Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mohammed Morsi

Obama and Egypt’s Hamas Connection

The Obama administration’s ambivalence about the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has been obvious. This week, it tiptoed up to the brink of cutting off aid to the Egyptian military that had ousted President Mohammed Morsi but it stopped short of taking that drastic step. Rather than do something that would jeopardize the new government’s stability and send a message that Washington was determined to oust it, Obama and made do with a gesture that would satisfy its desire to express his indignation about the turn of events: the delay of the shipment of four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo. While the administration deserves some restrained applause for at least not doing something to worsen the already dangerous situation in Egypt, the latest developments show that even this slap on the wrist may have been a mistake.

With Brotherhood supporters continuing to take to the streets to demonstrate their anger as violence spread throughout the country, the conflict there has now been exposed as involving not just Egyptian factions but the Hamas terrorists that rule Gaza. And that’s something that Americans looking on from afar ought to be taking into account when they think about where America’s interests lie.

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The Obama administration’s ambivalence about the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt has been obvious. This week, it tiptoed up to the brink of cutting off aid to the Egyptian military that had ousted President Mohammed Morsi but it stopped short of taking that drastic step. Rather than do something that would jeopardize the new government’s stability and send a message that Washington was determined to oust it, Obama and made do with a gesture that would satisfy its desire to express his indignation about the turn of events: the delay of the shipment of four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo. While the administration deserves some restrained applause for at least not doing something to worsen the already dangerous situation in Egypt, the latest developments show that even this slap on the wrist may have been a mistake.

With Brotherhood supporters continuing to take to the streets to demonstrate their anger as violence spread throughout the country, the conflict there has now been exposed as involving not just Egyptian factions but the Hamas terrorists that rule Gaza. And that’s something that Americans looking on from afar ought to be taking into account when they think about where America’s interests lie.

Hamas had hoped to exploit the ascent of Morsi and the Brotherhood last year to expand its ties with Egypt and strengthen its strategic position. That didn’t work out quite as well as they had hoped as Morsi was not eager to further complicate his relationship with the Egyptian military by involving the country in any adventures against Israel. Nor was he eager to allow a free flow of arms into Gaza via the smuggling tunnels from Egypt. But the Brotherhood government still allowed the Sinai to devolve into a Wild West situation that was dangerous to both Israel and Egypt. Despite Morsi’s seeming ambivalence, Hamas was a major beneficiary of the fall of the Mubarak’s regime.

Since ousting Morsi, the military has made it clear that the relatively brief era during which it appeared the Islamist rulers have a friend in Cairo is over. They have shut down the tunnels and closed the border with Gaza. Just as important, the military, which has been holding Morsi under arrest since the coup earlier this month, have now charged him with conspiring with Hamas in “hostile acts” against Egypt, a reference to the belief that it was the Islamist terror group’s agents that helped spring him from prison during the last days of Mubarak’s rule while killing police officers and military personnel.

The point is, the new government in Cairo may well have come to power in a coup (though the U.S. is careful not to call it one since that would make it impossible to continue to keep aid flowing) and not be democratic. But it has saved the country from falling, perhaps irrevocably into the grip of an Islamist regime that would have transformed the nation in ways that would have created an era of oppression for liberal and secular Egyptians. Just as important, though there will be no thawing of the ice-cold peace with Israel, the new rulers have shut off Hamas from a source of aid and political influence. The coup not only has preserved peace with Israel but it will make it even harder for Hamas to destabilize the region.

Viewed from this context there is no good reason for the Obama administration to go on sulking about Morsi’s departure or exerting pressure on the Egyptian military to include the Brotherhood in a new government or free Morsi to plot new mayhem in Cairo. If Hamas knows which side it is on in the struggle over Egypt’s future, President Obama should realize there shouldn’t be any doubt about whom the U.S. should be backing.

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Obama’s Bad Brotherhood Bet

For the last few months, conservative critics of the Obama administration’s foreign policy have obsessed about its failure in Libya. The fiasco in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans including our ambassador deserved more media scrutiny and Republicans are right to continue to demand answers about it. But the unfolding disaster next door in Egypt is a far greater indication of the way the president has blundered abroad than even that tragic episode. Obama’s decision to force the Egyptian military to accept a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo and Washington’s subsequent embrace of Mohamed Morsi’s regime has materially aided the descent of the most populous Arab country into the grip of an Islamist party. The Brotherhood regime is determined to extinguish any hope of liberalization in Egypt and its drive to seize total power there is a direct threat to regional stability and Middle East peace.

Rather than using the leverage that the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt gives it, the administration has loyally stuck to Morsi despite his seizing of powers that are comparable to those of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak and his efforts to violently repress the widespread dissatisfaction with his government. There is no sign that anyone in the State Department or the White House realizes that the U.S. bet on the Brotherhood is a disaster, but yesterday’s column by one of the leading peddlers of conventional wisdom on foreign policy ought to concern Morsi. If the Islamists have lost Thomas Friedman, then there is at least a little hope that their campaign to swindle American liberals into backing them is going to eventually crash.

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For the last few months, conservative critics of the Obama administration’s foreign policy have obsessed about its failure in Libya. The fiasco in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans including our ambassador deserved more media scrutiny and Republicans are right to continue to demand answers about it. But the unfolding disaster next door in Egypt is a far greater indication of the way the president has blundered abroad than even that tragic episode. Obama’s decision to force the Egyptian military to accept a Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo and Washington’s subsequent embrace of Mohamed Morsi’s regime has materially aided the descent of the most populous Arab country into the grip of an Islamist party. The Brotherhood regime is determined to extinguish any hope of liberalization in Egypt and its drive to seize total power there is a direct threat to regional stability and Middle East peace.

Rather than using the leverage that the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt gives it, the administration has loyally stuck to Morsi despite his seizing of powers that are comparable to those of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak and his efforts to violently repress the widespread dissatisfaction with his government. There is no sign that anyone in the State Department or the White House realizes that the U.S. bet on the Brotherhood is a disaster, but yesterday’s column by one of the leading peddlers of conventional wisdom on foreign policy ought to concern Morsi. If the Islamists have lost Thomas Friedman, then there is at least a little hope that their campaign to swindle American liberals into backing them is going to eventually crash.

In yesterday’s New York Times, Friedman did something we haven’t seen much of in that newspaper: tell the truth about the Brotherhood’s intentions and its ideological drive to transform Egypt. While the paper’s news pages and fellow columnists like Nicholas Kristof have bought into the baloney the Brotherhood has served up to foreign journalists about their moderation and desire for democracy and progress, Friedman made it clear that their tyrannical impulse is no aberration. Even more important, he made it clear that the Obama administration’s apparent belief that they can reinvent the modus vivendi that formally existed between the U.S. and Mubarak with Morsi is a terrible mistake.

As Friedman notes, the Brotherhood has prioritized the cleansing of non-Islamist aspects of Egyptian culture over its supposed hope to reboot the economy. The banning of the Belly Dancing Channel on Egyptian TV made for a comic lede for Friedman’s column, but it is no joke, as it illustrates Morsi’s desire to turn a multi-faceted society into another Iran.

Yet as right as Friedman is about the current situation, his advice about the Brotherhood having to change or fail misses the point about a movement that has no intention of ever allowing power to slip from its hands. Friedman is right that the Brotherhood’s version of political Islam will sink Egypt into poverty. The problem is that they are no more willing or capable of becoming more democratic or open-minded about non-Islamist culture than they are of ever accepting peace with Israel.

Friedman praises what he claims is an Obama administration decision to convey their concerns about the direction of Egypt privately rather than publicly. He also supports an apparent decision to invite Morsi to Washington for a visit where he can try to charm the U.S. into keeping the flow of American taxpayer dollars into his government’s coffers.

But the more time the U.S. takes in conveying the message that it will not back an Egyptian government intent on an Islamist kulturkampf, the less chance there will be that it can influence events in Cairo. We already know what a bad bet Obama has made in backing Morsi and the Brotherhood. It may already be too late to reverse the damage that was done by the president’s feckless embrace of the Islamists. If, as Friedman acknowledges, the direction the Brotherhood is taking Egypt, and by extension the region, is one that can lead to chaos, tyranny and violence, an American decision to cut Morsi off can’t come too soon. 

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Little Princes Survive the Arab Spring

The so-called Arab Spring began more than two years ago when a Tunisian fruit vendor, upset by the Tunisian regime’s corruption and lack of accountability, set himself on fire. It soon became apparent that nearly every Arab country was a tinderbox, smoldering under dictatorship and popular discord.

A chief symbol of regional corruption was the leader’s son. Hosni Mubarak had his son Gamal, a bag man for the regime and for Mubarak’s personal fortune. Muammar Qaddafi had Saif, who traveled across Europe and the halls of Congress, charming almost every diplomat or congressman he met, and signing billions of dollars of deals along the way. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, penned a Foreign Policy piece about how the sons of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have transformed their connections into fortunes.

Throughout much of the rest of the Middle East—Kurd, Persian, and Turkish—the pattern is the same: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had Qubad Talabani; Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani had his son Masrour Barzani; and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has Ahmad Maliki. Indeed, across the Iraqi and Kurdish political spectrum, there are few politicians who do not transform their sons into business agents or recipients of nepotistic largesse.

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The so-called Arab Spring began more than two years ago when a Tunisian fruit vendor, upset by the Tunisian regime’s corruption and lack of accountability, set himself on fire. It soon became apparent that nearly every Arab country was a tinderbox, smoldering under dictatorship and popular discord.

A chief symbol of regional corruption was the leader’s son. Hosni Mubarak had his son Gamal, a bag man for the regime and for Mubarak’s personal fortune. Muammar Qaddafi had Saif, who traveled across Europe and the halls of Congress, charming almost every diplomat or congressman he met, and signing billions of dollars of deals along the way. Jonathan Schanzer, vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, penned a Foreign Policy piece about how the sons of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have transformed their connections into fortunes.

Throughout much of the rest of the Middle East—Kurd, Persian, and Turkish—the pattern is the same: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had Qubad Talabani; Kurdistan Regional President Masoud Barzani had his son Masrour Barzani; and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has Ahmad Maliki. Indeed, across the Iraqi and Kurdish political spectrum, there are few politicians who do not transform their sons into business agents or recipients of nepotistic largesse.

In Iran, they even have a nickname for such children: Popularly, they are referred to as Aghazadeh-ha, the sons of the nobles, a term which refers to the ability of men like Mehdi Rafsanjani or his brother Yasser to make tens of millions of dollars off the political connections of their father, former president Al Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

And the leadership of Turkey, which is far more Middle Eastern today than European, indulges in the same pattern. Behind closed doors, be it in Ankara, Moscow, Riyadh, or Washington, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not shy about telling foreign leaders or prominent businessmen that if they want pipelines or other deals to proceed, they should contract Çalik Holdings in which his son-in-law Berat Albayrak is chief executive.

[Çalik Energy, a subsidiary of Çalik Holdings, was a donor to the Atlantic Council, according to a disclosure which Atlantic Council chairman Fred Kempe made to the Wall Street Journal regarding questions surrounding former senator Chuck Hagel’s chairmanship; he might have simply said Erdoğan donated, because the laundering of cash through Çalik is standard operating procedure for the Turkish strongman].

Alas, the Arab Spring may have swept away one generation of dictators but it did not do away with the “Little Prince” phenomenon. David Schenker, perhaps Washington’s most consistently correct Arab affairs analyst, notes the pattern has now re-emerged in Cairo. According to the Associated Press:

Egypt’s aviation minister says the hiring of President Mohammed Morsi’s son to a highly-paid government job was justified, dismissing accusations of nepotism… Omar, one of the president’s five children and a recent university graduate, got the internally-advertised job in a department that usually hires with a starting monthly salary of $5,000. Such a figure is unheard of for new graduates in Egypt, where the starting salary for a government job can be as low as $75.

Clearly, the Muslim Brotherhood is just as corrupt as the regime it replaced, if not more so.

It is a shame that the sons (or son-in-law, in the case of Turkey) of Middle Eastern leaders diminish themselves by seeking easy cash rather than to excel in their own fields. What a powerful symbol it might make if the son of a leader sought to excel as a doctor, engineer, or teacher. Cynics may say it’s understandable, and both realists and pessimists might point out that this is simply local culture. Regardless, perhaps there is no better metric of the seriousness of reform for diplomats to point to than the behavior of leaders’ children.

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Morsi’s Hamas Connection

Apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt have spent much of the last year attempting to argue that the Islamist movement is not the extremist group its critics make it out to be. They claim it is not only moderate in its religious views but that it is a pragmatic organization that can be a stabilizing force in the region. The whitewash of the Brotherhood’s ideology is made possible by both the general ignorance of the American people about the group’s origins and its beliefs as well as by the willingness of many in the American media to buy into the transparent propaganda they’ve been fed about their goals. However, the hate speech of President Mohamed Morsi and his putsch to seize total power in the manner of his authoritarian predecessor Hosni Mubarak, as well as the group’s efforts to impose their version of sharia law on the rest of Egyptian society, should have cured them of their ignorance.

But the latest evidence of the radical nature of the Brotherhood government comes from its ally Hamas. Under Morsi, Egypt has become a helpful friend to the Gaza regime, a marked change from the hostility that Mubarak demonstrated toward it. But as Khaled Abu Toameh reports at the Gatestone Institute website, friendship between the Brotherhood and Hamas is a two-way street. He reports that Egyptian media outlets are saying that a large number of Hamas militiamen may have crossed from Gaza into Sinai in the last week and then headed to various Egyptian cities to help the Brotherhood suppress pro-democracy and anti-Islamist protests that have broken out across the country. If true, this not only means that the ties between the supposed “moderates” of the Brotherhood and the terrorists of Hamas are closer than ever, but that Morsi is seeking to use these killers as a counter-force against possible action by the Egyptian army to check his attempt to seize total power.

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Apologists for the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt have spent much of the last year attempting to argue that the Islamist movement is not the extremist group its critics make it out to be. They claim it is not only moderate in its religious views but that it is a pragmatic organization that can be a stabilizing force in the region. The whitewash of the Brotherhood’s ideology is made possible by both the general ignorance of the American people about the group’s origins and its beliefs as well as by the willingness of many in the American media to buy into the transparent propaganda they’ve been fed about their goals. However, the hate speech of President Mohamed Morsi and his putsch to seize total power in the manner of his authoritarian predecessor Hosni Mubarak, as well as the group’s efforts to impose their version of sharia law on the rest of Egyptian society, should have cured them of their ignorance.

But the latest evidence of the radical nature of the Brotherhood government comes from its ally Hamas. Under Morsi, Egypt has become a helpful friend to the Gaza regime, a marked change from the hostility that Mubarak demonstrated toward it. But as Khaled Abu Toameh reports at the Gatestone Institute website, friendship between the Brotherhood and Hamas is a two-way street. He reports that Egyptian media outlets are saying that a large number of Hamas militiamen may have crossed from Gaza into Sinai in the last week and then headed to various Egyptian cities to help the Brotherhood suppress pro-democracy and anti-Islamist protests that have broken out across the country. If true, this not only means that the ties between the supposed “moderates” of the Brotherhood and the terrorists of Hamas are closer than ever, but that Morsi is seeking to use these killers as a counter-force against possible action by the Egyptian army to check his attempt to seize total power.

That operatives of a group that is labeled by the United States as a terrorist group may have become the shock troops of the leader of an allied country like Egypt may be shocking to many Americans. But it will come as no surprise to anyone who is aware that Hamas was founded as an offshoot of the Egyptian Islamist movement. The connection between the two groups as well as their supporters in other Muslim countries is no secret. As Abu Toameh writes:

This week, a Gulf newspaper Akhbar Al-Khaleej published what it described as “secret documents” proving that Hamas, with the financial backing of Qatar, had plans to send hundreds of militiamen to Egypt to help Morsi’s regime.

One of the classified documents, signed by Hamas’s armed wing, Izaddin al-Kassam, talks about the need to send “warriors to help our brothers in Egypt who are facing attempts by the former regime [of Hosni Mubarak] to return to power.”

The alliance between Hamas and the Brotherhood has great advantages for both groups.

Morsi’s Egyptian followers may be highly organized, but they lack the experience in street violence and terror that Hamas members have. They also may have scruples about killing and torturing fellow Egyptians. The Palestinians are used to ruthlessly suppressing dissent in Gaza. Hamas staged a bloody coup in 2006 to oust Fatah from control there and thus knows what it stakes to secure power.

On the other hand, Hamas’s stock among Palestinians has risen markedly since the Brotherhood took power. Egypt no longer enforces the blockade of Gaza. Rather than worrying about holding onto Gaza, as they may have done when they were locked in a vise between the Israelis and Mubarak’s Egypt, they are now thinking seriously about how best to wrest control of the West Bank from their Palestinian rivals.

The Hamas connection should send a chill down the spines of anyone who still held onto hope that the Arab Spring would produce more, rather than less, freedom for Egypt. But it should also remind Americans that they are still sending more than $1 billion a year in U.S. aid and selling F-16 aircraft to Morsi’s Egypt. Members of Congress who continue to back this foolish policy need to ask themselves whether it makes sense to funnel taxpayer dollars to Egypt in the hope of supporting regional stability if what they are really doing is bolstering a government that depends on Hamas terrorists to stay in power.

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When Tyrants and Hatemongers Embrace

Some foreign policy realists are urging caution when assessing the impact of the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Egypt. The visit, the first by an Iranian leader since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, is an indication of the way the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt has warmed up toward a country that Hosni Mubarak spurned as a threat to stability.

But, as the New York Times reports, analysts believe Egypt’s continuing need for aid from both the United States and moderate Arab regimes that fear Iran as much as the Americans, will prevent a full restoration of diplomatic relations. But whether or not the two countries go that far or not, the symbolism of the embrace of Ahmadinejad by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (who visited Tehran last August) illustrates the way the Brotherhood’s ascendancy has fractured American foreign policy objectives in the region. The willingness of Egypt to embrace Iran in this manner undermines U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran and sends the world the message not to take President Obama’s threats about stopping Iran’s nuclear program seriously. It is also a reminder that the two countries have something in common besides Islam: leaders who engage in anti-Semitic hate speech.

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Some foreign policy realists are urging caution when assessing the impact of the visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Egypt. The visit, the first by an Iranian leader since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, is an indication of the way the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt has warmed up toward a country that Hosni Mubarak spurned as a threat to stability.

But, as the New York Times reports, analysts believe Egypt’s continuing need for aid from both the United States and moderate Arab regimes that fear Iran as much as the Americans, will prevent a full restoration of diplomatic relations. But whether or not the two countries go that far or not, the symbolism of the embrace of Ahmadinejad by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (who visited Tehran last August) illustrates the way the Brotherhood’s ascendancy has fractured American foreign policy objectives in the region. The willingness of Egypt to embrace Iran in this manner undermines U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran and sends the world the message not to take President Obama’s threats about stopping Iran’s nuclear program seriously. It is also a reminder that the two countries have something in common besides Islam: leaders who engage in anti-Semitic hate speech.

Coming as it did on the eve of the resumption of the West’s latest negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the Ahmadinejad visit brings home the fact that despite all the tough talk heard in Washington, Iran has not been isolated by the diplomatic strategy pursued by President Obama and recently departed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The assumption that the Iranians have been brought to their knees by sanctions and deprived of allies is given the lie by Ahmadinejad’s warm reception in Cairo.

