U.S. Pandering in Israel, Realpolitik in Egypt

Mahmoud Gamal El-Din
By Greg Hom
Mar 21, 2013

Greg Hom looks at a recent review of the last two year's events in Egypt and President Obama's trip to Palestine/Israel

President Obama's visit to Israel and occupied Palestine has been designed to not take too strong a stand on U.S.-involvement in any kind of "peace" process, though of course it will be mentioned. Rather the trip has been mostly designed to drive home the point that the U.S. is a friend to Israel. While the recent nomination of Chuck Hagel to Secretary of Defense turned heads because of his criticisms of Israel, it doesn't look like Palestinians can expect much right now in Obama's second term.

(Brokers of Deceit: Interview by Democracy Now! with Rashid Khalidi March 19, 2013)

This lack of attention to Palestine can be expected because of the noise that Israel has been able to make about Iran. More immediately pressing would also be the claim (currently unsubstantiated) that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against the opposition- Obama has called the use of such weapons a “red line”, which may possibly mean some kind of escalated U.S. involvement. With the US Ambassador to Syria publicly stating that Iran is upping its assistance to the Assad regime, perhaps US involvement could be seen almost as a proxy war against Iranian interests.

Despite a lack of attention to their grievances, Palestinians staged a protest east of Jerusalem in the area called E1, where Israel has new plans for settlement housing. Protesters called on the President to use U.S. influence to halt settlement building. The NY Times also reported Saturday on Jewish settlement building inside Jerusalem in the Maalot David area, a Palestinian neighborhood, adding further friction to the idea of the city being shared on a territorial basis.

A bittersweet victory for Palestinians did come with the hunger-striker Ayman Sharawna being released into Gaza (though he is from the West Bank, and his family is there), demonstrating that the internal and international pressure to free him was a success. The past weeks saw a strong push in the movement to free Sharawna and others from the capricious Israeli prison system; Samer Issawi, and others have not accepted food for months in their Israeli jails but remain captives. A profile of Issawi can be seen on Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

Updates on Egypt

War Times' Sarah Lazare is reporting on-the-ground from Cairo right now, but for a broader view of events there, the London Review of Books has a wrap-up of the political situation by Cambridge professor Hazim Kandil.

It's a long piece, but three quotes help sum up the political calculus of some of the major players there now. 

For those still in the streets, he says:

The best hope for the revolution is an alliance between the organizationally strong military and members of the extremely disorganized revolutionary camp. An alliance of that sort would compel the revolutionaries to give up many of their demands, but it would also place the country on a quite different path – which is why the security apparatus will do everything it can to prevent it.

That doesn't seem like great hope for the revolutionaries necessarily, but more rooted in a realpolitik that pits progress against the Muslim Brotherhood and the other Islamist forces that are growing in the country.

Meanwhile the current leader has this to contend with:

Morsi has come to realize that his only choice is to cement an alliance with one of his opponents. But each possibility carries a hefty price tag. Compromise with the secular revolutionaries would discredit the Brotherhood ideologically, costing them the conservative vote and losing them the backing of their fundamentalist political partners.

In the end, Kandil writes:

Claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has hijacked the revolution and is consolidating its hegemony haven’t much substance. The reality is that there is still political fluidity. It’s true that the Brotherhood is in the lead in opinion polls at the moment, but it is also busy fighting a rearguard action to secure a costly alliance with one or other of its enemies before they unite against it.

Not mentioned as factors in that political fluidity is the relationship of Egypt to both Israel and the United States, which have to be seen as factors at some point. Perhaps luckily for Egyptians right now, the main focus of both in the region is on Iran and Syria.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Greg has written book reviews for Left Turn Magazine, and volunteered with Prison Radio.

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