[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: Judging by recent past history, President Morsi
may believe he can "have his cake and eat it too". He can say he plans to
stop the weapons smuggling into Gaza and even go through the motions of
implementing various programs to stop the flow while at the same time
actually allowing a flood of weapons into Gaza. After all, if Mubarak was
able to get away with it why not Morsi?]
Morsi’s Dictatorship and the Gaza Ceasefire
by Prof. Hillel Frisch
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 187, November 27, 2012
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has proven himself to be
a dictator in the footsteps of his predecessor Hosni Mubarak. He has
consolidated his power by sacking the military leadership and by granting
himself extensive powers over the judicial system. It is not coincidental
that his most recent dictatorial decree (overriding the judiciary) was
issued following his successful brokering of a ceasefire between Israel and
Hamas. Morsi seeks to further strengthen his control over Egypt while
continuing to benefit from Western aid.
President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt has struck again. In August this year he
surprised everyone by sacking Egypt’s venerable minister of defense and the
heads of the army – the chief-of-staff and the heads of army, navy, and air
force – and replacing them with generals of his own liking. He used the
massacre of 15 border police by a jihadist group near the Egyptian-Gazan
border as his excuse for the purge. The senior military command, which had
until that point ruled Egypt with almost an iron hand, caved in without a
whimper. To press home their defeat, Morsi did not even bother to invite the
former minister of defense and the chief-of-staff to the traditional
memorial events surrounding the “victory” of the October 1973 war, even
though they were its most prominent living veterans.
The Decree Protecting the Revolution
On November 22, 2012, Morsi struck again in no less surprising fashion.
Under the camouflage of an unimportant trip to a conference on economic
development in Karachi, Pakistan, he issued a presidential decree (dubbed
the “Revolution Protection Law”) that forbade the dissolution of the
constitutional drafting committee from which most of the liberal, secular,
and church representatives have withdrawn. He also assumed powers that
allowed him to dismiss the unpopular general prosecutor and to retry Mubarak
and his aides. These decisions, he announced, were not subject to judicial
The United States and its European allies, despite their democratic
rhetoric, responded with feeble censure. They noted their “concern” over the
decree but did not express outward opposition. Significantly, the decree
came on the day after Morsi garnered international acclaim for his
successful effort to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Connection to the Gaza Ceasefire
The timing raises the following question: What is the relationship between
Morsi’s proclamation of powers, which his critics claim makes him a new
Pharaoh, and the Gaza ceasefire? It sounds like a riddle but in fact the
connection is compellingly logical.
President Morsi, long a senior and radical member of the Muslim Brotherhood
before being elected to the presidency, committed himself through the Gaza
ceasefire to something that former President Mubarak never sought, let alone
achieve. Mubarak, depicted wrongly by the media as an ally of Israel’s,
never pressured Hamas to stop the devastating trickle of rockets and mortars
it had continuously fired on Israel’s south. Instead, Mubarak used Hamas to
(Mubarak slightly altered his position after Hamas breached the Egyptian
border in January 2008. The breach led to an inundation of hundreds of
thousands of Gazans into northern Sinai, including dozens of jihadists and
Hamas terrorists. The latter subsequently played important roles in the
weakening of Egyptian control in the area).
Unlike Mubarak, Morsi has now obligated himself to stop all Hamas rocket
fire towards Israel, essentially putting an end to Hamas’ muqawama
(resistance) that distinguished the Hamas government from the Palestinian
Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, whom Hamas accused of collaborating with Israel.
Morsi, however, is hardly the person to deliver this without a hefty price
tag. The timing of the ceasefire and Morsi’s assumption of dictatorial
powers over the judiciary more than suggests a connection with Gaza.
Essentially, Morsi is trying to force the United States and its European
allies into a deal that runs something like this: “Render me what is Pharaoh’s
in the land of Egypt, and I will deliver you stability on the Israeli front.
You and your local allies, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the other Gulf states,
can then focus on Syria and Iran.” In short, what Morsi is saying is “Give
me my kingdom and I will give you and your allies primacy in the area.”
For Morsi, the test whether the United States, Europe, and the Gulf states
accept the deal is as simple as this: Will the IMF loan Egypt $4.8 billion,
along with five billion euros of aid, and additional funds from the Gulf
money? Will these funds rescue an Egyptian economy beset by domestic turmoil
that Morsi’s own moves begat? (After his decree, the value of shares on the
Cairo stock market plunged by 10 percent).
United States foreign policy always has been plagued by the tension between
Jeffersonian ideals of spreading democracy and a more hard-headed
Hamiltonian realism. One can wager that the United States, despite
democratic rhetoric, will come up with the aid that Morsi seeks. However
painful the deal may be, the Iraqi experiment and many other examples
suggest the primacy of America’s interests over high-minded principles.
After all, this is exactly how Morsi resolved his own dilemma.
Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East
studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a senior research associate at the
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity
of the Greg Rosshandler Family