By Richard Walker
As Egypt faces the stark choice of its next president, Israel and its allies in Washington and London are openly meddling in that country’s elections, plotting to install Amr Moussa, a former top official under ousted President Hosni Mubarak. One news outlet, among many alleging Western influence, claimed British intelligence has had a team in Cairo for months running Moussa’s campaign.
Moussa, 76, was foreign minister under Mubarak. Later, he served as secretary general of the League of Arab States, commonly referred to as the Arab League. He is an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and once supported former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s refusal to concede Jerusalem to Israel. In 2002, he called on the world to support the Palestinian uprising and denounced the Washington-Tel Aviv axis as the ruination of the Middle East peace process.
So, why does Israel want him in the president’s chair in Egypt? Barack Obama, and his Israeli counterpart, Benyamin Netanyahu, believe it is better to back the devil you know, to defeat the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, whose slogan is, “Islam is the solution.” The prospect of the brotherhood holding the presidency while it is also the biggest parliamentary bloc terrifies Israel and pleases Iran and Hezbollah.
Moussa is seen by Israel as the man it can do business with. Despite his support for the Palestinians, he is a former regime diplomat with close links to the generals presently running the country. He has said an Egypt controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood would not be a very good “experiment.”
He is also opposed to giving religion too big a role in politics and fears it would happen if the Muslim Brotherhood controlled parliament and the presidency. When asked if he would order the military to relinquish power once he was elected, he was less than forthcoming.
On the other hand, making him president, while the Muslim Brotherhood remains so strong in parliament, might not turn out as Obama, Netanyahu and Britain’s David Cameron, expect. For example, were Moussa to fulfill a promise to make the Palestinian issue a centerpiece of his presidency, relations between Egypt and Israel would hit rock bottom. Since the fall of Mubarak, even the Egyptian military has been forced to take an anti-Israeli line to satisfy growing resentment among Egypt’s public. The military has done little to prevent attacks against Israel from inside Egypt or to protect the oil-gas pipeline that for years has provided Israelis with cheap energy, subsidized by Washington through payments to Mubarak. Israelis no longer have that deal and cannot rely on Washington to use billions of dollars in so-called military aid to get a new Egyptian regime to cozy up to them.
In the final analysis, nothing good will come from Obama and his political buddies meddling in Middle East politics. Moussa may appear one thing to them, but if Egyptians elect him he will not have the overarching powers Mubarak once wielded thanks to Washington.
Instead, he will have the Muslim Brotherhood and other anti-Israeli factions constantly breathing down his neck to support the Palestinians and, in particular, Hamas in Gaza against Israel and the West.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.