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Should U.S. Give Morsi a Chance?

I’m with the always-sagacious Fouad Ajami: He argues in the Wall Street Journal that the new Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, ought to be given a chance to show what he can do. Perhaps he will turn out to be as bad as numerous critics suspect, but it’s also possible that he could turn out to be better than expected. If he concentrates on instituting free-market reforms to get Egypt’s sclerotic economy moving rather than concentrating on issuing decrees to ban such “immoral” behavior as drinking and wearing bikinis, he might well win over even secular Egyptians.

It is doubtful that the worst fears of his American and Israeli critics will come true, at least not in the short term–given how much power the army has kept for itself, Morsi would not be able to abrogate the Camp David Accords even if he wanted to. It may well be the case that he will provide more aid to Hamas and adopt a more belligerent tone toward Israel, but remember that even under the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian state pumped out a steady diet of disgusting anti-Semitic propaganda and looked the other way at massive smuggling into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Ajami suggests the Brotherhood’s model is not Iran but rather Turkey, which is showing how Islamist rule can be combined with free markets and a a form of democracy (however flawed, limited, and imperfect). This may not give much comfort to Israelis who have come to loathe Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has effectively ended his country’s close relationship with Israel and has become a steady source of anti-Israel vituperation.

But for all of his flaws, Erdogan is not building nuclear weapons and he is not sponsoring Hezbollah, as Iran is doing. (One can argue he is indirectly benefitting Hamas by sponsoring a Gaza aid flotilla and denouncing the Israeli “blockade” of Gaza–but he is not, as far as I know, providing Hamas with weapons as Iran has done.) His Turkey is a nuisance for Israel; it is not a mortal threat like the Islamic Republic of Iran. That may be the best we can hope for, at least in the immediate future, from Egypt.


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