Former Israeli Envoy in Cairo: Egypt's Problems Are Chronic Disease

Eli Shaked accuses United States of harboring illusions about democracy in the Middle East, says Muslim Brotherhood will likely be banned from next election.

Eli Shaked, the Israeli ambassador in Cairo from 2004-2005, says he "does not envy" Egypt's future leadership, which will have to cope with the huge problems that the Muslim Brotherhood was unable to solve in a year in power.

He told DPA in an interview Thursday: "We very much hope that they will be able to restore law and order and stability in the country."

"I don't envy the Egyptian leaders, today and in the future, because the problems in Egypt are like a chronic disease. They are so big, so malignant, that it is very, very difficult for me to see what kind of miracles the next leader or the next leadership of Egypt can bring about."

What do you regard as the most harrowing of those problems?

"Egypt is 1 million square kilometers, but on only 4 percent, you have 90 million living there and you have 1.5 million new babies every year and this is a disaster.

"This young society is unemployed. There is no way to supply proper schools, nurseries, kindergartens, hospitals, jobs after university. By law the government has to employ all university graduates. This is from the socialist times in the 1950s of [former president Gamal] Abdel Nasser. But at the time Egypt was 20 million and not more.

What can be expected of the democratic process in Egypt?

"I don't see the Egyptian military giving a second opportunity to the Muslim Brotherhood to be elected in democratic or non-democratic elections that will be take place sometime in the future.

"I'm sure they will not let the Muslim Brotherhood establish a party, normal party to participate in the next elections.

"Historically, since the very beginning of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s, more than 80 years ago ... the military in Egypt fought the Muslim Brotherhood very, very harshly.Islamists who raised their heads too much were thrown immediately in jail. [Former Egyptian president Mohammed] Morsi is one of the examples. There will be no democracy in the Middle East for many, many years.

"Democratic Washington has many illusions. Washington is a friend of ours, of you and us, but they are not realistic. They betrayed [former Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak. They betrayed Morsi. They betrayed the Shah of Iran in 1979.

"They, the Americans, by demanding democratic elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006, by putting this demand, pressure on the Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen [Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas], they brought Hamas to power through democratic means.

"In Iran in 1979, the Shah was expelled, betrayed by the United States and through democratic elections, the Americans, the Israelis, all of us got ... [Ayatollah] Khomeini as the leader of Iran. We lost Iran.

"Gaza was lost to Hamas. Mubarak was kicked out and stabbed in the back because [President Barack] Obama and his administration demanded that he take seriously the pressure of the people. Democratization is a process. You don't jump. You have to build it bottom up."

What are the consequences of the developments in Egypt for Israel?

"We have concerns about the situation in the Sinai Peninsula in particular, but not only. In the Sinai ... it is an issue of security, because the area has become a launching pad for terrorists for attacks against Israel.

"The Egyptian military and police in Sinai have suffered also from those activities by the international jihadists, extremists ... Since they made Sinai their home, a process that started in the days of Mubarak, but gained momentum in the past two-and-half years since Mubarak, they are a source of concern for Israel as well as for Egypt.

"Now, Israel would like Egypt to restore law and order and stability in the country in general and in Sinai in particular. The common interest exists between the Israeli military and the Egyptian military.

"And it is interesting to know that throughout these two-and-a-half turbulent years since Mubarak, the only good, tangible contacts were maintained by the two armies."