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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid