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Contentions

Re: Cold Peace With Egypt Gets a Little Colder

Jonathan, you are right to be outraged by Egyptian judge Mohamed Attia, who has ordered the minister of the interior to revoke the citizenship of Egyptians married to Israeli citizens. Indeed, as you wrote, this exemplifies the pernicious “hatred that has sustained the siege of Israel.” However, I respectfully disagree with your policy implication — namely, that this will make Israeli-Egyptian peace “a little colder.”

Actually, this judicial order has far less to do with Egyptian-Israeli peace than it does with the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. Indeed, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak’s modus operandi has long permitted people like Attia to get just close enough to power, using them to ward off American attempts to promote democratic reforms. Mubarak’s chief argument to the United States goes something like this: “It’s either me or the anti-Israel radicals. If you undermine my regime through so-called liberal reforms, be prepared for an unstable Middle East with people like Attia — if not the Muslim Brotherhood — in power.”  In order for this argument to be credible, the regime needs Attia and his ilk to say or do blatantly hateful things that make Mubarak look like a bulwark of Middle Eastern moderation by comparison.

Regrettably, Mubarak’s cynical strategy has worked like a charm: the U.S. has done little to promote democracy in Egypt in recent years, backing off entirely after the Muslim Brotherhood — with the regime’s help — won 20% of the seats in the 2005 parliamentary elections. Even pro-Israel groups have bought into Mubarak’s myth: for example, AIPAC has opposed recent efforts to condition aid to Egypt on instituting certain liberalizing reforms, seeing this as undermining a regime that is friendly toward Israel and, so the argument goes, good for regional stability.

In short, the recent Egyptian judicial order seeking to revoke the citizenship of Egyptians who marry Israelis is likely to bring Jerusalem and Cairo — under Washington’s sponsorship — more closely together. Indeed, the more vitriol Mubarak can get out of his well-placed hate-mongers, the more Israel and the U.S. believe they need him.



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