By: Maggie M. Thornton
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has told the Egyptian military not to interfere with writing the new Egyptian constitution. In May, Egypt opened a gate between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip. This week Israel suffered a devastating attack from Palestinians with al-Qaeda connections entering Israel from Egypt’s Sinai.
In the meantime, in a letter to Congress, Barack Obama announced the sale of 125 M-1A1 Abrams Tanks to the Egyptian military along with machine guns, machine gun parts and M256 Armament Systems, maintenance, support equipment and training. The Pentagon said the sale would ”provide Egypt with a modern tank fleet, enhancing its capability to meet future threats.” If the Brotherhood succeeds in controlling or co-operating with the military, we have armed them. The threat to Israel in all of this is palpable.
Perhaps the most troubling, along with the Muslim Brotherhood taking control of Egypt’s constitution, is the claim that al-Qaeda has made their first attack on Israel (National Review Online):
On Thursday, a team of 15 to 20 armed al Qaeda terrorists (members of the Palestinian Popular Committees, an al Qaeda affiliate) snaked through tunnels from Gaza to Sinai. From there, they hiked 200 kilometers over land, either ignored or facilitated by Egyptian army forces. They were thus able to sneak into Israel, through the porous border at Eilat – porous because Israel has not needed to worry much about its Egyptian border for the last 30 years.
At around noon, the terrorists took up positions along the highway and opened fire at buses and cars. One detonated a suicide belt. In all, eight Israelis were killed and 30 more wounded. The terrorists shot to death a family of four who were just out driving in their car – father, mother, and their 6- and 4-year-old kids (“resistance” against the “occupiers,” as Islamists like to say). Barry Rubin counts this as al Qaeda’s first successful terrorist attack against Israel. …
Israeli forces then crossed into Sinai for a small degree of retribution, killing three to five Egyptian police/soldiers.
Israeli police and defense forces killed several of the terrorists. They pursued at least two of the terrorists into Egyptian territory. At that point, some Egyptian soldiers either joined in the firefight or got caught in it accidentally – the facts are not yet clear, though a least one eyewitness says a terrorist was firing from an Egyptian army position. Five Egyptian soldiers were killed. Source: see the NRO article linked above.
A look around the Internets and you’ll see that it is easier to condemn Israel than the obvious culprits (The Economist):
But while it is politically convenient (and probably accurate) to point to Hamas-run Gaza as the terrorists’ point of departure, it is more unnerving for Israeli leaders to consider the evident ease with which they crossed through the Sinai to their targets just over the border.
As background, Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi was banned from the country some 30 years ago by Hosni Mubarak. Al-Qaradawi was implicated in the assassination plot that killed Anwar Sadat. As soon as Mubarak was out-of-power, the hardline Islamist marched into Cairo in triumph. He has led the fight for full implementation of Shariah Law and has returned the MB back to prominence.
In March 2011, a referendum vote was held on changes to the existing constitution. The freedom fighters who filled Tahrir Square for weeks urged voters to vote “no,” but the referendum passed with 77% of those voting, voting for it, with only an astonishing 41% coming out to vote. There is widespread belief that not all was on the up-and-up in the vote, as the pro-Democracy crowd turned out in the streets on that day in heavy numbers, with a message to deny the referendum.
Next are parliamentary elections:
CAIRO (AP) — Calls are growing in Egypt for a delay of September’s parliamentary elections to give parties formed in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster more time to organize.
The push, which now has the prime minister’s backing, is aimed at keeping the well-organized Muslim Brotherhood from dominating the next legislature and exerting disproportionate Islamist influence over the drafting of a new constitution.
Parliamentary elections are slated for later this year, and the Brotherhood and its fellow Islamists are expected to do well at the polls. That would likely give them a dominant voice in appointing the committee that will draft a new constitution.
Liberals fear that an Islamist-dominated committee will produce a document that serves only the Islamists’ agenda.
It has not been a good week for Egyptian freedom fighters:
CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s largest political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, warned the country’s military rulers Saturday not to interfere in the writing of a new constitution.
The statement from the Brotherhood marks the first time the Islamist group has directly challenged Egypt’s ruling military council since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in February.
Militants, unclear whether Egyptian or Palestinian, but probably Palestinian crossed into Israel from their southern border and fired on cars and buses. Rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel has begun again. Eight Israelis are dead along with three to five Egyptian police.
Israel claims Palestinians left Gaza, went into Egypt’s Sinai and then re-entered Israel from the Sinai. Hosni Mubarak had kept the border between Gaza and the Sinai closed with some exceptions for cargo or humanitarian aid – and it was closely guarded at those times.
Thursday’s incident will reinforce growing fears in Israel that the Sinai Peninsula—sovereign Egyptian territory—is slipping out of Egypt’s control. The Arab spring and the removal of Hosni Mubarak in February have triggered repeated arson attacks on a natural gas pipeline running through Sinai which supplies Egyptian gas to both Israel and Jordan. Local Beduin tribes are in open revolt against Cairo, and seem increasingly contemptuous of Egyptian authority. Smuggling, mainly of drugs and women, is on the rise. And there are persistent reports of gangs of fundamentalists, some said to be linked to al Qaeda, roaming freely in northern Sinai.
This is a conundrum for Israel, as the 1979 Peace Treaty with Egypt calls for Israel’s approval before an Egyptian troop-build-up in the Sinai. Israel has approved increased security in light of this week’s deadly events, but knows that loosening the restrictions is a threat to Israeli’s under the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Arab Spring has been romanticized but the message is clear: democracy in the Middle East is not an option, and Arabs will lose every time they try it without a full-out confrontation with the West. Iraq at this point is considered a democracy, and indeed, they elect their leaders, but the Iraq story has not yet played out.
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