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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More