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

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid