Israel is concerned that the Obama administration will suspend the $1.3 billion annual military aid to Egypt following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, and that suspension of aid could jeopardize the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Israel may ask the US to find a way to continue the aid program, even though US law bans financial aid to regimes that seized power in a coup, US sources told "Globes" yesterday.
The sources familiar with the complicated three-way US-Egyptian-Israeli relationship said that keeping the Israel-Egypt peace treaty was one of the pillars of the Morsi government. The US Congress, which controls the purse strings, was suspicious, and even hostile, to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government. Its agreement, albeit with gritted teeth, to keep the peace treaty with Israel, was one of the main reasons why the pro-Israeli Congress agreed to continue aid to Egypt after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Israel hopes that the Obama administration will understand the importance of aid to Egypt for maintaining stability in the Middle East, said the sources. In a statement yesterday, US President Barack Obama said that he had ordered a review of aid to Egypt in view of the developments in Cairo.
Morsi's ouster puts Obama in a bind: should the US, which sees itself as the world's leading democracy, support democracy as an institution and process, or a democratically elected leader who abused the process to seize dictatorial power and trample his political opponents? Should the democratic process trump everything else, including its self-destruction?
This dilemma forces the White House to ask the following question: does Morsi's ouster reflect the will of the people, and is therefore a democratic act, which excuses his ouster by the military, which was carrying out the people's will? Morsi won 52% of the vote in legitimate elections a year ago. Is it conceivable that Obama's opponents would march on Washington and demand that the US Army oust him because they do not like his governmental decisions?
In other words, was Morsi ousted in a military coup, or in a popular revolution? The difference will not just determine the Obama administration's support of the interim government and its successor, but the continuation of US military aid to Egypt.
The response by the White House to the upheaval in Cairo last night, the eve of US Independence Day, came after hours-long discussions by top political, military, and legal officials in Washington. The response indicates that the Obama administration has not yet a cohesive answer to these issues. The announcement expresses concern, if not anxiety, that the US will be perceived in the world as the power which legitimizes violent coups and turns its back on democratic processes. The writers went out of their way to stress that the US felt uncomfortable with the way Morsi was ousted, even if he was not an ideal democrat.
"The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law," said Obama. He added, "We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under US law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt."
"No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people. An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.
Commentators say that the Obama administration will find it difficult to keep the aid program to Egypt following Morsi's ouster, because of the explicit provisions of the law. The law requires the suspension of US military aid to allied countries if there is evidence that the military ousted a democratically elected government. The question of how the White House will define Morsi's ouster - military coup or popular uprising - is therefore critical.
Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont), the chairman of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, told "Politico" that the law was clear. "US aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree." He added that his committee will “review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture. As the world’s oldest democracy, this is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the principle that transfers of power should be by the ballot, not by force of arms."
Leahy acknowledged that Morsi was a “disappointment” to many. “He squandered an historic opportunity, preferring to govern by fiat rather than work with other political parties to do what is best for all Egyptians."
In expectation of a tough argument with the US, a top Egyptian official who had severed his ties with Morsi, said, "When the army responds to the calls of 17 million citizens who came out on to the streets over the past five days with the demand for new presidential elections, this is not a coup. This is an uprising."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on July 4, 2013
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