US funding for Egypt key to Israel-Egypt peace

egyptisraelIsrael’s peaceful relationship with its neighbors in Egypt comes at a high price: the deal obliges the US to provide massive amounts of unconditional military aid to Egypt.

And that’s where things get dicey. A military coup normally obliges the US to suspend military aid, which is why the US is avoiding calling this coup a “coup” in so many words, hoping to gloss over that fact.

But Egypt is a big deal, and a coup there is a little hard for the US to just write off as no big deal, which has Israeli officials fretting the prospect that the US might eventually be obliged to revoke aid to the new junta and “violating” the Egypt-Israel treaty in doing so.

Not that this means a serious risk of war, as both nations have been be getting billions from the US for decades and are both armed to the teeth. The US money buys Israel a lot of influence however, like the right under the treaty to dictate Egypt’s military policy in Sinai.

Israel is also expressing concern that jihadists will use the “power vacuum” to carry out attacks along the border, though Egypt has heavily deployed its military along the Gaza frontier, so this also seems unlikely.

In the end, the first impact the coup may have for Israel is weakening Hamas and strengthening Fatah, as Hamas had close ideological ties with President Morsi and was even in the process of ditching its long-standing alliance with Syria and Iran in favor of Egypt.

The Syrian government, which has long sought to portray its repression of the revolt against its rule as a crusade against Islamists, is relishing the Brotherhood’s humiliation in Egypt. Assad, in comments to be published in the state-run newspaper al-Thawra on Thursday, declared that “what is happening in Egypt is the fall of so-called political Islam.”

The president urged the country’s military to “return full authority” to “a democratically elected” government.

“Will the Brotherhood see the reality of events — and they rarely see any reality other than the visions in their own minds — and step down under the pressure of tens of millions of Egyptians? Or will the country be pushed into a civil war?” asked the announcer who read Wednesday afternoon’s news broadcast on state television, ahead of the daily digest of army victories against “terrorists” opposing the government.

Meanwhile, in rebel-held portions of Syria, people are starting to chafe at the behavior of the Islamist groups.

The execution on the streets last month of a 14-year-old boy for making a blasphemous comment and a rule issued this week by the city’s self-appointed Sharia court banning women from wearing makeup have stirred anger in the northern city of Aleppo. Citizens in the northeastern city of Raqqah have staged small-scale demonstrations against the Islamists who hold sway there.Some in Raqqah have watched with eager interest as the unrest unfolds in Cairo, said a resident who spoke via Skype on the condition that he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. “The time will come when people realize that these groups don’t represent Islam, and they will kick them out,” he said.

Further afield, the recent mass demonstrations in Turkey, hailed as a model for emerging Arab democracies, were sparked by plans to chop down trees in a central Istanbul park but quickly grew into a wider expression of unease with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian style and his policies of Islamicization.

In Tunisia, the ruling Ennahda party, a Brotherhood affiliate, has held the middle ground between the radical Salafis who have threatened to use force to impose Islamic law and secularist activists, in another reflection of the splits opening up across the region that could shape a new round of turmoil.

“There is a fundamental divide in the Arab world over big issues such as the role of religion in government . . . and the identity of the state,” Hamid said. “It is a real, fundamental divide, and there is a lot at stake.”