Egypt: Ally or Enemy?: A conversation with a friend.

What follows is an exchange that I have had with Cockeyedoptmist on my blog. It got so lengthy that it turned into what I was planning as a post anyway.

As a quick primer:

Under the Camp David Accords signed by Israel, Egypt and the US, under President Carter with Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat as the signatories certain guarantees were made to both the Egyptians and Israelis.

Let me either paint the picture, or remind those old enough to be around at the time.

After the UN declared the separation of the British mandate of Palestine into Jewish and Arab territories, the surrounding Arabs declared war and issued there immediate intention to never accept it.

The US became the first country to recognize the Jewish state, but because of the Arab refusal to accept the partition plan, there was no opportunity to recognize an Arab state.

There was then a state of war between Israel and Egypt until the signing of the Camp David Accords in 1979.

Unbeknownst to most Americans now, there was no active support of Israel by the US until the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

During the ’50’s and 60’s, the US was not interested in expanding the cold war actively to the Middle East so there was political support in places like the UN, but no economic or military aid of any real kind.

That is why, during the six day way in 1967 the Jets that the IAF (Israeli Air Force)used were French Mirage’s.

Of course, the cold war was very serious at this time and Gamel Nasser, the leader of Egypt and proponent of what was called Pan -Arabism (uniting all Arab nations as one kingdom) was a puppet of the Soviets. He went to the USSR for aid and military equipment to compete against the Israelis.

After the Six day war and the ’73 Yom Kippur war, the US saw the necessity of combating Soviet hegemony by helping Israel militarily.

After the defeat in ’67 and ’73, Anwar Sadat, who had taken control after Nasser was defeated in ’67, saw that the Soviets were not the answer. SO he began making overtures to the US.

We, obviously, had been trying to expand our influence for some time. As a result of the agreement, Egypt receives almost dollar for dollar the same aid as Israel at about a 90% rate.

This brought Sadat out of the Soviet sphere and gave us (the US) an additional inroad in the Middle East.

Of course, the danger in Egypt is the large extremely radical Wahhabist movement. The Muslim Brotherhood, the granddaddy of all current Islamic terrorist organizations,is from Egypt and was responsible for the assassination of Sadat and is the breeding grounds of much of the leadership of AL Qaeda and Mohammed Atta.

To go to Cockeyed’s blog – click here [blog cockeyedoptmist]

Here is the exchange:


[COLOR blue]In my not-very-well-informed opinion, Israel has suffered badly as a consequence of the extremely poor leadership that it has had since Ehud Barak’s Prime Ministership was sabotaged by Ariel Sharon, and that the growing strength and international influence Al Fatah and Hamas would not have occurred had Israel been better served by its leadership.

Prior to Barak’s few short years, Israel endured several years under Benjamin Netanyahu, a man who had sucked up to the most extreme elements in Israel and did much to alienate international support for Israel. I have always thought that Netanyahu’s career benefited greatly and undeservedly from the regard that Israei’s have for the memory of his revered brother, Colonel Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu.

Israel’s failure to defeat Hezbollah last year in southern Lebanon probably gave a great deal of comfort to militants in Palestine and I would expect that whatever encouragement they derived from that failure will manifest itself in increased aggression from Hamas over the next few months regardless of how many twists Bush and Condi put in the “road map”.

I agree with you that no one should be taken in by Mahmoud Abbas’ apparent readiness to engage in the peace process. His objective and the organization that he leads is dedicated to the elimination of the state of Israel and its people.

[COLOR darkred]Gedalia3 replies on 1/16/2007 11:54 pm:
welcome back. This could be years of writing, but to take the easiest first. Of course Bibi benefited from Yoni’s memory. That has always been the general feeling. However do not underestimate his intelligence and political acumen.

As to sucking up to the extreme elements, what is going on now is of a different scale altogether. Olmert is Bibi without the political skill or core beliefs, but is sucking up every minority extremist he can.

I won’t get into too much about him here, he is most likely to be reelected soon.
However, as finance minister it is generally considered that he did an outstanding job. I imagine you have your own opinion on this as an economist.

I hate to get into the war (I was there) but that is also a very complex issue, not the least of which is Olmert’s foolish effort not to “anger” the world and go in full bore initially. The failure of the intelligence and reserve corps has led to massive shakeups in the IDF as you may know.

As to Barak, I don’t know how much time you spend there, or if you are aware of the “facts on the ground” in Israel proper but it is also generally understood that Barak was an unmitigated disaster for Israel. He has even recanted all the offers he had put on the table for Clinton.

On a very micro level to give you an idea of how much Barak sacrificed of the essential Israel.

At Taba, Arafat claimed that the subterranean mosques under Al Aqsa posed a fire hazard and that he wanted to widen the door ways.

Barak took Arafat at his face and gave permission without the ability to supervise (as you know Jews are religiously forbidden from excavating under the Temple Mount). What Arafat really planned to do was build new prayer areas.

