Egyptian parliamentary report: Israel is our "number one enemy"

I saw something about this at Iran’s English-language house organ, Press TV, and figured it was propaganda aimed at driving the wedge between Israel and Egypt a little deeper. Not so. The AP reported it on Monday. It really happened. One year and one month after Mubarak was knocked over, this is what the vanguard of Egyptian democracy is up to.

Thought experiment: Would there be more western support for intervening in Syria if this rolling clusterfark in Egypt hadn’t happened? When Mubarak was teetering, the debate in the west was about whether Arabs might finally be ready to liberalize notwithstanding the Muslim Brotherhood’s strength. You don’t hear much of that now vis-a-vis Syria. There are lots of arguments for intervening to topple Assad, both humanitarian and strategic (depriving Iran of a prized proxy), but making Damascus safe for democracy isn’t one of them. You’re apt to get the same sort of lunatics in power there as in Cairo. Is making Khamenei sweat enough of a reason to help install another Sunni Islamist mobocracy across the border from Israel?

Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament unanimously voted on Monday in support of expelling Israel’s ambassador in Cairo and halting gas exports to the Jewish state.

The motion is largely symbolic, because only the ruling military council can make such decisions, and it is not likely to impact Egypt’s relations with Israel. But it signals the seismic change in Egypt after the ouster of longtime leader and Israel ally Hosni Mubarak a year ago in a popular uprising that ended his 29 years in power.

The vote was taken by a show of hands on a report by the chamber’s Arab affairs committee that declared Egypt will “never” be a friend, partner or ally of Israel. The report described Israel as the nation’s “number one enemy” and endorsed what it called Palestinian resistance “in all its kinds and forms” against Israel’s “aggressive policies.”

True to Islamist form, the report referred to Israel as “the Zionist entity.” If you’re searching for some reason to believe this isn’t as bad as it seems, here’s the best I can do: To some extent, Israel-bashing gestures like this are aimed as much at the ruling military junta as at Israel itself. The junta runs the country, much to the Islamists’ dismay, and the junta’s also the guarantor of the cold peace with Tel Aviv. When a measure passes declaring Israel the country’s archenemy, it’s tantamount to calling the junta traitors, which further delegitimizes them among the population. So in theory, if/when parliament finally has real power and begins to collect western foreign aid (i.e. bribes), the Islamists will be more circumspect about their demagogic gambits. I’ve never bought that, though, for two reasons: (1) no doubt there are plenty of MPs, especially in the Salafist wing, who really do feel this way and want another go at smashing “the Zionist entity,” and (2) even among the ones who don’t, the temptation to sink into Jew-hatred as a populist distraction once they try and fail to solve the country’s economic problems will probably prove irresistible. They’ll end up pushing for war because that’s all they’ll have to offer. Sorry, Syrians, but you’re out of luck.

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