Israel and Egypt

Foreign policy is a game Barack Obama has always assumed he could win just by showing up and being his own magnificent self.  For the Israelis, it’s more like disarming a bomb where all the wires are the same color.  According to a report from Reuters in Jerusalem today, Israel’s review of Obama policy on Egypt has been harsh.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government has been biting its lip, but the Israeli press has been hot with fury.  One editorial in the Maariv daily was entitled, “A Bullet In the Back From Uncle Sam.”  Haaretz carried a quote from an unnamed official who suggested other countries, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, would observe “how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications.”

Another Israeli official wondered if “Obama was reliable or not,” and concluded “right now, it doesn’t look so.  That is a question resonating across the region, not just in Israel.”  Angry Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit expanded this judgment to much of the uneasy world, writing “Throughout Asia, Africa and South America, leaders are now looking at what is going on between Washington and Cairo.  Everyone grasps the message: America’s word is worthless … America has lost it.”

Israel obviously places a high value on the peace treaty it negotiated with Anwar Sadat in 1979.  There are few power structures imaginable in a post-Mubarak Egypt that would hold that treaty as valuable as he did.  Quite a few of the factions jockeying for power in the streets of Cairo would very much like to be rid of it.

One of those factions is the notorious Muslim Brotherhood, which would have an easy time disposing of the Egyptian peace treaty with Israel, since it officially does not regard Israel as a country.  They can pretty much slap the Staples “That was easy!” button and move on to their next agenda item.  Obama made a point of inviting the Brotherhood to attend his big speech in Cairo, back in 2009, which would certainly have granted them additional legitimacy.

A new WikiLeaks cable dump indicates the Obama State Department was informed by an Egyptian democracy activist it supported that “several opposition parties and movements have accepted an unwritten plan for democratic transition by 2011.”  The State Department dismissed this report as “highly unrealistic” and judged such a goal “is not supported by the mainstream opposition.”  Depending on which Israeli source you listen to, this was either a stunning act of blindness, or part of a deliberate agenda.  Either way, it doesn’t look good from Jerusalem.