On September 23, 2013, the poker game between Egypt and Israel reached a nadir when an Egyptian court outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. Recently deposed President Morsi is affiliated to them.
Reliable sources have told me that poker is a very challenging game. Not due to its rules, but because of its players’ integrity. “Don’t blink” is apparently the game’s most important rule. In the similarly complex Operation Barbarossa known as the Arab Spring, Israel is playing all its crooked cards in Syria and Egypt.
“But Godfather-Boss, I cannot watch in both directions at once,” Netanyahu said blinking wildly, after he lost Syria while messing up Egypt.*
The claim was not sincere; it just reinforced the poker game likeness of the situation. Israel never had access to the Syrian administration inner circles while since the peace agreement was signed between Israel and Egypt, Israel controlled the deep pockets of Egyptian generals, the despotic rulers of its southern neighbor.
Tel Aviv on the Nile
Comparisons are tricky,** especially if using a single datum. On the paper, Egypt is much larger in territory than Israel. On the paper Egypt has a much larger population. The ratios itself are impossible to calculate because Israel has no defined borders, no defined legal system, and no defined citizenship status.
Egypt is large, but most of it is empty desert. In just 4% of the Egyptian territory, surrounding the Nile River, live 85 million people in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. This is roughly twice the size of Israel, with over eight-times its population.
Even this comparison is quite faulty if not mentioning that Egypt’s economic output is just a bit larger than the Israeli. These two neighbors are surprisingly similar, even in their liking of generals at the top of their respective political systems, in what one day will be defined as “disguised military dictatorships.”
Since these neighbors made peace, Egypt is receiving $1.5 billion per year as financial help from the USA. Most of this valuable resource goes to the military. Roughly 25% of the Egyptian military budget is paid by American taxpayers. Thus, if Israel and the USA do not like the actions of Egypt, they can stop the feast. No more free olive oil for you!
“Uncle, uncle, I want to visit Coney Island,” the kid said.
“We can’t this year; we must help poor Egyptians to buy new missiles and new strips of medals for their uniforms!”
Western sources claim that 20% of Egypt’s population is poor. Other sources put the number at 50%. More Egyptian ambiguity; yet, this one contains a clue to the current events, despite forbidding me of providing exact data.
After President Mubarak was removed from power on February 2011, Egypt’s foreign exchange reserves fell from a peak of $36 billion in December 2010 to only $16.3 billion in January 2012. In the same month, Standard & Poor’s rating agency lowered Egypt’s credit rating from B+ to B in the long term. This meant that Egypt experienced troubles in getting loans. When Morsi took power, the Western rating agency didn’t improve the rating. As a result, inflation worsened, and food prices increased.
In 2013, S&P lowered Egypt’s long-term credit rating from B- to CCC+ and its short-term rating from B to C on worries about the country’s ability to meet its financial targets. This was the coup de grâce that decided Morsi’s fate, the West strangled the undesired, but legal, leadership. The generals were irrelevant, though they were the main group to benefit from the political violence.
On June 15, in an attempt to pacify the West, Islamist Morsi strangely called for foreign intervention in Syria, but it was too late. There was no way of stopping the bread-revolution. Israel and the USA wanted the Muslim Brotherhood out; the Egyptian generals picked their prettiest uniforms, loaded them with fresh medals, and shouted “Amen, masters!”
“I don’t like you; thus you are illegal!”
On September 23, an Egyptian court banned the Muslim Brotherhood group and ordered its assets confiscated. The million-member party will not be allowed to act publicly. The lawsuit had been initiated by a secular political party named al-Tagmo’a. The verdict can be appealed within 15 days.
The Muslim Brotherhood members equal in number the alleged number of informants serving the country’s formidable secret police, though many people belong to both. Now, its members will move to the underground, especially since hundreds of their members were massacred by the army in recent protests. There is a clear possibility of a civil war erupting in the near future. After all, states do not belong to secular people; they do not own a monopoly on what is right and wrong.
Hiding behind a dense curtain of narghile smoke, it is difficult to know hard facts about the generals running Egypt. However, their ongoing violence towards a legitimate party, which legitimately won the elections shows that they definitely do not know their own country’s history. Probably they are too busy preparing for West Point.
The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928. Between 1954 and 2011, it was outlawed but active. It created a network of schools and hospitals that won the sympathy of the people. When the last pharaoh—Mubarak—was deposed, they were allowed to act in the open and easily won the presidential elections.
Now they know they can; thus their drive is stronger. Will the Egyptian Army kill one million Egyptian citizens in order to keep receiving millions of American dollars? In the sad Egyptian reality, this is a rhetorical question.
“No Coney Island for you also next year, nephew Sam.”
Ro’i Tov is the author of “The Cross of Bethlehem.” His website is Words from a Christian Israeli Refugee.