Another bloody incident in the Sinai peninsula has underlined the reality that one of the Middle East’s most sensitive pieces of territory has become a lawless haven for Islamic jihadists. According to Egyptian and Israeli authorities, a group of militants stormed an Egyptian checkpoint in the town of Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip; they killed 16 police and border guards and commandeered two vehicles, which they used to attack across the nearby Israeli border. Israeli officials said that only fortuitous intelligence allowed its military to deploy forces and prevent an even worse incident.
But it is not merely that the newly elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi “said publicly before the attack, closer cooperation with Israel is counter to his political interest.”
Columnist Ruth Blum of Israel Hayom reports from Jerusalem:
Let’s begin with the response of the Muslim Brotherhood — the organization from which the newly “democratically elected” president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, hails.
Attributing the attack to the Mossad, the Brotherhood accused Israel of having “been seeking to abort the revolution since its inception and the proof of this is that it gave instructions to its Zionist citizens in Sinai to depart immediately a few days ago . . . which makes it imperative to review clauses in the signed agreement between us and the Zionist entity.” . . .
Now Morsi may be a radical Islamist, but he’s no dummy. And he does not wish at this point to antagonize such a fawning American administration — especially one that keeps vowing to keep the bucks flowing unconditionally. Nor does he want to appear weak in the face of factions in his midst that are out of his control. It is for this reason that he hurried to make a speech that sounded like a mixture of a Muslim decree and an expression of Egyptian patriotism.
“We will avenge the blood of the martyrs,” he announced — in true “democratically elected” fashion. The “martyrs” to whom he was referring were Egypt’s men in camouflage khakis, the armed forces whose “blood would not be spilled in vain.”
And then he issued a threat to the “infidel” attackers and their dispatchers: “Just wait until tomorrow; then you’ll see what we’re going to do to you.”
On this figure the immediate future of U.S.-Israeli relations will turn.
Meanwhile Jeffrey Goldberg observes, “Anti-Semitism, the socialism of fools, is becoming the opiate of the Egyptian masses. And not just the masses. Egypt has never been notably philo-Semitic (just ask Moses), but today it’s entirely acceptable among the educated and creative classes there to demonize Jews and voice the most despicable anti- Semitic conspiracy theories. Careerists know that even fleeting associations with Jews and Israelis could spell professional trouble.”
The administration should, rather than releasing all strings on U.S. aid, be deliberate in signaling we will not fund a government that acts in ways antithetical to U.S. interests. We should be clear with Morsi about the carrots and sticks we intend to use. And in the meantime, we would do well to work with more stable and moderate regimes in the region on areas of mutual interest. We will need as many allies, and we will need them to act proactively to stave off Islamist backed mini Arab revolts. Indeed, the more precarious the Egyptian regime becomes, the more critical it is for us to foster other ties with pro-American regimes.