Egypt and Iran have strongly disagreed about Syria since Morsi has supported the efforts by other Arab countries to oust the Assad regime. But the factors that unite the two governments — hostility to Israel and support for Hamas — are greater than those that divide them. The Iranians may be looking to use their new friends in Cairo to help float their latest attempt to divert the West from pressing them on nuclear issues. As I wrote yesterday, the Iranians may be seeking to link Assad’s fate with that of their nuclear program. They may be hoping the Brotherhood, which retains the ear of the State Department as well as billions in annual aid from the United States, could serve to further muddy the diplomatic waters via this stratagem without committing themselves to anything.

The Egyptians may stop just short of full recognition of Ahmadinejad’s government in order to keep U.S. taxpayer dollars flowing to Cairo. But the notion that it is in any conceivable sense an ally is out the window. This incident calls into question the decision to keep that aid flowing without condition as well as the continued sale of sophisticated weapons to Egypt that their forces don’t need for self-defense. The closer Egypt draws to Iran, the more it seems as if the peace treaty with Egypt, into which both Israelis and Americans are so heavily, is heading for the scrapheap.

Just as important in many respects is the symbolism of the embrace of two men who have done much to help keep the flames of Jew hatred burning hot recently. Morsi and Ahmadinejad are both on record insulting Jews and Israelis and pledging their destruction as well as for trying to suppress domestic dissent. Far from an innocuous event that shouldn’t worry us, when tyrants embrace, decent people everywhere should tremble.

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Clinton’s Victory Lap Ignores Egypt

Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is doing a victory lap around the networks this week, taking bows and basking in the admiration of a largely sycophantic media that agrees with President Obama’s glowing praise of her service. We know his praise, as well as the willingness of many in the press to buy into the notion that her willingness to spend a lot of time on airplanes is the same thing as a record of genuine achievement, is strictly political boilerplate. Clinton was a cipher at Foggy Bottom doing Obama’s bidding and has few, if any, actual successes to her credit along with disasters like Benghazi (for which she inexplicably took full responsibility but not blame). But it’s hard to see how her part in directing America’s involvement in the Arab Spring will be seen by history as anything other than placing her in the ranks of the most incompetent stewards of American foreign policy in the country’s history.

Anyone who doubts that evaluation need only ignore the softball interviews and breathless anticipation of another Clinton run for the presidency in 2016 and instead look at accounts of what is going on in Egypt today as the head of that country’s military described it as descending into “chaos.” Since as we noted yesterday, the president told “60 Minutes” that the transition from the Mubarak dictatorship to the current Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo was an administration success, those proclaiming Clinton among the greatest of our secretaries of state have some explaining to do.

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Outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is doing a victory lap around the networks this week, taking bows and basking in the admiration of a largely sycophantic media that agrees with President Obama’s glowing praise of her service. We know his praise, as well as the willingness of many in the press to buy into the notion that her willingness to spend a lot of time on airplanes is the same thing as a record of genuine achievement, is strictly political boilerplate. Clinton was a cipher at Foggy Bottom doing Obama’s bidding and has few, if any, actual successes to her credit along with disasters like Benghazi (for which she inexplicably took full responsibility but not blame). But it’s hard to see how her part in directing America’s involvement in the Arab Spring will be seen by history as anything other than placing her in the ranks of the most incompetent stewards of American foreign policy in the country’s history.

Anyone who doubts that evaluation need only ignore the softball interviews and breathless anticipation of another Clinton run for the presidency in 2016 and instead look at accounts of what is going on in Egypt today as the head of that country’s military described it as descending into “chaos.” Since as we noted yesterday, the president told “60 Minutes” that the transition from the Mubarak dictatorship to the current Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo was an administration success, those proclaiming Clinton among the greatest of our secretaries of state have some explaining to do.

Even as “60 Minutes” interviewer Steve Kroft was making sure the president and Mrs. Clinton felt safe from being made to look stupid or bad, tens of thousands of protesters had taken over Tahir Square registering their anger about the fact that the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi has assumed the same tyrannical powers as Mubarak. Today violent clashes are spreading throughout the Egyptian capital as a sense is taking hold that, as the New York Times put it, “the state is unraveling.”

The significance of the statement from Defense Minister Gen. Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi is that the sidelining of the military during the transition after Mubarak’s fall was very much Clinton’s handiwork. While the administration probably gets more blame than they deserve for the end of Mubarak’s rule, they haven’t gotten enough for the way they helped smooth the way for the Brotherhood’s ascendancy. Clinton used the leverage that the more than $1 billion in American aid Egypt gets from the United States in order to force the generals to stand aside and let the Brotherhood take power. Neither she nor the president has shown the slightest inclination to use that same leverage to push the Brotherhood out or even to make it loosen its grip on total power.

Anyone doubting the importance of this in terms of Clinton’s legacy needs to understand that on her watch, the most populous Arab nation has moved from being a force for moderation in the region to being in the grip of an Islamist government that is not only hostile to our values (as Morsi’s anti-Semitic rants and his equally hateful explanations for them illustrate), but also has re-established good relations with our enemies like Iran, strengthened terrorists like the Hamas regime in Gaza and threatened the peace with Israel.

This is a diplomatic setback of the first order. But instead of speaking out in order to try and restrain Morsi from killing his opponents or supporting those Egyptians who want to know how it is that they have swapped a secular dictator for an Islamist one, Clinton and her boss have made it clear that they will continue funding him. If this is their idea of foreign policy success, we’d hate to see what failure looks like.

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Where’s the Outrage on Morsi’s Hate?

As we noted last week, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s attempt to explain his anti-Semitic and anti-American televised rant to a group of visiting American senators was that his claim that Israelis were “the descendants of apes and pigs” was taken out of context. That was bad enough but as it turns out the first reports about the meeting fell far short of conveying just how offensive Morsi’s rationalization of hate was. As Josh Rogin reported yesterday at Foreign Policy’s blog The Cable, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware who was at the meeting said the Morsi implied that Jewish control of the media was the reason why he was being called to account for his hate speech.

This calls into question not just the continuing U.S. aid to the Muslim Brotherhood government headed by Morsi but the determination of the senatorial delegation, including its leader John McCain, to continue their support for the flow of more than a billion dollars in American taxpayer money to a hatemonger. The details of the meeting make it hard to understand how McCain could continue to justify such American support when the explanation for the Morsi rant is actually worse than the original anti-Semitic smears.

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As we noted last week, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s attempt to explain his anti-Semitic and anti-American televised rant to a group of visiting American senators was that his claim that Israelis were “the descendants of apes and pigs” was taken out of context. That was bad enough but as it turns out the first reports about the meeting fell far short of conveying just how offensive Morsi’s rationalization of hate was. As Josh Rogin reported yesterday at Foreign Policy’s blog The Cable, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware who was at the meeting said the Morsi implied that Jewish control of the media was the reason why he was being called to account for his hate speech.

This calls into question not just the continuing U.S. aid to the Muslim Brotherhood government headed by Morsi but the determination of the senatorial delegation, including its leader John McCain, to continue their support for the flow of more than a billion dollars in American taxpayer money to a hatemonger. The details of the meeting make it hard to understand how McCain could continue to justify such American support when the explanation for the Morsi rant is actually worse than the original anti-Semitic smears.

According to Coons:

“He was attempting to explain himself … then he said, ‘Well, I think we all know that the media in the United States has made a big deal of this and we know the media of the United States is controlled by certain forces and they don’t view me favorably,'” Coons said.

The Cable asked Coons if Morsi specifically named the Jews as the forces that control the American media. Coons said all the senators believed the implication was obvious.

“He did not say [the Jews], but I watched as the other senators physically recoiled, as did I,” he said. “I thought it was impossible to draw any other conclusion.”

“The meeting then took a very sharply negative turn for some time. It really threatened to cause the entire meeting to come apart so that we could not continue,” Coons said.

Multiple senators impressed upon Morsi that if he was saying the criticisms of his comments were due to the Jews in the media, that statement was potentially even more offensive than his original comments from 2010.

“[Morsi] did not say the Jewish community was making a big deal of this, but he said something [to the effect] that the only conclusion you could read was that he was implying it,” Coons said. “The conversation got so heated that eventually Senator McCain said to the group, ‘OK, we’ve pressed him as hard as we can while being in the boundaries of diplomacy,'” Coons said. “We then went on to discuss a whole range of other topics.”

This raises some serious questions about both U.S. policy and the priorities of those who took part in the meeting.

One has to wonder why it is that a week went by without any of those present at the meeting calling out Morsi for this latest outrage. Did those who kept quiet about this, including McCain, think that Morsi raising the issue of unnamed groups — an obvious reference to Jews — manipulating the media was immaterial to the question of whether U.S. aid to Egypt should continue? Or did they decide that it was unhelpful to their goal of maintaining the U.S. embrace of the Brotherhood for this story to get out sooner?

This revelation makes it imperative that all those present clarify their positions about a policy that requires American taxpayers to go on funding a government that is beginning to rival Iran as a source of anti-Semitic invective. Under Morsi, Egypt is neither a U.S. ally nor a friend. It is a tyrannical regime that has not only subverted the promise of the Arab Spring but also has the potential to be a major source of instability in the region.

If Morsi wants to keep his American money, he’s going to have to do better than to blame his problems on the Jews. And if the senators who attended this meeting and the administration that is determined to keep coddling the Brotherhood wish to justify their position, they are going to have to explain to the American people how giving billions to Morsi is compatible with our values or interests.

