The new Egyptian Parliament recently issued a statement undermining the 1979 peace agreement by proclaiming it was Israel’s bitter enemy. On March 12, 2012, Dr. Mohamed Al-Saed Idris, Chairman of the Arab Affairs Committee in the Parliament, presented the committee’s official outline of Egypt’s regional policy, as approved by a parliamentary majority that included the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafi party, and the Egyptian Left parties. Idris is one of the founders of the Kefaya protest movement and a member of the leftist al-Karama party, which has formed an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
The statement of the Arab Affairs Committee is important in its wording and content. The term “the State of Israel” is not mentioned and is replaced throughout by the terms “Zionist entity” and “the enemy.” The statement focused on recent tensions between Israel and Gaza (Israeli attacks against Palestinian terrorist organizations and the launching of hundreds of rockets into Israel). It celebrates Palestinian terrorism, which is called “resistance,” and denies the very existence of Israel, which it defines as “an imperialist settlement entity” which is of “an aggressive nature” and which “drove a nation from its land by force to establish a racist state.” The U.S. is also blamed by the Egyptian parliament for its unconditional support of Israel.
The committee’s statement included a list of operative recommendations to the political echelon, including:
- An official definition of Israel as an enemy – “Post-revolutionary Egypt will never be a friend, partner or ally of the Zionist entity, which we see as the foremost enemy of Egypt and the Arab nation. Egypt will treat this entity as an enemy, and the Egyptian government should reconsider its entire relationship and agreements with this enemy and the threat it poses to the security and national interests of Egypt.”
- Severance of diplomatic relations with Israel – “The expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Egypt, returning the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv, cessation of the export of Egyptian gas to that entity, freezing of activities under the QIZ agreement [the Qualified Industrial Zones trade agreement] whose terms violate the sovereignty and national interests of Egypt.”
- Full support for the armed struggle against Israel – “Providing all means of support to the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank, in order to allow this nation to stand firm against Israel’s policy of aggression. Adopting resistance in all its forms and manifestations, and referring to this path as the strategic path to the liberation of occupied land, after the leaders of the Zionist entity stressed that the so-called peace process is nothing but a track of lies and red tape in order to gain time to Judaize and annex all of what that entity wants to Judaize and annex in the land of Palestine.”
- Re-adoption of the total boycott of Israel – “A return to the total Arab boycott policy that includes the Zionist entity and the international companies that maintain ties with it, and referring to the boycott as a factor which supports the struggle.”
- Raising the issue of Jerusalem as a major issue in the international arena – “Demanding from the Arab states and the Al-Quds Committee [of the Organization of the Islamic Conference] to act against the Zionist entity’s plans to Judaize Al-Quds [the Arabic name of Jerusalem] and force it to become the eternally united capital of the entity, and to work diligently in all international organizations and channels in order to determine that the Zionist attacks which threaten the Al-Aqsa Mosque are crimes against humanity, history and culture.”
- Support for a united Palestinian front for the liberation of Palestine – “A call to all Palestinian organizations and factions to unite, renounce their differences and divisions, and work for the restoration of the PLO to lead the Palestinian struggle to liberate the occupied land.”
- Reviewing Egyptian nuclear policy – “A demand that the Egyptian government reopen the Israeli nuclear issue and discuss Israeli nuclear capabilities, as they can cause a direct threat to Egyptian national security and Arab national security. The U.S. and the international community…must act as seriously toward the Israeli nuclear threat as they act toward what they consider an Iranian nuclear threat. Egypt must be prepared to immediately examine the Egyptian nuclear policy which is opposed to nuclear proliferation and which demands to make the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction. Israel is the only country that refuses to sign a treaty against nuclear proliferation and to open its nuclear facilities, and particularly the reactor in Dimona, to inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”
- An active and effective policy against Israel – “We demand action and not just words, serious actions are worthy of post-revolutionary Egypt, its government and its parliament. We swear that we will never be neglectful in protecting our homeland and our nation.”
The Arab Affairs Committee’s statement was unanimously accepted and applauded in Parliament and reflects the true perception of the Islamic elements in the Egyptian political leadership (which is also shared by the leftist organizations). In its eyes, Israel is the foremost enemy of Egypt and the Arab and Islamic world, and the peace agreement with it (the Camp David agreement) is considered a dead letter.
The new Egyptian tone indicates the beginning of the formation of an Egyptian policy of confrontation against Israel, first of all in the political and economic spheres and through direct support of the Palestinian armed struggle. Egypt is setting itself on a collision course with Israel, using the Palestinian issue in all its aspects – including Israeli military operations against Palestinian terrorism as well as Israeli policy in Jerusalem or the West Bank – as an excuse for direct Egyptian intervention. At the operational level, the new Egyptian leadership declares its commitment “to assist the Palestinian struggle/resistance in all its forms and manifestations,” which means providing direct assistance to Palestinian terrorism, which may be expressed through money, weapons, training, and transfer of intelligence.
Defining Israel as a “major enemy” which threatens national Egyptian and Arab security is of great importance, since its translation into action means building a military capability to deal with the “Israeli threat,” including an attempt to deny Israel any advantage in the nuclear field and/or the development of Egyptian nuclear weapons.
At present, the new Egyptian political leadership cannot translate these policies into actions. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi party attained an absolute majority in the Parliament and the Upper House, but the full transfer of powers from the military government to the elected civilian government has not yet been completed.
Today, Egyptian foreign policy is not directed by the Egyptian Parliament. For now, Egypt is still controlled by the military and the government leaders appointed by it. This situation is likely to change after the presidential elections on May 23-24 and the establishment of a new civilian government. The division of responsibility between the new government and the military in the future remains to be seen. But the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in the presidential election could potentially complete its takeover of the political system in Egypt and allow the Islamic movement to accelerate its political consolidation, to purge the army of its old guard, and to recapture a leadership position in the Arab world, based in part on the struggle against Israel.
The Egyptian position, which is completely supportive of Hamas and the struggle against Israel, in practice, eliminates the ability of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, to lead political moves toward an historic compromise agreement with Israel. Moreover, it gradually prepares the ground for permanent political friction with Israel which, if not addressed, could even develop into military clashes (against an Israeli action in Gaza or along the border between Israel and Egypt).