give Israel – the largest recipient of US assistance – $30 billion in military aid.

Today the United States delivers a $3 billion annual aid package to Israel. This is more than the US provides in aid to any other nation in the world, even those on better terms.

According to the Harvard Israel Review, “The close relationship between Israel and the United States was born out of Cold War tensions projected onto the regional conflict in the Middle East. Following the 1967 war, relations between Israel and its neighbors remained tense and by 1970, Israel found itself entangled in a war of attrition with its’ southern neighbor Egypt.”

Israeli Egypt Relationship

The loss of military aid to Egypt isn’t Israel’s only US funding worry – there is a budget cut of $55 million from the Arrow-3 program which is a program under development by the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries and US owned Boeing Co. Arrow-3 is a defense project meant to intercept long-range missiles from Iran above the atmosphere.

Israel’s Defense Minister responded by cutting more than $1 billion over the next year from their budget including slashing up to $30 million from the Arrow-3 program. According to the World Tribune, Israeli sources said, “Israel cannot bear the costs of the project.”

Israelis have expressed both disappointment and alarm at the news the United States has plans to cut military aid to Egypt in response to the military summary crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, beginning with deposing President Morsi. The current Israeli Egypt relationship shifts like sand.

According to the New York Times, “one Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate diplomacy involved, warned that the implications of punitive cuts in Egypt’s aid could go far beyond the issue of Israeli-Egyptian relations. The United States is playing with fire,” he said.

According to Foreign Affairs, “the security situation [in Egypt] has dramatically worsened since the military’s removal of Morsi on July 3, after which there has been a marked uptick in deadly attacks against Egyptian soldiers and police in Sinai.”

Of course Israel’s main concern remains that it could become an obvious target for jihadis, who see it as an occupier of Muslim land.

ProMorsi demonstrator: I say to [Egyptian Defense Minister] Al-Sisi – Beware. You have created a new Taliban and a new Al-Qaeda in Egypt. All these masses will split into suicide squads, and will destroy you and Egypt. It will be you who have destroyed Egypt. You have created new mujahideen and new martyrdom-seekers. If one out of ten of these people blows himself up in a crowd, it will be your fault. It is you who have created terrorism. You were the first to use terrorism.
Where prior to the fall of Morsi, Israel had fully befriended him in their own best interest, now Israel has quickly jumped horses and is aggressively advocating that all aid promised to Egypt should flow as promised. As reported in the Jerusalem Post, “The most important thing from an Israeli perspective is maintaining the peace treaty with Egypt that the US brokered and to which president Jimmy Carter was a witness.”

Former defense minister Ben-Eliezer didn’t hold back with his criticism of the US saying it is “essentially and unwittingly” working against its own interests. He continued by saying, “It must be understood that this region is so weak and in order to keep it stable, a superpower of some kind is required to safeguard it.”

Ben-Eliezer said that the US policy was of great concern to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, and that he could envision a situation where they would begin quiet talks with the Russians to secure their interests.

Is this political manipulation?

Inequality in Foreign Aid

The United States is pulling aid from Egypt because they do not believe that Egypt is on the “right” path to democracy, expressing concern with the fall of Morsi and the breakout of violence. This renewed violence has resulted in many injuries and deaths.

Whose brand of democracy is the US holding Egypt up to?

On the other hand, the United States does not tie the aid package given to Israel with their persistent human rights violations in the Palestinian Occupied Territories or in the Palestinan Detention Centers. Israel has clearly violated the rights of children who are incarcerated and do not have access to their parents. They are building a wall that is primarily in the Palestinian Occupied Territory cutting Palestinians off from their farmland, and separating families from each other. And Israel, against international law, continues to build settlements in the “occupied territories.”

The US is taking a fickle funding approach that incites anger and frustration within the Middle East.

Kimberly Jones
Kimberly Jones is a global nomad with a special interest in the Middle East and North Africa. She grew up in Saudi Arabia and traveled throughout the MENA growing deeply attached to the people and the culture.