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Egypt’s U.S.-Subsidized Politics of Hate

Better late than never is the only way one can describe the New York Times’s decision to run an article about Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s history of anti-Semitic slanders. As we wrote here on Contentions two weeks ago, a video of an Egyptian TV interview with the Muslim Brotherhood leader from 2010 has surfaced in which he describes Israelis as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and called for a boycott of the United States. As I noted at the time, revelations about the nature of what passes for rhetoric about Israel and the Jews might come as a shock to readers of the Times–since much of their news coverage, as well as the work of op-ed columnists like Nicholas Kristof, had sought to portray the Brotherhood as moderate and friendly people who just happen to be Muslims–but not to those who have been following these developments without the rose-colored glasses that liberals seem to require to discuss the Arab world. The conceit of the piece about Morsi’s comment is, however, to call attention to the difficult position the Egyptian president has been placed in by reports about his despicable language.

Egyptian figures quoted by the Times get the last word here, as they seem to argue that it isn’t reasonable to expect Morsi to apologize since to do so leaves him vulnerable to criticism from his Islamist supporters and their allies who like that kind of talk. The conclusion seems to be that Americans should judge Morsi only by his recent behavior that has been aimed at least partly at ensuring that the flow of billions of dollars of U.S. aid should continue.

The problem is that Morsi’s use of a phrase that is commonly employed throughout the Muslim world to describe Jews as well as other comments that are straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is so common in Egypt as to make it almost unexceptionable. That is no small measure the result of Brotherhood propaganda and mainstream Islamist thought in which demonization of Israelis, Jews and Americans is commonplace. Try as writers like Kristof might to paint the Brotherhood as a responsible political movement, Jew-hatred is one of its core beliefs. The question here is not so much whether Morsi will publicly disavow these slurs but whether the Obama administration will continue to buy into the myth that Morsi is some kind of a moderate whose government deserves to continue to be treated as an ally.

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Better late than never is the only way one can describe the New York Times’s decision to run an article about Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s history of anti-Semitic slanders. As we wrote here on Contentions two weeks ago, a video of an Egyptian TV interview with the Muslim Brotherhood leader from 2010 has surfaced in which he describes Israelis as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and called for a boycott of the United States. As I noted at the time, revelations about the nature of what passes for rhetoric about Israel and the Jews might come as a shock to readers of the Times–since much of their news coverage, as well as the work of op-ed columnists like Nicholas Kristof, had sought to portray the Brotherhood as moderate and friendly people who just happen to be Muslims–but not to those who have been following these developments without the rose-colored glasses that liberals seem to require to discuss the Arab world. The conceit of the piece about Morsi’s comment is, however, to call attention to the difficult position the Egyptian president has been placed in by reports about his despicable language.

Egyptian figures quoted by the Times get the last word here, as they seem to argue that it isn’t reasonable to expect Morsi to apologize since to do so leaves him vulnerable to criticism from his Islamist supporters and their allies who like that kind of talk. The conclusion seems to be that Americans should judge Morsi only by his recent behavior that has been aimed at least partly at ensuring that the flow of billions of dollars of U.S. aid should continue.

The problem is that Morsi’s use of a phrase that is commonly employed throughout the Muslim world to describe Jews as well as other comments that are straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is so common in Egypt as to make it almost unexceptionable. That is no small measure the result of Brotherhood propaganda and mainstream Islamist thought in which demonization of Israelis, Jews and Americans is commonplace. Try as writers like Kristof might to paint the Brotherhood as a responsible political movement, Jew-hatred is one of its core beliefs. The question here is not so much whether Morsi will publicly disavow these slurs but whether the Obama administration will continue to buy into the myth that Morsi is some kind of a moderate whose government deserves to continue to be treated as an ally.

The administration has tread carefully with Morsi over the last several months, even as he moved quickly to consolidate power in Egypt. With the apparent approval of Washington, Morsi has sought to eliminate any possible check on his ability to govern more or less in the same fashion as deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. Though the Times more or less admits that Morsi’s rhetoric provides us a window as to how he would govern were he not restrained by his need for U.S. cash and Egypt’s relative military weakness, the underlying assumption seems to be that it is America’s interest to prefer him to any possible alternative. It also assumes that Morsi’s influence on events in the region, such as Hamas’s missile offensive against Israel last November, has been entirely benevolent.

In fact, Hamas’s aggressive attitude and risk taking as well as its attempt to increase its influence in the Fatah-controlled West Bank is directly related to the rise of the Brotherhood in Cairo. It is true that President Obama cannot be entirely blamed for the creation of this mess since Mubarak would have fallen no matter what the U.S. did. But his subsequent coddling of Morsi and the Brotherhood as well as the rebukes issued to the Egyptian military set the stage for a situation in which the most populous country in the Arab world is run by a raging anti-Semite who is working to undermine U.S. influence in the region and to strengthen radical forces while being subsidized by American taxpayers.

Morsi’s talk about “apes and pigs” is not a side issue to be ignored in the name of stability or preserving an American ally. It goes straight to the heart of whether Egypt should be treated as a nation ruled by a radical and hostile government that is confident that nothing it does will cause it to lose its American subsidy.

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The Egyptian Idea of Brotherhood

Not much is expected to change at the State Department when John Kerry replaces Hillary Clinton. That’s especially true in terms of the Middle East, where Kerry is not expected to be any more eager to push Iran than Clinton. Nor is he likely to take a more jaundiced view of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt, which was been the particular object of U.S. affection in the latter half of 2012 as Mohamed Morsi consolidated power without much in the way of protest from an administration that continues to funnel billions in aid to Cairo. Kerry appears to share the State Department consensus that Morsi and the Brotherhood are deserving of continued American largesse and regards the Islamists as a moderating force in the region rather than as the enablers of Hamas.

It remains to be seen whether his former Senate colleagues will press Kerry much on the subject. But in case anyone on the Hill is inclined to buy into the happy talk about the Brotherhood that is being sold by the State Department and mainstream media outlets eager to portray the Brotherhood as the Egyptian equivalent of the Islamist government of Turkey that President Obama is so fond of, they ought to take a look at this video uncovered by Memritv.org, the indispensable window into the Arab media. In this 2010 appearance on Lebanon’s Al Quds TV, the Brotherhood leader and future Egyptian president not only denounces any peace negotiations with Israelis, whom he called bloodsuckers, warmongers, and “the descendants of apes and pigs,” but also called for a boycott of U.S. products.

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Not much is expected to change at the State Department when John Kerry replaces Hillary Clinton. That’s especially true in terms of the Middle East, where Kerry is not expected to be any more eager to push Iran than Clinton. Nor is he likely to take a more jaundiced view of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt, which was been the particular object of U.S. affection in the latter half of 2012 as Mohamed Morsi consolidated power without much in the way of protest from an administration that continues to funnel billions in aid to Cairo. Kerry appears to share the State Department consensus that Morsi and the Brotherhood are deserving of continued American largesse and regards the Islamists as a moderating force in the region rather than as the enablers of Hamas.

It remains to be seen whether his former Senate colleagues will press Kerry much on the subject. But in case anyone on the Hill is inclined to buy into the happy talk about the Brotherhood that is being sold by the State Department and mainstream media outlets eager to portray the Brotherhood as the Egyptian equivalent of the Islamist government of Turkey that President Obama is so fond of, they ought to take a look at this video uncovered by Memritv.org, the indispensable window into the Arab media. In this 2010 appearance on Lebanon’s Al Quds TV, the Brotherhood leader and future Egyptian president not only denounces any peace negotiations with Israelis, whom he called bloodsuckers, warmongers, and “the descendants of apes and pigs,” but also called for a boycott of U.S. products.

This should come as a bit of a surprise to readers of publications like the New York Times, whose correspondents and columnists such as Nicholas Kristof have been at great pains to portray the Brotherhood as nice people with so much in common with Americans. In the rush to embrace the idea that the Brotherhood victory is a triumph for democracy, the group’s ideology, its members and its leaders have all been airbrushed into a picture of modern and tolerant Islam rather than being shown as the font of anti-Western and anti-Semitic hate that it actually has always been.

Those who believe that Morsi is a different man now that he sits in Hosni Mubarak’s old chair with the former dictator’s powers also need to understand that he is the first Egyptian leader to visit Iran in a generation and has continued to attend prayer services, where rhetoric such as he used in the Lebanese show continues to be heard.

Kerry, whose weakness for Arab tyrants was demonstrated by his friendship with the Assad regime in Syria, has always been the sort of person who preferred to believe in his illusions about Middle Eastern leaders rather than his lying eyes and ears. Those who expect anything but grief and violence in the long term from an American embrace of the Brotherhood are bound to be disappointed. As this Morsi tape demonstrates, Egypt is now led by a first-class hatemonger that has little use for peace with Israel or friendship with the United States.

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The Threat to the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty

Given the brazen nature of Hamas’s decision to provoke the latest round of fighting in and around Gaza, it’s difficult for Israel’s critics to claim that it was not justified in seeking to halt a barrage that sent more than 150 missiles into the south of the country. Nor could they claim with a straight face that Ahmed al-Jabari, the head of Hamas’s so-called military wing and a man responsible for numerous terrorists attacks and murders, is an innocent victim after the Israel Defense Forces took out his car in a deft targeted attack yesterday. But the naysayers are claiming that in opting to defend Israeli citizens and hopefully making it more difficult for Hamas to resume its terrorist offensive, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is effectively destroying his nation’s peace treaty with Egypt.

That’s the conceit of this New York Times article that depicts Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as being forced into a difficult position by Israel. He is, we are told, trying to maintain the peace treaty in order to appease Western aid donors like the United States, but is still obligated by Egyptian public opinion to denounce Israel. The implication of all this is that if the treaty, which is despised by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and extremely unpopular with the Egyptian public, is scrapped, it will be because Netanyahu has chosen to be provocative.

