The immediate White House reaction to the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak has been to send Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen to Jordan and Israel to ‘reassure’ them; he has ‘no plans’ to visit Egypt. The US must stop trying to re-assure Israel and adopt a coherent long term policy aimed at influencing the policy towards Israel of a democratically elected Egyptian Government.
The recent record is not ‘re-assuring’. The Obama Administration’s handling of the Egyptian crisis has continued to be supine and conflicted. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of 8 February Secretary of State Clinton said that Egyptian opposition leaders had told the US that the requirement of the Egyptian Constitution of an election within 60 days after the resignation of a President was ‘not enough time’. She said: ‘That’s not us saying it. It’s them saying it.’
Secretaries of State like Dean Acheson and James Baker would have told them to goddamn well get moving. Saturday’s New York Times reported that Clinton’s cautious approach sparked a "rift" with the White House.
Israel is deeply concerned about whether the Egyptian Revolution may lead to a government less friendly to Israel. It will. The protestors in Tahrir Square frequently referred to Mubarak as an Israeli and American agent
No one following the demonstrations could have missed the posters of Mubarak slashed with the Star of David. One of the nastiest aspects of Egyptian policy after the 1978 Camp David Accords has been the tolerance of vile anti Israel and anti Semitic attacks in the Egyptian press.
The coming election campaign in Egypt will involve a good deal of hostile language about Israel followed by hostile rhetoric from whatever Government is elected. In the long term interests of the US and Israel the US Administration will need to resist demands to lecture this or that Egyptian Presidential candidate on his anti Israel remarks, and focus on the need to secure practical cooperation, in Israel’s interests, with the new Egyptian democratic system.
The early, and misleading, focus in Washington and Jerusalem has been on whether a post Mubarak Egypt will maintain the 1978 Camp David Accords and 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel. Egypt is obliged under international law to honour its undertakings in the Camp David Accords and the Peace Treaty; treaties are made by States, not Governments.
If Egypt failed to honour its obligations, the United States would be justified in taking counter measures, including stopping military aid to Egypt. None of this needs to be said.
The more crucial question, as any second year law student knows, is how to interpret the Camp David Accords and the Peace Treaty, which are available on Israel’s Foreign Ministry website. Neither agreement contains guarantees by Egypt to secure the border with the Gaza Strip, which was still under Israeli occupation in 1978-79, and the general undertakings in relation to security (Article III.2 of the Peace Treaty) leave it open to Egypt to provide non military assistance to the people of Gaza.
A future Egyptian Government’s conduct of its relationship with Israel will be difficult, in the context of a public opinion which is deeply hostile to Israel. The US priority must be, not to ‘re-assure Israel’ but to build a relationship of trust with the Egyptian political movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, which will make up the new Egyptian Government.
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