The Washington Post

Israel-Gaza conflict: Where is Egypt’s Morsi?

As the Israeli assault on Gaza continues with as many as 100 dead according to some reports, many are looking toward Egypt, as the region’s largest country, to play a mediation role as it had done for decades under fallen Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

But in this case, would a resolution — or at least a cease-fire — come about sooner if Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was directly involved in the talks himself, instead of sending Prime Minister Hisham Kandil? 

It’s a shame if that’s true, because it’s not likely to happen, says Elliott Abrams of the Council on Foreign Relations. 


Here’s a theory:  Morsi is the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt but he is still president of Egypt. He thinks of Egypt as a great nation and is not given to the kind of language we associate with Al Qaeda leaders or the Ayatollah Khomeini, about states all disappearing and Islam being all that is left. He wants Egypt to be, once again, a leader in Arab councils and in world politics.

He does not want to have his foreign policy and his relations with Israel and the United States determined by Hamas. After all, Hamas rules a million and a half people in Gaza; he governs 85 million in Egypt. Why should the tail wag the dog?

It’s worth remembering that Morsi only received 51 percent of the vote in June, his own country is suffering from instability and he’s already on shaky ground with the United States.

A step in the wrong direction in a realm where newcomers do not often succeed could mean Morsi needed to sit this one out when Egypt, which is the second-largest recipient behind Israel, can’t afford to lose the U.S. as a donor. 

Allen McDuffee writes about politics and policy and covered think tanks for The Washington Post from 2011 to 2013. He freelances and hosts a podcast at and is currently working on a book about the influence of think tanks in Washington.



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Allen McDuffee · November 19, 2012