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Given the brazen nature of Hamas’s decision to provoke the latest round of fighting in and around Gaza, it’s difficult for Israel’s critics to claim that it was not justified in seeking to halt a barrage that sent more than 150 missiles into the south of the country. Nor could they claim with a straight face that Ahmed al-Jabari, the head of Hamas’s so-called military wing and a man responsible for numerous terrorists attacks and murders, is an innocent victim after the Israel Defense Forces took out his car in a deft targeted attack yesterday. But the naysayers are claiming that in opting to defend Israeli citizens and hopefully making it more difficult for Hamas to resume its terrorist offensive, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is effectively destroying his nation’s peace treaty with Egypt.

That’s the conceit of this New York Times article that depicts Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as being forced into a difficult position by Israel. He is, we are told, trying to maintain the peace treaty in order to appease Western aid donors like the United States, but is still obligated by Egyptian public opinion to denounce Israel. The implication of all this is that if the treaty, which is despised by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and extremely unpopular with the Egyptian public, is scrapped, it will be because Netanyahu has chosen to be provocative.

While it is true that the treaty is in peril, placing the blame for this on Israel is so divorced from reality it’s hard to know where to start to debunk this idea. Morsi is no victim in this scenario. If Egypt’s people are clamoring for the spilling of Israeli blood, it is, in no small measure, because his Islamist party has done its best to promote hatred of Israel and Jews to an extent that few in the West appreciate.

As the Times rightly points out, hatred for Israel is the one factor that seems to unite all elements of Egyptian society. Yet to claim that this is because of the “occupation” or the ill treatment of Palestinians is to misread the problem. Egypt is a country where anti-Semitic incitement is a regular element of popular culture and mainstream political discourse. The visceral hate isn’t about where Israel’s borders should be drawn or specific grievances but the result of decades of incitement against Jews.

The absurdity of Egypt’s response to Hamas’s missile firings that provoked Israel’s counter-attack shouldn’t be ignored. After all, Cairo’s response wasn’t a pusillanimous call for both sides to exercise restraint but an implicit endorsement of Hamas’s right to rain down hundreds of deadly rockets deliberately aimed at Israel’s civilian population.

The idea that Israel should refrain from defending its citizens against indiscriminate missile attacks across an internationally recognized border in order to appease Egyptian public opinion is so morally corrupt that it is barely worth spending the time to refute it. But the main point to take away from this discussion is that Egyptian attitudes toward Israel stem from that country’s deep-seated prejudices, not a rational evaluation of Netanyahu’s policies.

The notion that the treaty’s survival depends on Israel’s quiet acceptance of a steady diet of terror attacks is pure fiction.

The Egypt-Israel peace treaty was not a gift from Egypt to Israel. If anything, it was gift to Egypt from Israel and the United States in that it allowed Cairo to opt out of a costly conflict that it had tired of and rewarded it with an annual bribe in the form of billions of dollars of American taxpayer cash. For decades the Mubarak regime profited from the treaty, but compensated for its heresy against Arab nationalist ideology by allowing anti-Semitism to thrive in the country’s media and popular culture.

Morsi and the Egyptian army are uneasy bedfellows in the current government, but both know that an outright repudiation of the treaty would be a costly error. Since relations with Israel were already ice cold under Mubarak, it has been difficult for the Muslim Brotherhood government to find ways to make them even colder. Morsi is appeasing domestic opinion by recalling his ambassador to Israel and publicly backing Hamas. But he is also being careful not to allow the Gaza terrorist group — which is formally allied with Morsi’s political party — to compromise his freedom of action. Thus, he has not re-opened the terrorist smuggling tunnels from the Sinai into Gaza.

If the day comes when Morsi decides he doesn’t need American money anymore, you can bet he may cancel the treaty with Israel even if his country’s military is petrified at the thought of being forced to face off against the IDF. Which is why the preservation of a treaty whose main contemporary purpose is to serve as a rationale for U.S. aid to Egypt isn’t likely to be affected by anything Israel does in Gaza. The real threat to the treaty comes from a culture of Jew hatred, not Israeli self-defense.

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Israel’s Message to Hamas Should Resonate in Washington

For days, southern Israel was pounded by close to 200 rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. This morning, the Islamist terrorist group got its answer when the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of retaliatory strikes on its military leadership. Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s top commander, was killed in an airstrike on his car as it drove down a Gaza street. The killing of al-Jabari was just one of 20 different attacks on Hamas operatives in an effort intended to both decapitate its terrorist hierarchy as well as to send a message to the Gaza regime that if it thinks it can rain down missiles on Israel with impunity, it has made a terrible miscalculation.

The Israeli counter-attack after the days of Hamas missile fire is clearly an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the assaults on his country without having to resort to an invasion of Gaza. While Israel can expect the world to condemn its measures of self-defense, Netanyahu cannot allow a return to the situation prior to the last IDF offensive into Gaza four years ago, when Hamas acted as if it thought there was no way for Israel to stop the missile fire on its borders. It remains to be seen whether, after another surge of rocket fire today following al-Jabari’s death, Hamas will take the hint and stand down.

But either way, these events effectively debunk the idea that Hamas has embraced non-violence and that the United States should reach out to it to join peace negotiations. That’s a narrative that was increasingly being promoted by those who sought to use the Obama administration’s decision to treat the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt with kid gloves. The decision over the past weekend by the Brotherhood’s Hamas allies to set in motion the events that threaten to plunge the region into a new round of deadly violence is also a reminder to Washington that it should be paying more attention to the security needs of its Israeli ally and less to what its new friends in Cairo are saying.

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For days, southern Israel was pounded by close to 200 rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. This morning, the Islamist terrorist group got its answer when the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of retaliatory strikes on its military leadership. Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s top commander, was killed in an airstrike on his car as it drove down a Gaza street. The killing of al-Jabari was just one of 20 different attacks on Hamas operatives in an effort intended to both decapitate its terrorist hierarchy as well as to send a message to the Gaza regime that if it thinks it can rain down missiles on Israel with impunity, it has made a terrible miscalculation.

The Israeli counter-attack after the days of Hamas missile fire is clearly an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the assaults on his country without having to resort to an invasion of Gaza. While Israel can expect the world to condemn its measures of self-defense, Netanyahu cannot allow a return to the situation prior to the last IDF offensive into Gaza four years ago, when Hamas acted as if it thought there was no way for Israel to stop the missile fire on its borders. It remains to be seen whether, after another surge of rocket fire today following al-Jabari’s death, Hamas will take the hint and stand down.

But either way, these events effectively debunk the idea that Hamas has embraced non-violence and that the United States should reach out to it to join peace negotiations. That’s a narrative that was increasingly being promoted by those who sought to use the Obama administration’s decision to treat the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt with kid gloves. The decision over the past weekend by the Brotherhood’s Hamas allies to set in motion the events that threaten to plunge the region into a new round of deadly violence is also a reminder to Washington that it should be paying more attention to the security needs of its Israeli ally and less to what its new friends in Cairo are saying.

The idea that Hamas is a responsible player that ought not to be treated as the despicable terror group that it actually is has been increasingly heard in the last year, as the Brotherhood took over in Egypt. With the support of its Egyptian and Turkish Islamist allies, Hamas has been seeking to break down the isolation that has been imposed on Gaza since the bloody 2006 coup in which the group ousted the PA from power in the Strip. Indeed, the idea that Hamas had become housebroken even took root among Palestinians, causing the group’s popularity to decline, as it was no longer seen as Israel’s implacable enemy.

But the conviction that Hamas had abandoned its primary purpose was always unfounded. The Islamist group’s ongoing war with Israel never ended. Though analysts will debate the motivation for the decision to launch a missile offensive on southern Israel, the result was unambiguous. The violence should derail any thought of the United Nations voting to upgrade the status of the increasingly irrelevant Palestinian Authority. It will also rally Israel’s critics — who can always be counted on to ignore attacks on the Jewish state and to treat any attempt to defend its people as a war crime — behind the terrorist group.

Though some of Israel’s critics in the United States will hope that the violence in Gaza will serve to motivate President Obama to re-launch the dead-in-the-water peace process with the PA and to add Hamas to the mix, what Washington ought to be doing now is reassessing its decision to embrace Egypt’s new government. Unless Egyptian President Morsi steps up now and uses his considerable influence over Gaza to force Hamas to cease firing on Israel, a re-evaluation of aid to Cairo must begin immediately.

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What Egypt Wants: More U.S. Appeasement

Say this for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi: he isn’t short of nerve. The Muslim Brotherhood leader has shoved aside the military and now presides over the most populous Arab nation with what appear to be few checks on his power. That gives him the confidence to tell the United States it must accept his Islamist government on its own terms and throw Israel under the bus. But it doesn’t mean he wants the American gravy train that funnels $1.5 billion to the Egyptian government to stop.

Morsi sat down with the New York Times for an interview that was published today and the portrait it paints of the Egyptian leader is one of a man who seems to have a fairly low opinion of President Obama. Rather than embrace an American leader who went out of his way to seek to win the heart of the Muslim world, Morsi thinks Obama needs to prove to Egyptians that he deserves to go on funding what is now an Islamist government. If that means accepting an Egypt that allows mobs to sack the U.S. embassy in Cairo before finally stepping in to halt the carnage, the Americans will have to like it or lump it. This attitude prompted even President Obama to say he wasn’t sure whether Egypt is an ally anymore (technically, it still is). But Morsi made it clear to the Times he’s going to be the one dictating the terms of the relationship, not the country that is continuing to fund Egypt. Even more important, by demanding that the Americans “must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values,” Morsi laid down a marker that ensures that the West must either bow to Islamist sensibilities or face a continuance of outbreaks of violence like the ones we have seen the last two weeks.

