What do false goatees, megalomania, and President Mohamed Morsi have in common? Pharaonic rulership, according to a number of disgruntled Egyptians, quoted by The Guardian as believing their country to have acquired a “Mubarak with a beard” after Morsi declared presidential “immunity” from judicial oversight and the ability to pass laws as he pleases. The engineer-come-dark-horse-politician has subsequently been accused of betraying last year’s revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak and foreswore dictatorship.
Morsi had the hopes of Western countries riding on him, since his Islamic Brotherhood party is considered less “fundamentalist” than the Salafi party, and as a USC doctoral graduate (1982) and former assistant professor at CSUN, he perhaps seemed more “westernized” than his presidential challengers. He brokered the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after November’s Operation Pillar of Defense and was warmly praised by U.S. Secretary of State Clinton. President Obama, on the other hand, was not at all impressed by the September storming of the U.S. embassy in Cairo by mob demonstrators and commented that Egypt was “not an ally but not an enemy.” However, Morsi seemed the best negotiator in Middle Eastern crises, with still-President Assad of Syria occupied with a two-year rebellion that has killed many thousands of Syrians, and other countries busy with forming their own infant governments after the “Arab Spring” rebellions of two years ago — November’s agreement between Israel and Hamas only seemed to reinforce his status.
Now, with Morsi in the political doghouse over his power grab, what repercussions might this have for Israel? What options do the “sheep among wolves” (an allegory for the Jews from both the Midrash Tanchumah and Esther Rabbah of Aggadah) now have for diplomatic and physical survival? While I am no seasoned diplomat, perhaps an exploration of recent facts and history will provide the understanding necessary to making a reasonable assessment of Israel’s likely future opportunities.
According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, relations with Jordan have improved since the 2000-2005 Second Intifada, when Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel. King Abdullah II hosted a summit with the American, Israeli, and Palestinian governments in 2003 and visited the Israeli prime minister in 2004. The ambassador returned in 2005. This seems promising for Israel, especially as its Jordanian neighbor is situated near the Golan Heights and peace is key to the security of that border region. Although there doesn’t seem to be much tourism between the countries, there are Israeli manufacturing plants in Jordan as well as academic exchange.
The Gulf States (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Bahrain) are not such positive prospects. Diplomatic and trade relations appeared to be improving from the time of the War of Independence, but with the Second Intifada, they cooled and have not yet improved. Israel’s trade representation in Oman closed, and has not yet reopened. The Maghreb Countries (Morocco, Mauritania, and Tunisia) mostly followed a similar route of diplomatic relations, with Morocco and Tunisia breaking off relations when the Second Intifada began. However, they have maintained commercial ties, and Israel’s relationship with Mauritania seems to be doing just fine. As for Mauritania voting to upgrade “Palestine” to a non-member observer state in the UN, this fact must be taken in the context that Mauritania would not be likely to side with Israel against other Islamic countries and risk losing significant face.
Lebanon is in the slightly awkward situation of having no formal diplomatic relations with Israel, while not being an official enemy either. The two countries are currently at peace, as tourists and residents near the Lebanese border of Israel can testify.
Israel currently has no diplomatic relations with Syria; the country is not even listed on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website as a country with which Israel has had diplomatic relations. Syria is not at all likely to come to Israel’s aid; after all, it attacked Israel in the War of Independence (1948), the Six-Day War (1967), the Yom Kippur War (1973), and the Lebanon War (1982).
It seems that Jordan and Mauritania would be Israel’s best bets for a peace agreement or ceasefire were it to come to war again. But it is not improbable that Morsi will make a comeback and, who knows? Maybe he will decide that Egypt could use Israeli technology to get Wi-Fi in some of those pyramids.