Opinion: Gaza roils; Egypt has own issues

November 19, 2012


— I came to Egypt to examine the impact a Muslim Brotherhood president has had on the country. Egyptian liberals and moderate Muslims have been struggling with religious political parties over the role of Islam in the state.

But an explosion of new fighting in Gaza, as Israel retaliates for a wave of Hamas rocket attacks on its cities and towns, reveals the constraints on any efforts to radically change Egypt. It also shows why Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel is likely to last.

In interviews with Brotherhood members, more orthodox Salafis, and opposition leaders during the week before the Gaza fighting began, it quickly became clear that the most pressing issue in Egypt is the economy, not sharia law.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people don’t care about this discussion of the constitution,” which is bogged down in a debate over sharia, said Mohamed ElBaradei, a key opposition leader and a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “The people want work and health care, because the economy is stagnant.”

ElBaradei said that when he recently visited Aswan, a major tourist destination, its top tourist hotel was only 1 to 2 percent occupied. “People were only talking about jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.

Egypt’s new elected president, longtime Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed Morsi, understands this huge economic challenge, as does the Brotherhood’s political front, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Morsi knows he and his party will be judged by whether they can provide jobs and improve ordinary Egyptians’ standard of living.

To do that, they desperately need help from global agencies as well as direct foreign investment. Morsi knows Egypt can’t afford to scare off investors and tourists, and it most certainly can’t afford to fight another war.

That’s why, although Morsi recalled his ambassador to Israel over its air strikes on Gaza and sent his prime minister to Gaza City, he has not threatened to provide military aid to Hamas or take direct action against Israel.

Nor can he afford to cut off all diplomatic or trade relations, including the so-called QIZs (Qualifying Industrial Zones), which give Egyptian textiles preferential access to U.S. markets as long as they contain a symbolic 10 percent contribution from Israel. The QIZs have created tens of thousands of desperately needed jobs.

Of course, Morsi is under pressure from a newly politicized public, Brotherhood members, and Salafis to take stronger action against Israel. Given that Hamas has Brotherhood roots, that pressure will intensify if the Israeli strikes continue. If Israel invades Gaza, Morsi could be forced to take action he wants to avoid.

Previously, the Brotherhood had developed a rationale for keeping the treaty with Israel (while talking about possible but unlikely changes to it). “The treaty is just an ending of the state of war,” said Sobhi Saleh, a founding FJP member and one of its leading legal experts. “It is not a friendship treaty. No state in the world seeks war, so it is normal to keep the treaty.”

With an eye toward Egypt’s security, Morsi has also tried harder than his deposed predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, to close the tunnels that link Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which have become a conduit for terrorists and weapons.

Morsi’s pragmatism, born of economic necessity, probably explains why his party has not pressed to give sharia a greater role in the draft constitution being intensely debated. Egyptian liberals worry about constitutional loopholes and an increasingly religious social climate, as well as Salafi pressures (so far unsuccessful) to include more specific references to sharia rulings. The current draft calls for Egyptian laws to be in accordance with “the principles of sharia” - the same vague reference that has been in the constitution for decades.

The new president knows his reputation will rise or fall on whether he can make ordinary Egyptians’ lives better. He rashly promised to improve Cairo’s impossibly congested traffic and woefully absent garbage collection in his first 100 days. But Cairo’s main roads are still so jammed that they often resemble parking lots, and piles of garbage sit on many streets.

Morsi’s FJP, which espouses free-market principles, also knows that it will be judged in next year’s parliamentary elections by whether the president has delivered. Having been banned for decades, with many of its members imprisoned, the Brotherhood speaks of its parliamentary and presidential victories as divinely ordained. It came into office full of grandiose plans to eliminate Egypt’s legendary corruption, revamp its bureaucracy, and restore its historic glory.

Those promises quickly collided with a bureaucracy that has a 6,000-year history. Gehad El-Haddad, a member of the executive council of the Brotherhood’s Renaissance project (which is supposed to design a new, Islamically moral framework for the economy), offered a telling example: The Ministry of Information had 48,000 employees but only 12,000 desks — and no necessary functions. And when bribes were outlawed, it and many other ministries ground to a halt.

Facing such obstacles, Morsi will most likely try to avoid new ones for the foreseeable future. He simply cannot afford a major conflict with Israel. And the moment is not ripe for any full-court press on sharia law.

— Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago


Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an op-ed on Sunday calling for even more aggressive Israeli strikes in Gaza. (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?ID=292466&R=R1&utm_)

He concludes his defense of Israel's actions with a hawkish message:

"There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper."

Sharon isn't alone in his militant tone. Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai is reported by The Yeshiva World News to have said, "We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water." Haaretz also reports that Yishai stated, "The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages."

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Interesting that he said those things on the same day that more than 100 missiles were fired from Gaza into Israel. Interesting as well that he was silent about striking into the West Bank on a day when zero missiles were fired from the West Bank into Israel.

100+ missiles fired into Israel = A strong condemnation and a military response.

0 missiles = no condemnation and no military response.

Can you see the connection?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

Current death toll from rocket attacks on Israel-- 3

Current death toll from attacks on Gaza-- 94, most civilians, women and children. Doesn't include casualties from ongoing attack on the media center where journalists from all over the world had been working.

"Can you see the connection?"

The tit-for-tat is ongoing. The missile attacks by Palestinians, while reprehensible, can't be viewed in isolation. Israel made a very deliberate decision to escalate their attacks on Palesitinians in order to provoke those missiles, and then murdered the man they were negotiating with to stop them. Why? Because Netenayhu needs to murder lots of Palestinians as part of his upcoming bid for re-election.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

The missiles have been coming in from Gaza, day after day, week after week, month after month. They come in if Israel does this, they come in if Israel does that and they come in if Israel does nothing. When Israel becomes sufficiently pissed, they respond with overwhelming force that causes the disproportionate causality figures. A cease fire is brokered, violated a little, violated some more and the whole thing repeats itself. Welcome to the Middle East.

If you were really concerned about the civilian loss of life, then you would encourage the fighters to wear uniforms to distinguish themselves from civilians and to conduct military operations away from civilians. But when you fire missiles and then hide behind women and children, it's you putting them at risk.

If Netenayhu needed to murder lots of Palestinians to get re-elected, there are many more Palestinians in the West Bank. Heck, there's hundreds of thousands within Israel proper. Why go after only those in Gaza? Because of the continuing missile barrage coming from Gaza. This has nothing to do with elections. It has to do with missiles.

BTW - Where are all these missiles coming from? Answer: Iran. You know, that peace loving country that's only building those nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

And all the while, the results of actions by Israel against the Palestinians it imprisons and murders with impunity are just a footnote to be ignored.

You're just as racist as Sharon and Yishai.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

I've said nothing that deserves being called a racist. Bad form, Bozo.

But since you choose to ignore most facts, looking at just a few that support your narrow and inaccurate interpretation of events, it's not surprising that you resort to childish name calling.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

"But since you choose to ignore most facts,"

No, it's you who choose to filter your facts so that you can cheerlead the war crimes against and mass murder of innocent civilians among the 1.7 million Gazans you believe to be your inferior. I correctly identified why you must do that.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

bozo you are totally right and I thank you for these remarks as they display a knowledge and even handedness about what is now going on in that area.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

FYI jhawkinsf

  • 12-year-old teen Ahmen Abu Daqqa was playing soccer outside his home near Abassan village, Gaza, on Nov. 8, and was then killed by Israeli fire as an IDF jeep patrolled the border of Gaza.

The next day Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep injuring 4 soldiers.

Israel "retaliated" with airstrikes and Hamas responded with homemade rockets

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

When is Israel going to stop violating Palestinian's basic human rights and international law since 1947/48?

Or does this not register as the root problem in this situation? Pretty lopsided analysis by your part, don't you think?

BTW, hope I did this right, my response was aimed at jhawkinsf

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Well, as far as I can tell, history did not begin in 1947. If you'd like to go back just a couple of years, we could discuss Palestinian leadership support for Nazi Germany. We could go back a few more years to the Palestinian uprising, when Jews were killed for having purchased land from it's owners and then living on that land.

What we can't do is go back in history to a time when there was a country of Palestine. The time prior to Israel when that land was governed by those who occupied that land would be in biblical times, when the Jews controlled that land.

The problem is that those on both sides of this conflict wish to point out dates in history that reflect best on their position. I just did it. What you cannot get is agreement as to when that starting date should be.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

I like to start here - all fact - all real:

1875 = British PM DIsraeli and ROTHSCHILD purchase majority shares Suez Canal (western regional dominance/control until 1956 Suez Crisis)

1882 = ROTHSCHILD establishes first Jewish Colonies in Palestine - (Full funding, supply, support for decades)

1924 = ROTHSCHILD establishes - "Palestine Colonization Association" - (Russian Jews to Palestine = IRGUN / HAGANAH Zionist Terrorist groups)

1930 to 1940s = British build OIL PIPELINE from Kirkuk, IraQ -to- Haifa, Palestine.