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Say this for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi: he isn’t short of nerve. The Muslim Brotherhood leader has shoved aside the military and now presides over the most populous Arab nation with what appear to be few checks on his power. That gives him the confidence to tell the United States it must accept his Islamist government on its own terms and throw Israel under the bus. But it doesn’t mean he wants the American gravy train that funnels $1.5 billion to the Egyptian government to stop.

Morsi sat down with the New York Times for an interview that was published today and the portrait it paints of the Egyptian leader is one of a man who seems to have a fairly low opinion of President Obama. Rather than embrace an American leader who went out of his way to seek to win the heart of the Muslim world, Morsi thinks Obama needs to prove to Egyptians that he deserves to go on funding what is now an Islamist government. If that means accepting an Egypt that allows mobs to sack the U.S. embassy in Cairo before finally stepping in to halt the carnage, the Americans will have to like it or lump it. This attitude prompted even President Obama to say he wasn’t sure whether Egypt is an ally anymore (technically, it still is). But Morsi made it clear to the Times he’s going to be the one dictating the terms of the relationship, not the country that is continuing to fund Egypt. Even more important, by demanding that the Americans “must respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when that conflicts with Western values,” Morsi laid down a marker that ensures that the West must either bow to Islamist sensibilities or face a continuance of outbreaks of violence like the ones we have seen the last two weeks.

Morsi shouldn’t be blamed for thinking he can get away with disrespect for the United States. In the last month, the Obama administration agreed to forgive part of Egypt’s debt and renewed aid as part of an effort to stabilize a nation that has gone from being a reliable ally under Hosni Mubarak to one that is not afraid to flaunt its friendship for Iran. Morsi responded by stalling (“We took our time”) before eventually shooing rioters out of the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Though that earned him an icy phone conversation with President Obama, he seems to still think he can set the terms of engagement between the two countries without any fear that Washington will pull the plug on aid.

When he tells the Times that Americans shouldn’t judge Egyptians by Western standards, what he is saying is that if Islamist mobs choose to rampage against embassies or demand the abridgement of free speech elsewhere, the U.S. must “respect” these values or face the consequences. While Morsi complains about videos that show disrespect to their religion, the Egyptian media is a cesspool of anti-Semitic and anti-Christian propaganda. President Obama is right. This isn’t an alliance. Under these circumstances it is something more akin to criminal extortion than friendship, no matter how you define that word.

On one other key point, Morsi is just as shameless. He says that if the United States wants Egypt to maintain the peace treaty it signed in 1979 with Israel, it must force the Jewish state to give self-rule to the Palestinians. While the Camp David Accords did include provisions about autonomy for the Palestinians, he ignores the fact that the 1993 Oslo agreement actually gave the Palestinians autonomy (the treaty with Egypt said nothing about an independent Palestinian state) but that Israel has gotten terror rather than peace in exchange for these concessions. More to the point, under Morsi, Egypt has allowed the Sinai to become a war zone as the latest cross-border attack on Friday proved. Though the Mubarak regime was often unhelpful to the cause of peace, the Morsi government’s ties with Hamas constitute a standing obstacle to any progress as well as a threat of more violence coming from the Sinai.

Having studied here in the 1980s, Morsi thinks he knows America. But his contempt for Western culture is such that he believes that he and other Islamists can dictate terms to the United States with impunity. President Obama’s attempt to win the hearts of minds of the Muslim world failed. But Morsi’s contempt is such that he believes he can demand more appeasement. Morsi says Egypt won’t live by American rules but he seems to think that the U.S. must accept his dictates. Given the refusal of the Obama administration to make him pay a price for this arrogance, there’s no reason for him think that he can’t get away with it.

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Syria Reveals Arab Leaders’ Hypocrisy

If you want to understand why much of the Arab world is a basket case, it’s worth considering Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s address to an Islamic Solidarity Conference in Mecca this week. Morsi came out in favor of regime change in Syria. But the most urgent problem facing the Muslim world today, he said, is the Palestinian issue.

Now consider a few simple statistics: Since the Syrian uprising began 17 months ago, more than 19,000 people have been killed, including more than 2,750 in July alone, according to the Syrian opposition. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel during those 17 months is around150, according to B’Tselem – less than 1 percent of the Syrian total. In fact, according to Palestinian casualty data compiled by the University of Uppsala, the Syrian death toll over the last 17 months is greater than the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel over the entire 64 years of its existence.

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If you want to understand why much of the Arab world is a basket case, it’s worth considering Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s address to an Islamic Solidarity Conference in Mecca this week. Morsi came out in favor of regime change in Syria. But the most urgent problem facing the Muslim world today, he said, is the Palestinian issue.

Now consider a few simple statistics: Since the Syrian uprising began 17 months ago, more than 19,000 people have been killed, including more than 2,750 in July alone, according to the Syrian opposition. The number of Palestinians killed by Israel during those 17 months is around150, according to B’Tselem – less than 1 percent of the Syrian total. In fact, according to Palestinian casualty data compiled by the University of Uppsala, the Syrian death toll over the last 17 months is greater than the total number of Palestinians killed by Israel over the entire 64 years of its existence.

So by any objective standard, the Syrian problem would look incomparably more urgent: Solving it would save far more Muslim Arab lives than solving the Palestinian problem would. But for Morsi, and for all too many others in the Arab world, securing the well-being of his fellow Muslim Arabs is evidently less important than undermining the well-being of the hated Jewish state. The Syrian crisis being a purely intra-Arab conflict, solving it doesn’t contribute one iota to the latter goal. But an obsessive focus on the Palestinian problem does.

Of course, it’s also possible that Morsi doesn’t actually believe in the primacy of the Palestinian cause, but is merely playing the time-honored game that Arab opinion leaders – politicians, journalists, artists and intellectuals – have been playing for decades: Let’s divert attention from the internal problems of Arab society by focusing on an outside enemy. But either way, the message is the same: What really matters isn’t what the Arabs do to themselves, but what the Jews do to them, even if what Arabs are doing to themselves (or each other) is far worse. And therefore, the focus of Arab activity must be Israel, not the Arab world’s internal problems – even if focusing on the latter would do more to actually improve the lot of ordinary Arabs.

More than half a century ago, former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously said that “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” Sadly, that’s still true. But it’s equally true that as long as Arab leaders accord higher priority to their campaign against Israel than they do to the welfare of their own people, the Arab world will continue to lag far behind the West by almost any standard of human well-being.

In fact, the Arab world has paid a far higher price for its Israel obsession than Israel ever has. The Jewish state has grown and thrived despite being continuously at war. But ordinary Arabs can still be slaughtered by their own government while their Arab brethren look on and yawn – and continue prating about Israel.

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Cairo Coup Another Obama “Success”

Last week’s terror attack on Egyptian army troops by jihadists whose ultimate aim was to kill Israelis provoked an unexpectedly harsh reaction from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The chaos in the Sinai is the direct result of the revolution that brought down the Mubarak regime. The Hamas government looked to benefit from the triumph of their Muslim Brotherhood allies, but the embarrassing slaughter of Egyptians by anti-Israel terrorists has led the new government in Cairo to shut down the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. The prospect of increased security cooperation between Egypt and the United States is slightly encouraging, though Israel’s exclusion from talks concerning its border is both spiteful and foolish.

But while the crackdown in the Sinai and along the border with Gaza may be a hopeful sign the new Egyptian government is unwilling to be dragged into conflict with Israel by the Palestinians, the real news in the aftermath of the shooting is very bad indeed. Morsi’s sacking of Egypt’s intelligence chief (who ignored warnings from Israel about a possible terror attack) is one thing, but the decision of the Egyptian leader to fire two of the country’s leading generals is more than just a personnel shuffle. If Morsi has assumed power of the country’s military, the notion that the army would or could act as a brake on the Muslim Brotherhood has been shown to be a myth. His firing of Egypt’s defense minister and the army chief of staff makes it clear the Brotherhood is now completely in control of the country. This calls into question not just the future of regional stability but the Obama administration’s equivocal attitude toward the Brotherhood’s push to power.

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Last week’s terror attack on Egyptian army troops by jihadists whose ultimate aim was to kill Israelis provoked an unexpectedly harsh reaction from Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The chaos in the Sinai is the direct result of the revolution that brought down the Mubarak regime. The Hamas government looked to benefit from the triumph of their Muslim Brotherhood allies, but the embarrassing slaughter of Egyptians by anti-Israel terrorists has led the new government in Cairo to shut down the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. The prospect of increased security cooperation between Egypt and the United States is slightly encouraging, though Israel’s exclusion from talks concerning its border is both spiteful and foolish.

But while the crackdown in the Sinai and along the border with Gaza may be a hopeful sign the new Egyptian government is unwilling to be dragged into conflict with Israel by the Palestinians, the real news in the aftermath of the shooting is very bad indeed. Morsi’s sacking of Egypt’s intelligence chief (who ignored warnings from Israel about a possible terror attack) is one thing, but the decision of the Egyptian leader to fire two of the country’s leading generals is more than just a personnel shuffle. If Morsi has assumed power of the country’s military, the notion that the army would or could act as a brake on the Muslim Brotherhood has been shown to be a myth. His firing of Egypt’s defense minister and the army chief of staff makes it clear the Brotherhood is now completely in control of the country. This calls into question not just the future of regional stability but the Obama administration’s equivocal attitude toward the Brotherhood’s push to power.

In the aftermath of the Egyptian election in which Morsi triumphed over the military’s preferred candidate, optimists believed the army’s acquiescence to the Brotherhood’s victory was bought by the group’s willingness to share power. The assumption was that the military would remain in charge even if Morsi would have the trappings of power. But the firing of the two defense chiefs has shown foreign observers underestimated both Morsi and the Brotherhood’s will to come out on top. It’s also apparent that such thinking overestimated the ability of the army to retain the influence it had when Mubarak, himself a former general, ran things.