One day, dumpsters filled with tons of dirt and important archaeological artifacts were discovered at the base of Mt. Scopus.

So much earth had been removed that the Southern wall of the Mount began to bow out. Arafat was so obstinate he would not even let the Israelis try to repair it so a team of Americans and Jordanians were brought in.

That is why you have seen scaffolding on the South Eastern corner of the mount for the last decade.

That, in a microcosm is the way Barak is remembered.

As to Hamas. I don’t believe they will be as successful as you do. What is overlooked in the Palestinian elections is that Fatah actually achieved a majority of the popular vote but they actually had dozens of instances where there were 2 Fatah candidates running against one Hamas. Thus the Hamas candidate would receive a large minority vote and win the election. I believe the totals were approx. 56%-44%.

In addition, what the “average” Palestinian (a term I do not believe in which you will understand if you have read the previous posts carefully)is seeing is that now that Hamas is in power, they are not providing what is most needed. Simple daily governance. i.e. power, water, mail delivery, etc.

I don’t underestimate them, but we will see.

Actually, I have postulated for many years that the two greatest threats to Israel are Egypt and Iran.

Israelis do not generally consider the Palestinians a serious threat to their existence b/c they feel they can defeat them.

They are, however convinced to a 100% certainty that Ahmadinejad intends to try and wipe them off the map with a nuclear blast.

They are trying frantically to figure out what to do about that.


[COLOR blue]Quoting cockeyedoptmist: I agree with you in regard to Iran, but why do regard Egypt as a threat?[/COLOR]

[COLOR darkred]Lofty,

2 principle reasons.

First, the population in Egypt is perhaps the most fundamental and radical in the region. Because it has been viciously suppressed going back to Sadat, we, in the West are ignorant of this fact.
Remember, it was the Muslim Brotherhood, born in Egypt, that murdered Sadat for his role in MidEast peace, and provided Al Qaeda second in command. In addition to being the original raining ground and model for most of the current terrorists.

Mubarak has no real succession plan and there is likely to be great upheaval when he dies (he is in his 80’s and could go at any time). Although he has given indications that he wants his son to succeed him, he has not elucidated it.

This is combined with the fact of the Egyptian army. Egypt receives the second most foreign aid in the world from the US. It has principally been used to build the largest, most modern army in the region. ANother fact we here ignore because they have not engaged in saber rattling.

However, the training of this army is, and it’s no secret, designed specifically with the tactics of overrunning Israel.

When you combine these two facts and the border they share…. do the math.

The Egyptians, as part of the disengagement plan in Gaza were supposed to patrol what is known as the Philadelphia corridor on the Sinai side of Gaza. They have been allowing, even promoting the free flow of arms into Gaza making it the world’s largest terrorist camp. This is in addition to the incredible drug trade that exists along the Israeli Egyptian border. Israel has to patrol the desert regions because huge volumes of drugs come in so that, in free Israel they begin their disbursement through the world.

My great fear is at Mubarak’s death you will have a revolution similar to that in Iran, with the backing of the army. There will be nothing we in the US, and certainly Israel, could do to oppose it.[/COLOR]
[COLOR blue]


Righto…I take your points regarding Mubarak’s succession and share your concern that extremist elements will use the opportunity of his death to make a grab for control, but how realistic is their potential to achieve success?

The use of the Egyptian border as a conduit for the traffic in drugs, arms, and people, is a problem that we in the rest of the world rarely hear about.

Israel’s comprehensive victories over Egypt in several regional wars where traditional military forces were engaged against one another suggests to me that, regardless of how well armed the Egyptians may be, you overestimate their capacity to engage Israeli forces and win.

I was unaware that Egypt had received so much military aid from the USA. It defies logic, but so much of US foreign policy does.[/COLOR]

[COLOR darkred]
Gedalia3 replies on 1/17/2007 8:13 pm:

Taking the easiest first. The border on the Egyptian side of the Gaza strip is known as the “Philadelphia Corridor”. It has been the source of virtually all of the issues in Gaza since 1967. What is of course another of the little known facts in the West is that during the Camp David accords, Israel literally begged the Egyptians to take Gaza back when they were returning the Sinai. Egypt steadfastly refused.

I am not sure if you hear the news stories in Australia about Israel discovering tunnels where smuggling is going on, but these are ALL in this area. The Gazans do not tunnel into Israel, it is not necessary. The city in Israel that has received at least one Qassam EVERY DAY FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS is no more than 250 or 300 meters from the Palestinian town across the highway in Gaza.

SO tunneling on that side of the border serves no purpose. In the unilateral withdrawal agreement, Israel tried to get the Egyptians to agree to let them continue to patrol this “Philadelphia Corridor”. The Egyptians steadfastly refused. This was the single point that made most Israelis wary, if not against, the withdrawal plan. SO, the Egyptians wink at the tunneling and the arms arrive on the beach and take a very short trip to this zone (this is of course one of the reasons the Israeli’s have resisted reopening the airport in Gaza.

