Egypt is in one of its worst political crises since the revolution. The main concern is that a loss of control by government forces will lead to street battles, the entry of terrorists into the campaign and the disintegration of the country’s civic and political core. Egypt is in the midst of a struggle that has already killed hundreds of people, with no political solution in sight.
Analyzing the circumstances that brought about this dangerous situation could well lead one to conclude that the seizing of control by the armed forces and the forced removal of President Mohammed Morsi has emptied the democratic process there of any content and led to a violent conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army and liberal movements. At the same time, one could argue that the Egyptian army made its decisions backed by strong public opposition to continued Brotherhood rule. But the theoretical debate about the nature of the army’s democratic or dictatorial move is now giving way to real worry about the possible collapse of the central government.
The difficult deliberation between supporting the military crackdown and the normative demand to return to the democratic process is strongly reflected in the positions of the European Union and the United States, which have condemned the violence and taken symbolic punitive action like canceling military exercises and freezing arms shipments. But the West understands that at this point it would be a mistake to impose the type of sanctions on Egypt that have been slapped on Syria. These responses indicate that the military regime will be given more time, and perhaps even support, if it can prove that it can take control of the crisis and return to a political course later. The figure of speech commonly used to describe this policy is “watchful waiting.”
Israel, in contrast to European states and perhaps even the United States, has a clear interest in a stable Egyptian regime and in maintaining its relationship with the Egyptian military leadership. Only they can enable the war against terror in the Sinai Peninsula to continue. But unlike the United States, Israel is not being asked to intervene, and should not intervene in Egypt’s domestic arena. It must focus on continuing to uphold the peace treaty with Egypt and preserving the conditions that support it.
These conditions include, but do not end with, the United States continuing to provide aid to Egypt and Israel refraining from operating in Egyptian territory, even if it appears that Cairo has not been doing enough there lately to eradicate terrorism.
We must hope and wish Egypt success in extricating itself from the current crisis, while practicing watchful waiting. But we must squelch any desire to intervene.
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