The implications of what Time aptly termed a Muslim Brotherhood “coup” are far-reaching.

Morsi may not be interested in a direct confrontation with Israel or in allowing Hamas’ desire to keep the border in flames. For all of the fraternal bonds between the Brotherhood and Hamas, even Egyptian Islamists may believe, as most of their countrymen do, the Palestinians are ready to fight Israel to the last Egyptian.

But if there are no longer any effective checks on the Brotherhood, the idea that the United States or Israel can rely upon the army to keep Egypt from being transformed into an Islamist country is without any rational basis. This ought to do more than scare the country’s secular community or even the Christian Copts who constitute up to ten percent of Egypt’s population. It will mean the start of a process whereby the Brotherhood obtains control over every segment of Egyptian society and government. Optimists hope this will mean nothing worse than a copy of Turkey’s drift from secular freedom to Islamist authoritarianism under President Obama’s friend Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But no one should be surprised if a more radical group like the Brotherhood is not satisfied with that and eventually pushes for more radical changes in both Egyptian society and its relations with Israel.

The Obama administration thought it was managing the situation in Egypt via support of the military while conducting outreach to the Brotherhood. But what they find themselves with now is a situation in which the U.S. is giving $1.5 billion per year to a country controlled by an extremist group whose ideology places it in a state of continual conflict with the West. President Obama and his cheerleaders in the media may think he has deftly handled an Arab Spring which has seen the region’s most populous country transformed from a Western ally to an Islamist loose cannon. If this is foreign policy success, I’d hate to see what failure looks like.

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Egyptians Reevaluate Their Real Enemies

As I noted yesterday, the Muslim Brotherhood is busily propagating conspiracy theories about Israeli guilt for Sunday’s terror attack in Sinai, which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. But there’s a bright side to this story: For the first time ever, many Egyptians aren’t buying it.

True, dozens of demonstrators converged on the Israeli ambassador’s house Monday to demand his expulsion, asserting that Israel was to blame. But the real mob scene occurred at the slain soldiers’ funerals – where crowds chanted slogans denouncing not Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood, and physically attacked a representative of the Brotherhood-led government, Prime Minister Hesham Kandil.

Nor did the media blindly regurgitate the usual conspiracy theories of Israeli guilt: They duly reported the Egyptian military’s assertion that the attack was perpetrated by terrorists from Sinai aided by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Prominent Egyptian commentators even criticized the army for ignoring the intelligence warning Israel had shared, and President Mohammed Morsi for pardoning thousands of radical Islamists and freeing them from jail. And both in television interviews and on social media sites, many ordinary Egyptians blamed the attack not on Israel, but on Morsi, for having reopened the Gaza-Egypt border.

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As I noted yesterday, the Muslim Brotherhood is busily propagating conspiracy theories about Israeli guilt for Sunday’s terror attack in Sinai, which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. But there’s a bright side to this story: For the first time ever, many Egyptians aren’t buying it.

True, dozens of demonstrators converged on the Israeli ambassador’s house Monday to demand his expulsion, asserting that Israel was to blame. But the real mob scene occurred at the slain soldiers’ funerals – where crowds chanted slogans denouncing not Israel, but the Muslim Brotherhood, and physically attacked a representative of the Brotherhood-led government, Prime Minister Hesham Kandil.

Nor did the media blindly regurgitate the usual conspiracy theories of Israeli guilt: They duly reported the Egyptian military’s assertion that the attack was perpetrated by terrorists from Sinai aided by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Prominent Egyptian commentators even criticized the army for ignoring the intelligence warning Israel had shared, and President Mohammed Morsi for pardoning thousands of radical Islamists and freeing them from jail. And both in television interviews and on social media sites, many ordinary Egyptians blamed the attack not on Israel, but on Morsi, for having reopened the Gaza-Egypt border.

Moreover, the outrage shifted the balance of power between the army and the Brotherhood in the cabinet, enabling the army’s representative, Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi, to force Morsi to seal the Egypt-Gaza border “indefinitely,” just days after having triumphantly reopened it. The army also poured troops accompanied by bulldozers into the Gaza border region to begin sealing the Gaza-Sinai smuggling tunnels – a step Israel had long pleaded for in vain. It even launched its first-ever air strikes on suspected terrorists in Sinai.

Finally, the public outrage seems to have emboldened Egyptian liberals: Former parliamentarian Mohammed Abu Hamed, for instance, launched a blistering attack on Morsi in which he even took the courageous step of defending the peace with Israel.

“The president bears responsibility for this [Sunday’s attack], which was caused by actions his government has taken recently, such as opening the crossings and giving amnesty for Islamist detainees,” Abu Hamed told his followers via Facebook.

“These exceptional measures, which allowed the opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip without any security measures, allowed the entry of a large number of extremist religious groups from al-Qaeda and others to Sinai in addition to the elements of Hamas,” Abu Hamed charged. “It is known that these groups have beliefs and ideas of jihadists who are seeking to involve Egypt in a new conflict with Israel. This is in addition to the president-elect’s decision to release a number of extremists, some of them facing death sentences… which is spreading extremist ideas again in breach of the peace agreement, something that is not in the public interest.”

There’s no guarantee any of this will last: Anti-Israel incitement has been the norm in Egypt for decades, and anti-Israel sentiment runs deep. But if Sunday’s attack proves the start of a process that leads ordinary Egyptians to reevaluate who their real enemies are, that would be an enormous boon not only for Israel, but for the prospects of a lasting Middle East peace.

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Hamas a Threat to Egypt as Well as Israel

The outcome of the latest terrorist attack along the Egyptian-Israeli border leaves the two nations with a confusing situation. Masked Palestinian gunmen from the Gaza Strip entered Egyptian territory at sundown from the smuggling tunnels run by Hamas and then proceeded to attack an Egyptian military post. They killed 16 Egyptian soldiers who were settling down to their Ramadan feast, stole vehicles which they then loaded with explosives, and headed to the Israeli border with the apparent goal of kidnapping and/or killing Israeli soldiers and civilians. Fortunately, the Israel army reacted swiftly, blowing up one vehicle, killing several of the terrorists and forcing the others to flee into the Sinai. No Israelis were harmed.

The attack is an embarrassment in more than one way for the Egyptian government that is now dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is allied with Hamas, which along with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, condemned the incident. But the lax security in the Sinai since the fall of the Mubarak regime has led not only to Sinai becoming a lawless region where terrorists roam freely. Even more important, the attack, which is just the latest attempt by Gaza-based Palestinians to assault Israel via the Sinai, makes it clear the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza has made it a terrorist enclave that presents a danger to Egypt as well as Israel. Though Israel is the boogeyman of Egyptian popular culture and the focus of a relentless hate campaign in the media there, it may turn out that the Palestinians are the real threat. The question is whether the slaughter of their soldiers — a crime that cannot be blamed on Israel — willl motivate the Egyptian army and the government in Cairo to crack down on both Sinai and Hamas-run Gaza.

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The outcome of the latest terrorist attack along the Egyptian-Israeli border leaves the two nations with a confusing situation. Masked Palestinian gunmen from the Gaza Strip entered Egyptian territory at sundown from the smuggling tunnels run by Hamas and then proceeded to attack an Egyptian military post. They killed 16 Egyptian soldiers who were settling down to their Ramadan feast, stole vehicles which they then loaded with explosives, and headed to the Israeli border with the apparent goal of kidnapping and/or killing Israeli soldiers and civilians. Fortunately, the Israel army reacted swiftly, blowing up one vehicle, killing several of the terrorists and forcing the others to flee into the Sinai. No Israelis were harmed.

The attack is an embarrassment in more than one way for the Egyptian government that is now dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is allied with Hamas, which along with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, condemned the incident. But the lax security in the Sinai since the fall of the Mubarak regime has led not only to Sinai becoming a lawless region where terrorists roam freely. Even more important, the attack, which is just the latest attempt by Gaza-based Palestinians to assault Israel via the Sinai, makes it clear the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza has made it a terrorist enclave that presents a danger to Egypt as well as Israel. Though Israel is the boogeyman of Egyptian popular culture and the focus of a relentless hate campaign in the media there, it may turn out that the Palestinians are the real threat. The question is whether the slaughter of their soldiers — a crime that cannot be blamed on Israel — willl motivate the Egyptian army and the government in Cairo to crack down on both Sinai and Hamas-run Gaza.

The Israeli government has been calling for Egypt to police Sinai more thoroughly. Their neighbors have said this would require the two countries to renegotiate the 1979 peace treaty that calls for Egypt to keep its main forces away from the border. But the problem is not really limited to the Sinai. The danger stems from the fact that Gaza has become a haven not just for every armed Palestinian terrorist group but also global jihadis who may not be willing to take orders from Hamas.

In the wake of Mubarak’s fall, Egypt largely dropped its enforcement of the blockade of Gaza, making it easier for terrorists as well as arms and material to enter the Hamas-run statelet. But the majority of Egyptians who support the Brotherhood must now reckon with the fact that having an Islamist terror state on their border presents a danger to them as well as to Israel. It may be asking a lot of a country where anti-Semitism is so deeply engrained in popular culture and where hatred of Israel is endemic to realize that keeping the border with the Jewish state quiet is in their interest. But as ordinary Egyptians as well as the new government begin to realize that what they have nurtured in Gaza is a danger akin to Afghanistan prior to 9/11, traditional Egyptian antipathy for the Palestinians could begin to rein in a reckless policy of antagonizing Israel.

