The New Egypt and the Olympic Silver Medal

Morsi's backtrack from the letter he sent to Peres shows the incumbent Egyptian president is caught juggling several centers of power. Perhaps Egypt's new Olympic hero would be better off in power.

Avi Issacharoff
Avi Issacharoff
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Avi Issacharoff
Avi Issacharoff

Although there has been no public opinion poll of this type, I can only guess that if presidential elections were to be held today in Egypt, the victor would be Alaaeldin Abouelkassem, the winner of the silver medal at Tuesday's fencing competition at the London Olympic Games. He would probably defeat Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafiq, who lost to Morsi in the second round of presidential elections (does anyone still remember him?). Although it is doubtful whether he could run for president at his age of 21, the pictures of the young fencer lifting his hands in victory and praying to Allah will enter the history of the new, post-revolution Egypt.

The daily newspaper Al Ahram reports that Abouelkassem was born in Alexandria, to an Egyptian father and an Algerian mother, and at the age of eight began to concentrate on fencing. His father died five months ago, and in every sense Abouelkassem is a classic underdog in a sport that receives no coverage in Egypt. Only about a year and a half ago, when he was interviewed by the newspaper he said that all he wanted was to participate in the Olympic Games in London, or in the next games in 2016. Most Egyptians thought that the only sportsmen capable of winning medals were judoka Hesham Mesbah or wrestler Karam Gaber (both of whom have already won Olympic medals), but Abouelkassem proved on Tuesday that he, too, is capable. Have we mentioned the new Egypt?

It's understandable why the Egyptian newspapers are full of pictures of Abouelkassem this morning. In an era of such political uncertainty in Egypt, the highly significant achievement in sports gives people some hope. But an examination of the behavior of the Egyptian president during the past 48 hours, and perhaps that of Egypt as a country, is cause for a sinking feeling that the Egyptian public might not have reason to be too optimistic.

Mohammed Morsi, the incumbent, democratically elected president, the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, sent a letter to President Shimon Peres on Tuesday. The short letter was delivered that day to Peres' military adviser Brigadier General Hasson Hasson by a senior diplomat from the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv.

"It was with deep thanks that I received your congratulations on the advent of the Holy Month of Ramadan," Morsi wrote in the missive, "I take this opportunity to reiterate that I am looking forwad to exerting our best efforts to get the Middle east Peace Process back to its right track in order to achieve security and stability for all peoples of the region, inlcluding that Israeli people."

I admit that after the letter was published, I thought there had been a dramatic, if not historic, change in the relations between the two countries. Finally, even a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood understands that they must embark on a new path in relations with Israel for the sake of the future of the two countries, and primarily the two peoples. Here is a first message of peace from post-revolution Cairo, and not only reports about the terrorist gangs that are going wild in Sinai.

But then Morsi hastened to publicize, through his spokesman, a declaration of denial that he had even sent any letter to Peres, reminding us all that in the new Egypt there is no real leadership at present. Morsi seems to be a president who has to juggle several centers of power, frightened and lacking any real authority: On the one hand, Mohammed Badie, the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, who we can assume didn't like that letter at all, on the other hand anti-Israeli public opinion in Egypt, and on the third hand the Supreme Military Council, which curtailed Morsi's powers and continues to do so, even now.

Egypt is almost completely paralyzed politically, economically and in terms of security, while the Military Council and the Muslim Brotherhood continue to quarrel among themselves. It's no wonder that law and order are steadily declining while incidents of chaos and violence are on the increase. For the past six days Copts and Muslims have been clashing in the village of Dahshur in the Giza district, and the police are powerless to help. One of the Muslims was killed and now there is a real fear of acts of revenge by Muslims. Perhaps in light of this situation Alaaeddin Abouelkassem really should run for president after all.

Egypt's Alaaeldin Abouelkassem celebrates defeating Italy's Andrea Cassara during their men's individual foil quarterfinal fencing competition, London 2012 Olympic Games July 31, 2012.Credit: Reuters
Egypt's Alaaeldin Abouelkassem celebrates defeating South Korea's Choi Byungchul in their men's individual foil semifinal fencing match at the London 2012 Olympic Games, July 31, 2012.Credit: Reuters



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