Israel is bracing for the establishment of an Iranian proxy-state in Egypt should the Muslim Brotherhood take over control of the government, as appears increasingly likely.
With the White House now giving full-throated support to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman scheduled to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Cairo, Israel is preparing for the worst.
After years of ducking from Iranian-supplied Kassam rockets from Gaza, Israelis now fear their cities and towns could get hit with the full brunt of the Iranian arsenal as Iran replaces the United States as Egypt’s main arms supplier.
Such a scenario would be a catastrophic conclusion of the 1978 Camp David peace accord between Egypt and Israel that has cost U.S. taxpayers $63.7 billion in aid to Egypt alone, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Israelis fear that Egypt could become “part of the Iranian pact in the Middle East along with Hamas, Hezbollah, and all the other thugs,” said Mordechai Kedar, a former Israeli military intelligence analyst now with the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel.
A Muslim Brotherhood takeover could lead to the imposition of Shariah, with far-reaching implications for the rights of women, Christians and minorities, and dramatic changes in Egypt’s relationships to its neighbors.
“They will cut relations with Israel immediately. Maybe they will capture some Israelis as happened in Tehran with the American embassy those days in 1979,” Kedar told Newsmax by telephone from Israel. “That is the bad scenario.”
The most hopeful scenario involves a Muslim Brotherhood preoccupied with guaranteeing the livelihood of 85 million Egyptians and not wanting to engage in extremist acts or policies that would endanger Egypt’s alliances or its economy, Kedar said.
“But whatever happens, the Muslim Brotherhood will have much to say about everything in Egypt no matter who is the leader – whether it’s Gen. Omar Suleiman, Mohamed ElBaradei, or someone else.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., threatened on Thursday to introduce legislation that would immediately cut off the $1.5 billion in aid the U.S. provides Egypt annually, as a means of pressuring Mubarak to step down.
Such a move would make things worse, alienating the Egyptian military at the very moment we need them most, while empowering and emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood, says Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“The most likely agent of peaceful change at the moment — the institution most likely to trigger transition — is the military. The United States should therefore remain in contact with this institution in order to influence it, to the extent possible. The idea that Washington gains influence by cutting off assistance simply does not translate into Arabic,” Satloff argued.
Other members of Congress want to condition a cutoff in military aid to the formation of a new government that includes the Muslim Brotherhood, as a means of encouraging the Egyptian military to prevent them from coming to power.
Rep. Allen West, a tea party freshman from Florida who has been named to the Armed Services Committee, tells Newsmax he has many concerns about President Barack Obama’s handling of the crisis in Egypt.
“In an uprising such as this, violent, dangerous factions emerge because they are strongest and gain power by intimidation,” West said. “President Obama needs to be more clear that the United States will only support a democratic and peaceful government in Egypt and be firm that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have no place in the transition to a new Egyptian government. “
In addition, “President Obama needs to keep the security of Israel as paramount. However, I have heard nothing from the president on his views and plans to alleviate what could be a very volatile and dangerous situation for Israel and the entire Middle East.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Knesset on Wednesday that the future of Egypt and of Egypt’s ties with Israel hung in the balance.
“We have two separate worlds here, two opposites, two worldviews: that of the free, democratic world and that of the radical world. Which one of them will prevail in Egypt? The answer to this question is crucial to the future of Egypt, of the region and to our own future here in Israel,” Netanyahu told the Israeli parliament.
He made it clear that Israel would prefer to see the success of “the forces that promote freedom, progress and peace.” But in the meantime, Israel has to gird its loins and prepare for the worst.
“We oppose the forces that seek to enforce a dark despotism, terrorism and war,” he said.
Netanyahu’s real fear is that Iran will use its influence on the Muslim Brotherhood to steer Egypt away from its peace treaty with Israel and into the camp of Muslim radicals.
“The Iranian regime is not interested in seeing an Egypt that protects the rights of individuals, women, and minorities. They are not interested in an enlightened Egypt that embraces the 21st century. They want an Egypt that returns to the Middle Ages. They want Egypt to become another Gaza, run by radical forces that oppose everything that the democratic world stands for,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s border with Egypt has been at peace for so long that many members of the Israeli parliament were born in an era of peace, with no recollection of the battles that his generation waged, the Israeli prime minister said.
Israel traded the strategic depth of the Sinai desert, which it captured from Egypt in the final days of the 1973 war, for the Camp David peace accord signed with President Anwar Sadat in 1978.
Although the agreement has led only to a cold peace, Israel “has not had to defend these borders” for the past 30 years, Netanyahu said.
The prime minister laid down a marker for whoever takes over after Mubarak leaves. “We expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace. Moreover, we expect the international community to expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace. This must be clear.”
Former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold warned that the Muslim Brotherhood is ideologically wedded to an expansionist version of Islam that bodes ill for the future of Israel’s relationship with Egypt and for Egypt’s relationship with the West.
“We have a mistaken tendency in the West to underestimate the hostility of the Muslim Brotherhood not just to Israel but to neighboring Middle Eastern regimes and beyond,” Gold told Newsmax in a telephone interview from Israel.
“Remember that the goal of the Muslim Brotherhood is the establishment of the caliphate,” the Muslim empire that was abolished by Ataturk in 1924.
Muslim Brotherhood leaders have systematically called for “reconquest” of “Islamic territories” from Andalusia (southern Spain) to Sicily and the Balkans. Their statements show “an expansionist agenda aimed beyond the Middle East. I don’t think it’s fully understood,” he said.
Gold warned that the West makes two common assumptions about the Muslim Brotherhood, both of which are mistaken.
“First, we assume that the Muslim Brotherhood has dropped its jihadist ideology. This is just not true. And second, we believe that they are fundamentally focused on Egypt. A Muslim Brotherhood takeover might be a problem for Israel and the peace treaty, but it won’t be a problem beyond that. That’s also wrong.”
As proof, Gold turned to Muhammad Badie, the supreme leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who gave a sermon in September 2010 stating that "the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life."
He also pointed to statements by Arab leaders such as former Kuwaiti Education Minister Ahmed al-Rubei, that the founders of most modern terrorist groups in the Middle East have emerged “from the mantle” of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Among the most famous:
- Abdullah Azzam (of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood) and Sayyid Qutb (of the Egyptian — Muslim Brotherhood), whose star pupil was Osama bin Laden.
- Ayman al-Zawahiri (bin Laden's deputy), who grew up in the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and was jailed for his involvement in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (the al-Qaida mastermind of the 9/11 attacks), who came out of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood.
Some members of Congress do not believe the Muslim Brotherhood represents a threat.
In a radio interview last week with WBAL in Baltimore, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood had changed and was now a “force for moderation” in Egypt.
Ruppersberger has been named the ranking member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence but does not appear to be aware of recent statements from Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
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