Israel’s military action on Gaza a test for Egypt’s Brotherhood

Now in power, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is facing one of its most challenging moments and with the country still recovering from devastating aftermaths of the revolution, the movement finds itself in a weak position to stand by its brethren in Gaza who are being pounded by Israeli warplanes.

As the Palestinian enclave comes under Israeli attacks, one of which has killed the head of Hamas military wing, the Muslim brotherhood president in the neighboring Egypt reacted by recalling his ambassador from Tel Aviv, but it remains to be seen what more action he will take.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the powerful MB movement now ruling the country, has criticized Israel saying it “must take into account the changes in the Arab region, especially in Egypt.”

Contrary to its pre-power rhetoric, the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mursi are expect to exercise caution and self-restraint in response to the Israeli escalation in Gaza.

Ali Abdel Rehim, Egyptian political analyst, said he expects Mursi’s reaction to be “worse” than ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s response to the 2008 Gaza war.

“We don’t see any reaction. And most probably, there will be no action from the Brotherhood,” he said.

In 2008, Mubarak called for stopping the Israeli “aggression” on Gaza and sent humanitarian aid during a short truce period that had also allowed some Hamas leaders to escape to Cairo, Ali added.

Any reaction by the Brotherhoods will affect the “the domestic situation in Egypt,” Abdel Rehim said.

The country’s weak economy, incessant labor strikes, and severe social and political crises, are all factors that will likely restrain the Brotherhood’s reaction, he added.

Even the idea of fabricating an external conflict to drive away attention on domestic issues “will not come to the minds of Egypt’s Brotherhoods,” Abdel Rehim said.

He added that earlier deals between the United States and Egypt regarding Israel’s security had placed the Brotherhood under “experimentation.”

Any attempts to interfere in the Israeli-Gaza relationships would make the Brotherhood appear as if abandoning its earlier agreements with the United States, he added.

“They are under experimentation and America is closely watching Egypt’s reaction.”

Egyptian journalist, Abdel Sattar Hatata, said the brotherhood will not be able to take any different stand on Gaza than the Mubarak’s regime did due to the country’s weak economy, unstable internal political conditions and tangled regional ties.

“The condition in Gaza will cause a huge loss to the Brotherhood in Egypt,” said Hatata. “The new regime will not be able to take effective measures towards Israel” or stop the offensive on Gaza.

The Brotherhood had often urged Mubarak’s regime to withdraw the country’s ambassador from Tel Aviv, terminate the Camp David Treaty and break ties with Israel, said Hatata.

The statements issued by the Brotherhood so far diplomatically criticizes the escalating conditions, and lacks its earlier sharp tone, he explained, aiming not to drift into any military confrontations.

Playing double standards

Regarding the possibility that Egypt may keep a low profile in public while supply Hamas with weapons in private through smuggling, Abdel Rehim said such scenario is unlikely.

He said the Brotherhood knows the borders are monitored and that Israel and the United States will know about weapons smuggling.

Any smuggling acts will grant Israel the right to file a complaint at the United Nations against Egypt, said Hatata.

Even if the Brotherhood calls Islamists in Sinai to play this role, that would still be risky and dangerous to the Brotherhood, said Hatata, citing Egypt’s inability to face Israel in the current time.

But, the movement may one day claim that it supplied Hamas with weapons as an “excuse” to cover up its failure to take a strong political action, Abdel Rehim said.

It would use this to justify its stand in front of the Egyptian people, he added.


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