The current aid situation is a result of Jimmy Carter’s Camp David Accords. It was the bribe we paid to bring Egypt out of the Soviet sphere of influence.

The aid levels are set specifically to parallel aid to Egypt with aid to Israel. These are all public documents and can be seen readily if you have the patience to read the appropriations bills and the US budget.

With regard to Israels prior military victories, they are largely irrelevant today. If you recall, the principal advantage the Israelis held was surprise, in 1967. In 1973, the principal enemy was Syria, not Egypt. That would be very difficult to achieve with today’s technology.

Ironically, if you go to Egypt you will see monuments in Cairo to the “victory” in the Yom Kippur war in 1973. When I saw these I actually got confused and asked my guide what victory they celebrated. Of course when she told me, I refrained from comment.

Remember that instead of flying Migs and shooting Kalashnikovs, the Egyptians are now using American technology as virtually the totality of this aid is military.

The one advantage that the Israeli’s MAY have is this: as you may know when the US sells military equipment we “dumb it down”. i.e. in today s computer driven world, the software associated with many weapons systems is perhaps more important than the hardware.

The difference is that the Israeli’s have, almost universally, improved on the original American software. Without giving too many examples, most of the current cell phone technology that we use is Israeli. GPS locaters, etc.

What is never advertised regarding American military cooperation with Israel is this exchange of information technology. The improvements the Israeli’s make are passed back to us. These have ranged from the software technology mentioned above to improved tracking systems on tanks. (the world’s most famous tank museum is located in Let run scene of a famous tank battle).

As to the potential for extremists to succeed in Egypt – it is very possible, perhaps even likely. The key, is of course, the military. The Egyptians have been successful in exporting their extremism, besides what I have mentioned above, think Mohamed Atta.

Remember too, that they successfully assassinated Sadat (the Muslim Brotherhood) and have grown exponentially since then.

There are two critical issues going on in Egypt that are unknown to most in the West:

First, Sadat and now Mubarak have viciously and violently suppressed the extremist elements in Egypt for decades. But of course, without trials, or any judicial process. Simply elimination. But, as in the rest of the Muslim world, this “Islamofascist” element (to paraphrase Daniel Pipes) has continue to grow.

The second, and what affects Israel directly is that there is almost unbelievable state sponsored anti-semitism.

Again, we don’t hear about it here in the States. To us there is peace. It is a cold peace however. There is still no diplomatic exchanges between the nations. Only rarely, and then on the highest levels.

You know, as I do, that real relations are born in the bureaucratic messes that come from daily interactions like, passports, cultural exchanges, etc. This has never happened. (Ironically it has happened with Jordan, the country that rightfully should be homeland to the Sunni Arabs known as Palestinians.)

What does happen is no different than what happens in the rest of the Arab world, a daily drumbeat against Israel (and the rest of the west btw). In fact, as I have mentioned before, Egyptian STATE television last year ran a 24 part series dramatizing the infamous forgery, “The PRotocols of the Elders of Zion” with ALL of the old stereotypes. It was broadcast not a satiric farce, but as an historic examination of the “Jewish Problem”.

While this is another post, modern anti-semitism simply substitutes “Israel” for Jew. So, the “zionist occupier”,. the “evil zionist”, the Israeli Apartheid regime” you name it. It is constant.[/COLOR]

[COLOR blue]Cockeyedoptimist:
You structure your argument very convincingly mate.

I wonder if any man did more to push the old Protocols fraud than Henry Ford?

Your point that antisemitism has adapted to and exploited the current situation is well made. While my country has a record of being a safe haven for Jewish refugees and a strong supporter of Israel ( note the contributions by Evatt and Hawke particularly), anti-semitism is alive and growing here…some of the more vocal muslim spokesmen and leaders of the Muslim community here have finally attracted attention under our legislation aimed at combating racial ethnic and religious villification and there is popular support for their prosecution, though it is unlikely given the political influence that the small muslim community has here.[/COLOR]
[COLOR darkred]

I don’t know the numbers but it is fascinating that there is a perception of Jewish “control” of media, etc. The Muslim world is by numbers at least 100 times the size of the Jewish world (roughly 12 million Jews worldwide to more than a Billion Muslims) and the large and growing Muslim populations throughout Europe. France in particular is suffering form this, even causing the chief Rabbi of France to advise Jews to not wear yarmulkes, etc in public for fear of reprisals.

Even here in the States there is a concept of the “Israel Lobby”. Just the term itself is antisemitic as it implies some undue Jewish influence. DOes anyone really think that any “Jewish” or “Israeli money” is ANY match for the petro dollars of the Arab world.

It is one of the reasons why academic institutions in the states are so biased. You see on every major campus (all the Ivy League, etc) with schools of Middle Eastern studies FULLY funded by various Arab regimes, usually the Saudis or Dubai.[/COLOR]

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