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Clinton Unwittingly Makes Case Against Administration’s Mideast Policy

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top Israeli officials yesterday, and made a powerful case against a renewed push for the peace process. She didn’t mean to, of course; she was actually exhorting the Israeli leadership to do whatever they must to get Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. But she employed two arguments in support of her recommendation that in reality work against it. Haaretz reports:

According to an Israeli official who was briefed on the content of the meetings, Clinton told the different Israeli officials that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are the best partners the Israelis ever had, adding that “it is unclear who will come after them.”

If Abbas and Fayyad–who resolutely refuse to even meet with Israeli leaders face to face–are the best Palestinian “peace partners” Israel has ever had, it is clear the peace process has gone practically nowhere since it began. But the second comment is more important.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top Israeli officials yesterday, and made a powerful case against a renewed push for the peace process. She didn’t mean to, of course; she was actually exhorting the Israeli leadership to do whatever they must to get Mahmoud Abbas back to the negotiating table. But she employed two arguments in support of her recommendation that in reality work against it. Haaretz reports:

According to an Israeli official who was briefed on the content of the meetings, Clinton told the different Israeli officials that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad are the best partners the Israelis ever had, adding that “it is unclear who will come after them.”

If Abbas and Fayyad–who resolutely refuse to even meet with Israeli leaders face to face–are the best Palestinian “peace partners” Israel has ever had, it is clear the peace process has gone practically nowhere since it began. But the second comment is more important.

Clinton came to Israel directly from Egypt, where she met with new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Morsi is there because the Egyptian people finally overthrew a widely hated autocrat who was viewed, in part, as too friendly to Israel and the West. Israel’s gas deal with Egypt seemed to go up in smoke–literally–and the vaunted peace agreement, in place for more than three decades now, was called into question. Egyptians first called for it to be torn up, then renegotiated, and now Morsi says he will uphold it, but he won’t return any of the Israeli government’s overtures to him.

It’s possible to see in the evolution of Cairo’s discussion of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty evidence that the deal is in no real trouble of being revoked (though it may be violated with far more regularity). But that misses a larger point. The Arab Spring, especially in the case of Egypt, taught us not to rely on seemingly stable dictators who don’t rule with popular consent. And it should be a dire warning against striking a deal with unpopular leaders who don’t represent public opinion and who are here today, but may very well be gone tomorrow.

Obviously, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are still far from a deal–possibly farther than they’ve ever been. But what if the Arab Spring rolls along into the West Bank? And even if it doesn’t, there is no reason to treat the current leadership crop as permanent. What happens if they fall? What guarantee is there that any deal would be worth the paper it was written on? The fact that Abbas and Fayyad are unpopular, ineffective, and could be replaced any day by Palestinians to whom the deal would mean nothing is an argument against making any sort of desperate push to get a deal signed. Clinton should be pressuring Abbas and Fayyad to reform their corrupt, autocratic ways if real peace and stability is the goal.

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The Muslim Brotherhood Owns Egypt

When the Arab Spring bug caught on in Egypt, in late January 2011, commentators rushed to explain that the Tahrir Square crowd was hip and Western, secular and “facebooked.” Never mind the rape of a Western journalist, Lara Logan, by the hip and Western revolutionaries – a fate visited upon other female journalists during the following months (see here and here). Everyone looked around, and the Muslim Brotherhood was nowhere to be seen.

This fact, alone, seems to have fed the facile illusion that the Brotherhood could not hijack the initial Twitter moment of the Egyptian revolt against Hosni Mubarak.

Since then, at each turn of the road, as the Muslim Brotherhood gradually hijacked the Egyptian transition, commentators told us there was no need to worry. The Muslim Brotherhood would only contest a small number of seats (they did not); they would not have a candidate of their own for the presidency (they did); and their candidate was moderate (he wasn’t).

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When the Arab Spring bug caught on in Egypt, in late January 2011, commentators rushed to explain that the Tahrir Square crowd was hip and Western, secular and “facebooked.” Never mind the rape of a Western journalist, Lara Logan, by the hip and Western revolutionaries – a fate visited upon other female journalists during the following months (see here and here). Everyone looked around, and the Muslim Brotherhood was nowhere to be seen.

This fact, alone, seems to have fed the facile illusion that the Brotherhood could not hijack the initial Twitter moment of the Egyptian revolt against Hosni Mubarak.

Since then, at each turn of the road, as the Muslim Brotherhood gradually hijacked the Egyptian transition, commentators told us there was no need to worry. The Muslim Brotherhood would only contest a small number of seats (they did not); they would not have a candidate of their own for the presidency (they did); and their candidate was moderate (he wasn’t).

One can imagine the alarm felt by Egypt’s generals at each of these developments. Finally, they took action days before one of their own was to lose the presidential runoff to the Brotherhood candidate. They engineered the dissolution of the Brotherhood-dominated parliament and dramatically reduced the powers of the presidency.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi is now the president of Egypt and, predictably, he’s moved to overturn the generals’ move, by reinstating parliament until the constitution is drafted and new elections are called for.

Just as predictably, this morning Time has a blog entry illustrating why, yet again, there is nothing to worry about: “Some analysts say that Morsi and the junta likely worked out a power-sharing deal well before the Islamist president, representing the most reliably pragmatic political organization in the country, took his presidential oath on June 24. A closer examination of the decree suggests a deal may be in the works this time too.”

Feel reassured? I don’t.

Every revolution I can remember started out as a coalition of different forces–and the radicals were not the majority. Think of the Bolsheviks and Kerensky’s government in 1917 Russia. Think of Mehdi Bazargan’s government in Iran’s early revolutionary days, in 1979. Even Hitler, when he first seized power, formed a coalition and perfunctorily bowed to the then German president – there were reassurances then as well. Radicals take over the revolution because that is what they are best at doing – and any compromise or pragmatic concession to more moderate forces is just a tactical move to bide their time.

The Muslim Brotherhood has fought the generals for the last 60 years and contended with Arab nationalism and Western ideas since 1928. In the last 20 months, the Brotherhood has come out of the shadows and savored its final triumph. The ballot box vindicated its vision and patience. To assume, at each twist of the story, that the Brotherhood will be pragmatic or compromising is to ignore history and precedent. The Muslim Brotherhood has the support of the majority of Egyptian society on its side. It has penetrated the lower ranks of the army already. It controls the presidency and will begin to exert its power more and more over the state bureaucracy and the state-financed and appointed clergy.

It is a matter of time, but for all intents and purposes, and optimistic articles notwithstanding, the Brotherhood owns Egypt.

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Re: Should U.S. Give Morsi a Chance?

I must respectfully disagree with Max’s wait-and-watch take on an Egypt ruled by Mohammed Morsi. One certainly wants to see a democratic Egypt. And it is not exactly indefensible that Washington expressed hopes the Egyptian military would honor the recent election results. There remains, after all, no viable long-term game plan that relies on dictatorship to keep fanaticism under wraps. But urging countries to respect election results must be accompanied by a clear-eyed vigilance about what those results may portend. Just as a military dictatorship does not a free society make, a theocracy—even a publicly “softer” one that might (might) have incorporated notions of democracy into its ruling framework—is also not the stuff of freedom and tolerance. And in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is very, very far from it.

There is too much evidence of the Brotherhood’s Islamist brutality, militant anti-Americanism, and seething anti-Semitism—both historically and currently—to wipe the slate clean and wait for the ennobling transformation that comes with governing responsibility. The lesson that votes do not constitute democracies has been learned in places such as Algeria in the early 1990s and in the Palestinian territories in 2006. In both cases, the ballot box served as a pathway to Islamist nightmare. Surely, hoping for the best future does not mean dismissing the past.

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I must respectfully disagree with Max’s wait-and-watch take on an Egypt ruled by Mohammed Morsi. One certainly wants to see a democratic Egypt. And it is not exactly indefensible that Washington expressed hopes the Egyptian military would honor the recent election results. There remains, after all, no viable long-term game plan that relies on dictatorship to keep fanaticism under wraps. But urging countries to respect election results must be accompanied by a clear-eyed vigilance about what those results may portend. Just as a military dictatorship does not a free society make, a theocracy—even a publicly “softer” one that might (might) have incorporated notions of democracy into its ruling framework—is also not the stuff of freedom and tolerance. And in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is very, very far from it.

There is too much evidence of the Brotherhood’s Islamist brutality, militant anti-Americanism, and seething anti-Semitism—both historically and currently—to wipe the slate clean and wait for the ennobling transformation that comes with governing responsibility. The lesson that votes do not constitute democracies has been learned in places such as Algeria in the early 1990s and in the Palestinian territories in 2006. In both cases, the ballot box served as a pathway to Islamist nightmare. Surely, hoping for the best future does not mean dismissing the past.

Western policymakers have too often committed the cynical mistake of empowering anti-democratic leaders to clamp down on terrorists. Such thinking was one of the many reasons the Oslo Accords were doomed to failure. What Natan Sharansky has labeled “fear societies” will always seek outside enemies on whom to blame their lot. Therein lies the genesis of the current Egyptian debacle. But many of us who continue to believe in the virtues of a foreign policy characterized by a freedom agenda are flirting with a mirror-image mistake, a misplaced optimism about democracy in the wake of toppled dictators.

What’s happening now in Egypt is likely to turn very bad indeed. We do no favors for ourselves, Israelis, or heartbroken Egyptian liberals by giving people like Morsi the benefit of the doubt. Max’s assertion that Morsi may be obligated to honor the Camp David Accords could very well be correct. And what’s more, Egypt may have the good sense not to risk Israeli retaliation. But both of these suppositions point toward an opportunity for American action, not observation. If our $1.2 billion in annual aid to Egypt is not what’s keeping the Accords standing, we’d do well to consider making that aid contingent upon compliance with human rights benchmarks and the protection of what few, weak democratic institutions may now be in place in Egypt. Or–and this must be considered–those suppositions are wrong. And in that case, one cannot overstate the potential hazards of the new Egypt.

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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.

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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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