Tuesday, October 15, 2013

In Israel, Surprise, Anger Over US Aid Cuts to Egypt

Experts Warn of Setbacks to Stability, Peace Prospects


HERZLIYA, ISRAEL — At an Oct. 9 evening gathering here of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), uniformed officers and civilian officials from Israel, Egypt and the 13-nation US-led Sinai-based peacekeeping force were clinging to White House denials of a reported suspension of aid to Cairo.

After near-siege conditions during the Muslim Brotherhood’s yearlong rule,MFO officers said their operational environment was starting to stabilize thanks to the new military government’s unprecedented counterterrorism campaign against Islamic militants and jihadist cells in the desert peninsula.

Suspension of US aid, MFO sources here warned, could alienate Cairo’s
military-led government, harm cooperation with the MFO and potentially
threaten more than three decades of Egyptian-Israeli peace.
“In the 31 years of dedicated service to our mission in Sinai, the MFO
community has never faced the operational challenges of the past year,” said
Michael Sternberg, senior MFO representative in Israel.
Back in Washington, retired Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, a longtime security
adviser to Israel’s Ministry of Defense, spent a good part of a late
afternoon policy address praising the stabilizing effects of the Egyptian
military’s summertime ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi and his
Muslim Brotherhood-led government.
“The collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood is a positive phenomenon. It [has
weakened Hamas and] has strengthened the Sunni axis of Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
the United Arab Emirates and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” Gilad told an
Oct. 9 gathering at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“Relations between the United States and these countries are very powerful
and strategic, and this Sunni alliance is a great contribution to stability
in the Middle East and to US interests,” he said.
Fresh from two days of accompanying Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
in high-level talks aimed, in part, at dissuading punitive action against
Cairo, Gilad asserted: “Peace remains powerful and solid because of the
United States.”
He said expectations of establishing Western-style democracy in Egypt or
anywhere else in the Middle East are “an illusion,” and that Mideast
democracy is “four or five decades” away.
“In Egypt, the leadership, for their own Egyptian interests, is doing its
best,” Gilad said. “We must not advise them what democracy means.
“As an Israeli, I am for stability rather than for so-called democracy that
brings in terrible forces like the Muslim Brotherhood. I realize this is not
politically correct to say in the United States ... but I think we need,
together, to prefer stability,” he said.
When asked if the reported suspension of US aid would undermine Egypt’s
commitment to the Camp David accords, Gilad flagged official US denials,
still in effect at the time.
He acknowledged “some differences” between Israel and the US administration
on the Egyptian issue, yet appeared optimistic about the outcome of the
three-month review.
“I don’t know what is the final decision of the president, and I try not to
criticize publicly; it’s impolite. ... I’m sure any decision to be made by
the president will take into consideration all aspects of peace,” Gilad
But moments later — upon learning of the State Department’s announced
decision to withhold “certain large-scale military systems and cash
assistance” pending progress toward “an inclusive, democratically elected
civilian government” — Gilad assumed a more ominous tone.
“Without peace with Egypt, there can be no peace” he warned.
He referred specifically to Israel’s existing treaty with Jordan, US-driven
negotiations with the Palestine Authority and prospects for improved ties
with other regional states.
“Again, this White House is trying to have it both ways,” said Morris
Amitay, a longtime pro-Israel activist and former executive director of the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“It’s doing just enough to alienate the Egyptian military, who we will need
to preserve the peace, and to alienate those people in Congress demanding
tougher action because of the coup,” Amitay said.
“Either way,” he added, “it’s a lose-lose proposition with grave
implications for stability and our already eroding credibility in the

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