1947 = Menachem Begin (IRGUN Terrorist leader) - Rejects 1947 Partition Plan

1947- *PLAN DALET - OPERATION MAY - Zionist Terrorists expel/massacre Arabs

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

As I said, each side gives facts and dates that reflect favorably on their position while ignoring facts, dates and events that cast their cause in a bad light. Shall I go look up the exact date the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem held hands with Hitler and called for a final solution in the middle east as soon as he was finished in Europe? Shall I mention the roughly 1200 rockets fired into Israel in the week leading up to the current conflict. Shall I mention that Iran supplies these rockets. Shall I mention that between 1948-67, Arab countries held Gaza and the West Bank and could have given the Palestinians their homeland.

We could both go on and on and on.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

Also, Jewish Terrorist groups like STERN GANG were working for Eichmann a Nazi officer.

FYI - jhawkinsf

Paul R Getto 5 years ago

"Facing such obstacles, Morsi will most likely try to avoid new ones for the foreseeable future. He simply cannot afford a major conflict with Israel. And the moment is not ripe for any full-court press on sharia law."

Good points here. Will reason prevail?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years ago

Got any videos of what's going on in Syria? I hear they're way ahead, 30,000 to 100.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

What's that got to do with Israelis murdering Palestinians?

Leslie Swearingen 5 years ago

Can we not focus on one issue at a time? Guess not. It should have been illegal to create Israel in the first place, I ;mean to say that the land was occupied, it was not just a barren piece of property by the Med and the UN came along and said, what the hey, lets give it to the Jews and we will call it, say, Israel, that sounds good. If I claimed that the Old Testament can be interpreted to read that God gave me the land that the Oread Hotel is on, would I then own it? Gaza is now a reservation with its inhabitants being under the boot of the Israeli government. Why is this allowed to go on?

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

The creation of the U.S. must have been just as illegal. Yet here we are, reservations and all.

notaubermime 5 years ago

Almost all of the lines in the Middle East were drawn by Europeans. Jordan, itself is an entirely British creation. It rings hollow when you criticize one set of lines and yet none of the others.

Gaza's problems stem from the fact that they elected a bunch of terrorists into power. The West Bank does not have these issues. The Muslims living in Israel do not have these issues. Just the place that is constantly shooting rockets into Israel. That should tell you something.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

Saaay wuuut???!!!

Hamas won the election because the opposition, Fatah, was caught making backroom deals with Israel and the U.S.

Would YOUR country's politicians have a chance at winning an election after they had been caught making secret deals with foreigners who enslave you and destroy your country?

How do people ignore the fact that Israel has violated Palestinian's basic human rights as well as international law???

Defending Israel's terrorist policies is like defending Nazis.

notaubermime 5 years ago

I was going to reply about Hamas, then I got to "Nazis" and realized it would be a waste of effort.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

It's ok, I doubt what you would have to say about Hamas would contribute to this conversation. Let me educate you though:

Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is all about colonization and control of resources.

I know there is a lot of "white entitlement" / manifest destiny romanticism in the Midwest - but seriously - not different from Nazi ideology if you take the perspective of a Middle Easterner.

Maybe dropping white phosphorus, depleted uranium and DIME weapons on a civilian population that has no military isn't that big of a deal to you - to me it's state sponsored terrorism or Nazi-like behavior.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

You mean the U.S. and Saudis arming and funding Saudi terrorist groups "Rebels" to raise hell in Syria for destabilization???


Ron Holzwarth 5 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years ago

If you click the link to 'Arab News' at the very top of my posting, you'll find that you can link to many more articles, some are by the same author, Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.

There is an amazing amount of reading material, I would recommend an awful lot of it if you really want to know what is going on in the current conflict.

Some are very factual and analytical, others not so much. They represent a few different points of view, and it's for sure that any description of the conflict from an Arab Muslim that lives in the Middle East is ever so much clearer than ours, especially if we don't read much.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

"I would recommend an awful lot of it if you really want to know what is going on in the current conflict."

Come on, Ron, you couldn't care less about what's "really going on." You merely want to flail about finding a rationale for why it's OK for Israelis to murder Palestinians (and steal more of their land.)

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

Here is part of a very informative article regarding Hamas-Israel and Peace -- (American and Israeli sources)

NIXED SIGNALS http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2974

“Signs of pragmatism”

“Sometimes one has to rub one’s eyes in disbelief when one sees Hamas activists demanding with all their might that [Palestinians] refrain from violence and maintain the calm,” wrote Danny Rubinstein, who covers Palestinian affairs for Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper (12/12/05). “No Hamas activists have been involved in terror attacks recently.”

