The Egyptian army rules for now

Jacky Hougy

The bitter battle between Egypt's religious establishment and other elites is a century-old confrontation and its future is still ahead of us.

There is something touching in a political personality who is removed from the heights of power and the stubbornness to hold on to it. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi wanted to hold on to power, reported one of the Israeli media on the eve of his ouster in unwitting prescience. Just two hours after Egypt's defense minister hazed Morsi in a live broadcast, the expert in materials engineering from an American university insisted on his title. "I am the elected president," said Morsi in a video clip smuggled out after the revolution was announced, and called on the generals to uphold the legitimacy.

We, as Israelis, may understand him. Morsi (62) reiterated in the past few days that he was elected by the ballot box, and that he was the legitimate representative of the nation, and that no general had the right to use force to remove him. The legitimacy of the process which led to Morsi's election was doubtful (the fingerprints of the generals, who actually wanted him, were noticeable in that process), the moment that Morsi was marketed to the people as the elected president, there was no political personality more legitimate than him. The young people of Cairo's Tahrir Square are satisfied today and are confident in an army that will remove any leader who will not act in line with the "nation's" expectations, but they forgot that that is not how a democracy is built. The ousting of Morsi sets new game rules which are no less tough than the ones that Egypt has known in its past. The leader has failed? Send him home. In their hatred of Morsi, his opponents forgot a truth: there is another "nation" in Egypt - the millions of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite everything, the ouster of Egypt's president is not a question of personalities. Morsi was the representative of the entire religious establishment. Its leading representative, the Muslim Brotherhood, emerged shortly after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, in a silent alliance with the officers, to agree to share power. Under these agreements, which collapsed on Wednesday after two years, Mubarak's authority as Egypt's leader and supreme commander of the armed forces was divided. The security establishment received freedom of action to manage defense and foreign affairs, and the Muslim Brotherhood received the presidency.

With the meal came the appetite. The Muslim Brotherhood hastened to promote its supporters to positions controlled by other allies. Extending its grip to every part of the economy and society was too gross for the generals. They were prepared to give the Muslim Brotherhood a share of power, but not so quickly, and certainly not at the expense of its narrow interests. The Egyptian Army is also a corporation that owns commercial, services, and industrial enterprises which account for a quarter of the Egyptian economy.

The generals watched carefully how the Muslim Brotherhood, with the loyal help of the president, pushed its supporters into government positions, businesses, and the media. They watched how it hugged Hamas, even though Hamas planned the attack which killed 16 Egyptian police officers near Rafiah in Sinai, and how Morsi flirted with the Emirate of Qatar, sponsoring their number one opponent, Khaled Mashaal of Hamas.

It should be said in Morsi's defense that he was sometimes squeezed between the hammer and the anvil, caught between his loyalty to the movement, which put him in the Presidential Palace (and the Muslim Brotherhood's rivals, the Salafis, who supported him and were beaten down) and his uniform-wearing partners.

On Tuesday night, the day before Morsi's ouster, an army helicopter suddenly flew at low altitude over Tahrir Square and dispersed Egyptian flags to the demonstrators. A small gesture to the ordinary citizen from the army command, which can also be seen as a brilliant PR maneuver. The gesture gave the demonstrators the sense that there was a father in Cairo, that there was someone supporting them. The gift-dispersing helicopter was the axe wielded in the first campaign. The army giveth and the army taketh away. Until further notice, hallowed is the name of the army. But with all due respect that the officers heard the "will of the people", their motivation to clean out the stables was mainly prompted by the power struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood. The demonstrations gave them the excuse.

It is possible that the hero of the week is not Morsi, but Minister of Defense Colonel General and Commander-In-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi (59). This man, a former head of military intelligence, has, within a year, signed off on two military coups. In August 2012, Sisi was behind the removal of his commander and then-minister of defense Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. The media was told that Morsi was the man who sent the hero of the 1973 October War against Israel into retirement. Yesterday, Sisi acted openly and with the decisiveness of a soldier in combat. Sisi could not have waged this campaign a year or two ago, when the Muslim Brotherhood was at the height of its power, and most of the public was willing to give it a chance.

Morsi is gone, but the Muslim Brotherhood is still here. And it will continue to talk, strongly even, and challenge the other camps of Egypt's elite. The bitter battle between Egypt's religious establishment and the other camp is a century-old confrontation and its future is still ahead of us.

The author is the Arab Affairs correspondent for “IDF Radio" (Galei Zahal).

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on July 4, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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