Monday, July 01, 2013

Conference Call on Egyptian Protest With Shimrit Meir of The Israel Project

This morning, The Israeli Project held a conference call following yesterday's massive protest in Egypt. Shimrit Meir is the director of The Israel Project's Arabic Media Program and the Editor-in-Chief of Al Masdar (The Source), an online Arabic-language newspaper which will be debuting later this summer.

The Protest

Meir starting off noting that last nights protest in Egypt against the Morsi regime was the largest protest ever in Egypt -- numbering in the millions. It was planned for months in advance by the opposition and has engendered hopes for a new dawn in the country.

Egyptian protest in 2011
A big banner with the Arabic word "Leave" in reference to Mubarak in Midan
 El-Tahrir during the 2011 Egyptian protests. This time Egyptians insist that
Morsi leave. Credit: Wiki Commons

The people of Egypt simply do not want to be like Iran following their protests and their revolution. That means that now the leaders of the opposition are going to have to find a way to leverage their successful opposition into obtaining their goals -- Morsi's resignation and new elections. They threatening that if their demands are not met they will call for a strike or some other form of civil disobedience.

The negative view of the Egyptian people extends to how they feel about Hamas, in part because the people believe that Hamas is helping the Muslim Brotherhood.

While there were reports of attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, this was a random attack and not part of protest nor called for by the leadership.

Reaction to the Protest

A sign of the impact of the protests is that a few hours ago, 5 of Morsi's ministers indicated they would be resigning their positions and joining the opposition. However, there was reports that there were efforts by the government to convince the ministers to stay.

There are 3 elements in the current situation:
  • The Opposition
  • The Muslim Brotherhood
  • The Egyptian Army
The Muslim Brotherhood was caught off-guard by the size of the protests and is still trying to assess situation the situation and how they should react. They want to keep their options open. The Muslim Brotherhood has, after all, worked for decades to get to this point, with many of its members -- including Morsi -- having been imprisoned by Mubarak and tortured.

The key problem for the Muslim Brotherhood is that Morsi simply is not presidential material. For example, he gave a speech which went on for 2 1/2 hour speech, which was absurdly long odd. It was a passive/aggressive speech that did nothing to help his position.

As for the Egyptian Army, it was announced that they will issue statement tonight. The Egyptian Army is a game-changer, and their reaction will be important. Army has the respect and support -- even love of the people.

For now, the Egyptian people are waiting for tomorrow to see the reaction from each of these 3 elements: the opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Army.

Just as they see Iran and do not want to follow in their footsteps, the people see what is happening in Syria and are afraid. They do not want the chaos that is happening in Syria to happen in Egypt. The various elements will be more careful and cautious, but each of them means business.

Role of Women in the Egyptian Protest

Women have had a role in the protests due to their active role in Social Media and in secular groups in the universities. However, women do not have a leadership role, neither in the opposition nor in the Muslim Brotherhood. The treatment of minorities is one of the issues underlying the protests.

Israel's Reaction to the Protest

From the Israeli perspective, the Israeli government has consistently had a wait and see attitude without interference towards the events going on around it -- with the exception of when there is an immediate, military threat, as was seen in Syria.

Currently, the protest in Egypt is seen as positive development.

The current regime has a negative attitude towards Israel. They will not take a phone call from Netanyahu. Morsi, when younger, participated in anti-Jewish protests. While there is coordination today between the Israeli army and the army under Muslim Brotherhood influence, this coordination is not to the extent it used to be. The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, is consistent in its opposition to the peace treaty with Israel, though it will not try to abrogate it all at once.

The Egyptian Army

During the conference call, Shimrit Meir noted that Al Jazeera announced that the Egyptian army will shortly come out with a statement and that the army said it will not take power and it is necessary to listen to the voice of the Egyptian people.

The Egyptian Army naturally wants to sustain its power and continue receiving the support it currently gets from the US. They do not want the responsibility for the current economic situation and impending collapse of the country, but they will take power if they have to.

The Muslim Brotherhood does have influence in the army with Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi, the commander in chief of the Egyptian armed forces, whom they appointed.

UPDATE: According to Al Ahram, Egyptian military gives 48 hour ultimatum to Brotherhood, political forces:
The armed forces are giving all political forces 48 hours as a last chance to solve the ongoing problems, or else the armed forces will have to announce a new roadmap for the future, and will enforce certain measures with the help of all factions including the youth, without excluding anyone.

The statement was read out on Egyptian state TV.

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