The New York Times writer Thomas Friedman penned a piece expressing hope that a democratic Egypt will lead to a better implementation of the treaty with Israel if both sides can change “some deeply engrained behaviors.” He criticizes right-wing Israeli politicians and analysts for blaming the Muslim Brotherhood victory on President Obama because he did not intervene to “save” Mubarak. Friedman writes, “Sorry, naïveté is thinking that because it was so convenient for Israel to have peace with one dictator, Mubarak, rather than 80 million Egyptians…” Although historically the Jewish people have maintained better relationships with rulers than the general public, this “model of the vertical alliance only makes sense with authoritarian political systems. As soon as authoritarianism breaks down, and a process of democratization begins… the opinions of the people — in this instance, ordinary Arabs — will matter.”
So far, signs show that the treaty will remain cool, but intact. Muslim Brotherhood officials expressed their disapproval of the agreement but say it is not a priority for the new president. In his speech after the results were announced, Morsi said, "we will honor the international treaties and agreements, and will create balanced international relations based on mutual interests and respect."
Even if Morsi wants to actively work to revoke the treaty, it is unlikely to come into fruition because the Egyptian military still has great influence in the new government structure and limits the powers of the president. It is in the military’s best interest to keep the agreement in place because it receives $1.3 billion annually from the U.S. for signing and maintaining the treaty.
Prime Minister Netanyahu released a cautious statement after the election announcement saying, “Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential elections…Israel looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability.”
Officials from Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, celebrated Morsi’s victory and now hope that it will lead to a more open border between Gaza and Egypt. Gaza’s Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh intends to visit Morsi in Egypt in the next two weeks to discuss the matter but again, the Egyptian military’s authority will make any significant change unlikely.
PA Police Crack Down on Protestors
This past weekend, senior Palestinian and Israeli officials planned to meet for the first time in almost two years. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas invited new Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz to meet in Ramallah but several factors caused the meeting to be called off.
In response to the planned meeting, hundreds of Palestinian protestors demonstrated outside Abbas’ compound Saturday calling on the Palestinian Authority to not negotiate with Israel while chanting for an end to the Oslo accords. The Palestinians for Dignity group used the demonstration to call for a new strategy of resistance to end the occupation, including the end of PA security coordination with Israel.
The protestors were met with violence from PA security forces, preventing them from reaching the compound. This sparked a subsequent protest the next day against police brutality, which was also violently suppressed. On the third day of protests, government officials claim that the police were given orders to allow the protestors to continue on to the compound.
The protest raised concerns for many Palestinians skeptical of the PA Security Forces and their role. PLO official Hanan Ashrawi condemned the violent repression, which she said attacked public freedoms, harmed the image of the Palestinian people and state institutions, and jeopardized Palestine's democratic future. She also emphasized that the youth are the leaders of the future, and as such, need to be engaged in public life and listen to their protests. The PLO is calling for an independent commission to investigate the violent response to the protests.
Israeli media speculated that it meeting might have actually been cancelled as a result of tensions between Mofaz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel’s Coalition Faces Another Test
There has been turmoil in Israel’s new broad coalition over the past few weeks and it is now under threat of falling apart. The surprising coalition was formed between Likud leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz two months agoin lieu of new elections, giving the prime minister a supermajority of 94 of Parliament’s 120 members. The unity deal attempted to provide stability to Israeli politics as the government is facing tough issues, such as reforming the Tal Law, which currently exempts the ultra-Orthodox Jews, from mandatory military service and was declared illegal by the Israeli Supreme Court, which ordered the Israeli government to scrap the law by August 1.
Exemption for ultra-Orthodox raised the issue of equal burden for all Israeli citizens, which in turn, made the ultra-Orthodox supporters question why the law does not also include Arab-Israelis, whose identity complicates their role in serving a Jewish state. This caused a debate as to who should be obligated to serve in the military.
On Monday, Netanyahu disbanded the Plesner Committeecharged with reforming the law, which was headed by a member of Kadima. According to Netanyahu, the committee failed to reach an agreementthat would secure a Knesset majority after several members walked out. Mofaz is now threatening to break up the coalition, as the universal draft was his primary goal in joining with Netanyahu. The prime minister has said to preserve the coalition and address the Tal Law, he will convene the leaders of the Likud and Kadima parties to formulate a workable proposal. If they fail, the military will draft its own resolution according to its needs.
The IDF is calling for national serviceas a solution, which would extend to all Israeli citizens but would not require military service. Instead, citizens who are incapable of military service can do national service work, a broad community-based assignment ranging from patrolling playgrounds to assisting medical staff in hospitals. This allows ultra-Orthodox and Arab-Israelis to contribute to their community without military service.
Presbyterians Vote Against Divestment
After hours of late night debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) narrowly voted against divesting from firms that do business with the Israeli military on Thursday by a vote of 333-331. However, a measure to encourage positive investment in the Palestinian territories passed by a wider margin. Opponents of divestment believe it would hurt relations with the Jewish community and be perceived as “picking on Israel.”
- Israelis approved three Palestinian water projects in Area C funded by the U.S. and Japan.
- 500,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria are being violently drawn into the uprising, despite their reluctance.
- While some indicators show the economy is improving in the West Bank, Reuters reports that it is mostly based on foreign donations, credit and loans which is unsustainable.