More importantly, the group had begun to signal that it was ready to adjust its political position on the conflict with Israel. “Slowly, painstakingly, but inexorably, Hamas is moving away from its traditional notion that Palestine is an Islamic waqf [land-in-trust] ‘from the river to the sea,’” observed the Economist’s veteran Palestine correspondent, Graham Usher (Middle East Report Online, 8/21/05). [...] “Hamas is signaling that it accepts Israel as a political reality today and is intimating that it would accept a final agreement with Israel ‘according to the parameters of the [1991] Madrid conference and U.N. resolutions,’ says Palestinian analyst Khaled Hroub, an authority on the Islamist party.”

[...]Based on dozens of interviews in the field with officials from Hamas, Israel and elsewhere, the report observed that, “far more than Fatah, Hamas has proved a disciplined adherent to the cease-fire, and Israeli military officers readily credit this for the sharp decline in violence. In recent statements, Hamas leaders have not ruled out changing their movement’s charter, negotiating with Israel or accepting a long-term truce on the basis of an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines.” Underlining the depth of Hamas’ ideological shift since its charter was adopted in 1988, the paper judged that “today, their electoral platform is in these respects closer to Fatah’s outlook than to Hamas’ founding principles.”

      • -- Perhaps the single most knowledgeable observer of Hamas in the West is Alastair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer who served as liaison to the Palestinian National Authority for the European Union from 1997 to 2003 and worked closely with CIA director George Tenet. In a private policy paper distributed to E.U. officials at the time of the January elections (cited in UPI, 2/2/06), Crooke wrote that Hamas’ growing willingness to support a comprehensive halt to violence and negotiations with Israel leading to two states represented an unprecedented opportunity for peace, since, unlike during the Oslo years, “the results of such talks would actually be implemented by a disciplined movement with a mandate from its own people”—i.e., Hamas. Such a deal “offers the best chance for an enduring settlement” with Israel, Crooke judged.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

CNN is reporting that six "collaborators" have beed executed in Gaza, without trials, and that at least one had his dead body dragged behind a motorcycle to the cheers of the crowd.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

Did CNN report on the daily violations of basic human rights and international law committed by the Israeli regime for the past 60 years??? -- That just might be the root of the issue, don't you think?

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

You sound like someone who does not think (critically, anyways)

notaubermime 5 years ago

I think that the root of the issue is that Hamas encourages these sorts of public executions. When you put terrorists in control, you get mob violence.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

"When you put terrorists in control.." -- notaubermime

Hamas won the election because the opposition, Fatah, was caught making backroom deals with Israel and the U.S.

Would YOUR country's politicians have a chance at winning an election after they had been caught making secret deals with foreigners who enslave you and destroy your country?

How do people ignore the fact that Israel has violated Palestinian's basic human rights as well as international law for 60 YEARS? -- Defending Israel's terrorist policies is like defending Nazis.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

Gaza attacks killed 30 Israelis in the past 10 YEARS -- Israeli attacks on Gaza have killed 120 Palestinians in the past 5 DAYS (vast majority of victims are women and children)

I can't believe anyone is defending Israel's terrorist policies

somedude20 5 years ago

The dudes on the magic TV box told em what to believe...bet a few of these cats believe in Bigfoot! "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story...."

notaubermime 5 years ago

If Mexico started shooting rockets over the border at US targets, the US would retaliate. This retaliation would be overwhelmingly one-sided. This would not change the fact that Mexico was to blame for initiating the violence in the first place.

Additionally, shooting rockets from behind human shields doesn't make you the victim. It makes you a monster.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years ago

A) Most Gazans - ARE NOT FROM GAZA -- Israel took their lands, renamed their towns and threw the Palestinians into Gaza and locked the door. In other instances, Israel kidnaps or arrests Palestinians in the West Bank and then deports them to Gaza, their new jail home.

B) How convenient to forget that Israel is violating basic human rights and international law since its inception and now you can't figure out why Palestinians are upset enough to fire homemade rockets (*That killed a whopping 30 Israelis in 10 YEARS)


  • 13-year-old teen Ahmen Abu Daqqa was playing soccer outside his home near Abassan village, Gaza, on Nov. 9, and was then killed by Israeli fire as an IDF jeep patrolled the border of Gaza.

The next day Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli jeep injuring 4 soldiers.

Israel "retaliated" with airstrikes and Hamas responded with homemade rockets

*But don't let facts get in the way of your pro-Israel rhetoric

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