News / Middle East

Egypt And the Muslim Brotherhood: An Israeli Perspective

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, US President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, White House (March 1979 file photo)
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, US President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, White House (March 1979 file photo)
Cecily Hilleary

In the days since Egyptian protestors first descended upon Cairo’s Tahrir Square, pundits and politicians have been keeping a watchful eye on Egypt’s strongest Islamic group, the Society of Muslim Brothers—more commonly known as the Muslim Brotherhood.  Many have voiced fears that if President Hosni Mubarak steps down, the Brotherhood will step in and transform the country into Iranian-style Islamic republic—and an asylum for terrorists.  And perhaps no one worries more than neighboring Israel.

March 26, 1979:  After after months of negotiations, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and US President Jimmy Carter smiled and shook hands on the White House lawn, jubilant over having signed what was officially entitled, the Treaty of Peace Between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel.  The document ended years of warfare and called for both countries to officially recognize one another.  It mandated that Israel withdraw from land it captured in the Sinai Peninsula.  It allowed for the free passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.  Sadat congratulated Carter for having performed a miracle, but the US President cautioned that obstacles still remained ahead.

Egypt and Israel have maintained a cautious peace ever since. The neighbors have diplomatic relations; and they cooperate in trade, tourism and agriculture.  But now, some in Israel worry that the ongoing revolution in Egypt could change all that.

Isi Leibler, former chairman of the governing board of the World Jewish Congress and commentator for the Jerusalem Post, is among those who express fears about any post-Mubarak Egypt.   He says he’s no fan of the Egyptian leader.  But at the same time, Leibler worries that if Mubarak leaves office, the Muslim Brotherhood will gain a strong foothold in the government and ultimately destroy the peace treaty: “Because,” he said, “the most powerful force operating in Egypt and in many of these Arab countries are the Islamic fundamentalist groups.  And the Muslim Brotherhood is particularly well-organized as a semi-underground movement in Egypt.

Isi Liebler
Isi Liebler

Leibler does not believe what some analysts believe—that because the Brotherhood has been so suppressed in Egypt, over time, it has learned the value of restraint.  “I think they will practice the same restraint as Hamas practices, because they’re soul brothers, those two groups,” Liebler said.  “They are identical.  They have ideological origins and they are extremist fundamentalists, and if they play the game, it will only be temporarily.”  Liebler said Muslim Brothers are not only committed to breaking peace with Israel, but have publicly announced that they want to see “Israel eliminated as a state.”

“For anybody to look towards them as a source of any kind of stability,” he added, “I think they’re living in a fool’s paradise.”

Leibler articulated the often-expressed belief that Israel’s security is dependent upon the political survival of Hosni Mubarak.  However, some other analysts in Israel applaud the Egyptian protesters.  They say Israeli security can only strengthen as its Arab neighbors democratize, and dismiss worries about a resurgence of Islamism next door.  Among these voices is Larry Derfner, who also writes for the Jerusalem Post.

“It’s fear that’s dictating the Israeli reaction,” he told VOA.  “But there’s such a thing as too much fear.  I think most people who know about Egypt, who are looking at Egypt and trying to be level-headed about it, are saying that Muslim Brotherhood is probably not going to take over Egypt, and that the movement in Egypt is dominated by democrats.”

The Muslim Brotherhood is not in a position to be able to deliver to protestors what they want in a government, said Derfner.  “They want democracy, which the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to give them.  And at least as much as democracy, they want economic growth.  And Islamism and alliance with the Islamic world is not going to give them that.  And trashing the Israeli peace treaty is not going to give them that.”

Then what would?  Derfner’s answer was emphatic:  “Playing ball with America and the West.”


NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs