Egypt elected a radical President last week. During the campaign, Mohammad Morsi called for Sharia law and a war with Israel, with Jerusalem as his objective. But now that he seems to have the votes, he talks only of “peace and unity.” He might be doing that because he does not have the army behind him, and knows it.
Egypt election results
Flag of Egypt
Morsi was the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. More than thirty years ago, the Muslim Brotherhood arranged for a team of assassins to “frag” President Anwar el-Sadat while the army passed in review before him. Hosni Mubarak succeeded him, purged the army, and forbade the Muslim Brotherhood to run election candidates ever again.
Last year, in the “Arab Spring,” Hosni Mubarak fell from power. Last week, Morsi ran against Mubarak’s former Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq. Morsi won, with 52 percent of the vote. In his victory speech, he called at once for “peace and unity” in his country. He also pledged to honor the treaties Egypt now has with various countries. (But Fox News Channel, at 9:24 a.m. today, quoted him as wanting to “rethink” the Camp David Treaty. He also wants a stronger tie with Iran.) But a month ago he talked of imposing Sharia law in Egypt.
This Presidential election provoked domestic violence. An Egyptian beat his pregnant wife to death after she refused to vote for Morsi. That, according to Al-Arabiya News, was only one of many such cases. It also shows how badly Muslim Brotherhood supporters would like to go to war with someone, to show how much power they have.
More to the point, secular parties in Egypt bitterly accused United States diplomats of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Putative President Barack H. Obama has already called Morsi on the telephone to congratulate him on his win.
Mohammed Morsi scares officials in Israel, and friends of Israel, with his rhetoric. He called for Sharia law, but that’s not all. He also called for a wider war in the Middle East.
Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca, or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem!
The Muslim Brotherhood also has an important ally across the Sinai border. HAMAS (or in English, “Islamic Resistance Movement”) controls the Gaza Strip. HAMAS is also a Muslim Brotherhood creature.
Morsi has many “man-on-the-street” supporters who say the same thing.
Israeli officials have feared this for months. Rav Aluf Benny Ganz, chief of staff of the Tzahal (Defensive Armies of Israel), earlier called up six battalions of reserve troops and has authority to call up sixteen more.
What will the army do?
Rhetoric aside, Morsi cannot go to war with any country if he does not have the army behind him. And he might not.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Egypt ruled that the parliamentary elections were not valid. The Muslim Brotherhood had taken most of the seats in those elections. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took their cue from the Court and dissolved Parliament last week. They also said they would limit severely the power of the President of Egypt.
Forty-five years ago, Gamal Abdel Nasser moved troops to the Sinai armistice line and closed the Straits of Tiran. That provoked Israel to attack Egypt, destroy the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, and seize the Sinai. Six years later, Anwar el-Sadat ordered his army to take the Sinai back. Instead, Israeli troops almost annihilated a large part of the Egyptian army. The only reason they did not was that the Soviet Union threatened to “go nuclear” if the Tzahal did not let the Egyptian forces retreat. Sadat then traveled to Jerusalem to sue for peace. Six years later, he and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Treaty.
Nasser and Sadat had the army behind them when they acted. Muhammad Morsi does not. The army wants to limit his power, and maybe make him a figurehead (like the Queen of England). If Morsi and the generals cannot come to terms on how to run Egypt, Morsi could never order the armed forces to attack Israel and expect them to obey him.
The army doesn’t even seem to have control of the Sinai Peninsula. Terrorist groups and smugglers move about and work there, and the army can’t or won’t stop them.
So yes, Egypt has a new, radical President. This new President scares many people with his rhetoric. But he does not have the army behind him. Until he gets the army behind him, his rhetoric is nothing more than hot air.