For decades, American aid to Egypt has been a necessary embarrassment. The $2 billion per year paid to the Egyptian dictatorship was more than the price for Cairo to adhere to its peace treaty with Israel. It was also necessary to keep the largest Arab country safely out of the hands of first the Soviet Union and then the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Though the money only enriched the military and the ruling elite, it was still considered something of a bargain. This was no less true after the fall of the Mubarak regime after the Arab Spring protests that placed the government squarely in the hands of the military.
But in the aftermath of Friday’s violence in Cairo in which a mob was allowed to assault and then sack the Israeli embassy without interference from the police and the military, it has now become apparent the Egyptian government has neither the will nor the ability to keep the Islamists in check. This is not merely an egregious breach of diplomatic protocol. It is a wake-up call to the United States that it must place Egypt on notice that Washington is no longer prepared to turn a blind eye to a feckless and faithless ally. This is not merely a troubling incident but a full-blown crisis that shows the time has come to suspend aid to Egypt.