In the space of a few hours – and without lifting a finger – Israel won big from the lightning coup of Wednesday, July 3, which overthrew Islamic government in Cairo and restored the military to the center of Egypt’s political stage.
Those winnings came in five forms:
1. Since early 2012, when Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, encouraged by President Barack Obama, transferred power from the military council to civilian government, Israel and its armed forces have been on tenterhooks for their 1979 peace treaty with Egypt to dissolve in hostilities, although the Morsi government was pressured by the United States not to abrogate it.
This sense of menace was eased by the military takeover of government in Cairo.
2. The conventional wisdom shared by Israel’s strategists was that, one day, the Muslim Brotherhood would launch a jihadist war on the Jewish State, whether as rulers of an Arab nation, through its web of Brotherhood branches in other Arab countries – like the one fighting in Syria, or through a cross-Islam alliance of radicals between Sunni Cairo and Shiite Tehran.
This assumption has been shelved for now with a deep sigh of relief.
With the army ruling Cairo, Israel no longer fears a Muslim Brotherhood war
3. It was also taken for granted that, with the Muslim Brotherhood in power, Israel and Egypt would eventually come to blows over control of the Sinai Peninsula. When the territory descended into a lawless stronghold for Al Qaeda, other anti-Israel terrorists and criminal smuggling rings, Israel invested some $1 billion in building a fortified fence along the 260-kilometer border with Egypt to defend its southern region. Another $1 billion was spent to relocate military command centers and facilities opposite Egyptian Sinai after 30 years of calm under the rule of Hosni Mubarak.
Now that the Egyptian military is in charge again, the danger of a conflict with Cairo has receded.
This means that the military strength Israel started hauling to the South – the Adom Division and three smaller armored units – can be redirected to the more active northern front facing Syria and Hizballah.
4. The radical Palestinian Hamas ruling the Gaza Strip, which for a decade terrorized southern Israel with missile attacks, is substantially diminished in every way. Amidst an agonizing leadership feud between its pro-West, pro-Sunni faction and the group pulling the movement into the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah camp, Hamas has lost its parent and provider in Cairo.
This comedown will seriously detract from Hamas’s standing in the Palestinian community at large – not only in Gaza but also on the West Bank and in Jordan.
5. Almost overnight, Israel has sensed the loosening of the Muslim Brotherhood noose which up until this week was closing around the country from at least three directions
Jordan is in clover, Qatar counts its losses
Part of this improvement must be attributed to the blow the Egyptian Brotherhood’s downfall inflicted on the Jordanian Brethren, which also number many former Hamas followers, and their potency as a threat to the Hashemite throne in Amman.
Hitherto the most dangerous challenge to King Abdullah’s authority and the kingdom’s stability, Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood has had much of the stuffing knocked out of it by the unseating of Brotherhood rule in Cairo.
So, Jordan, like Israel, is by and large the winner from Egypt’s military putsch.
The biggest loser is Qatar which is caught by this disaster at a fragile moment in its own transition of power.
Tuesday June 25, the Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Kahlifa Al Thani informed President Obama of his abdication and transfer of power to his heir, 33-year old Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad.
Hamad bin Jassim, the prime minister, was also eased out of office.
Both he and the outgoing ruler pinned their entire inter-Arab policies on the propagation and shoring up of Muslim Brotherhood rule in Arab capitals.
Doha coordinated this policy with the Obama administration in Washington.
History’s practical joke
History may have been laughing up its sleeve when the leading champions of this policy were seen leaving office in Doha at the very moment that the beneficiary of their policy came crashing down in Cairo.
The noise of that crash must still be reverberating in the Qatari capital. The ex-ruler and ex-prime minister sank the round sum of $13 million in bolstering Muslim Brotherhood rule in Egypt. They were the bankers of President Mohamed Morsi’s government.
That colossal sum went down the drain in a brief moment on Wednesday, July 3, when Egypt’s military told Morsi he was no longer president of Egypt.
Will Qatar’s new ruler Sheikh Tamim be able to repair this hugely expensive error? The guessing is on in Gulf capitals.