An agreement on some strategic foundations is necessary for any country going through a democratic transition. It is unreasonable for any winning party in any country to turn against the policies of its predecessor, especially in terms of foreign policy.
A major change in a country’s strategic focus means there has been a major change in the state’s structure. This change means the ascension of some forces to power and and the withdrawal of others from the scene, who may become isolated or, at least, marginalised, with no hope of taking power through peaceful processes.
Egypt changed the structure of its rule twice in the second half of the twentieth century; the first was through a military coup in 1952 while the second was a gradual and partial change during the period from 1971 to 1977. The change of the power structure is reflected in Egypt’s policy concerning the world and the region as do changes at the economic, political and cultural levels.
The 1952 revolution created a new strategic foundation in terms of foreign policy. The new strategy was mostly distinguished by the admittance that Egypt has four areas of affiliation, starting with its relations with Arab countries, which forms the cornerstone of its national security and ending with the non-aligned group countries, and in between, the African and Islamic countries.
Therefore, enmity towards Israel and Zionism was not only based on the idea of Arab nationalism but also on the concept of national liberation propogated by the Soviet Union and adopted by the left wing. These concepts deepened the affiliation to non-aligned countries and Nasserite Egypt’s aspirations toward Africa and the Islamic world.
We can easily notice that at the heart of all these alliances was the Palestinian issue which represented a cornerstone and a symbol of that multi-affiliation. The Palestinian issue was also an undisputed reason for solidarity at the Arab and Islamic levels. It was a symbol for the continuation of the Arab battle against colonisation, which Arabs held responsible for their poverty and backwardness.
When late president Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat changed the power structure along with the economic-social structure, foreign policy changed as the country opened up economically. Therefore, it was logical that the United States became an ally after having been an enemy. It was also normal that Egypt’s strategy on the Palestinian issue and peace with Israel changed.
Sadat went a long way in this regard during the period from the October War in 1973 until his visit to Jerusalem in November 1977. Sadat’s visit was the first step in building the peace between Egypt and Israel which exists until now, due to its continuing support from Hosni Mubarak.
Remarkably, Sadat’s alliance with the US and lasting and stable peace with Israel which was maintained by his successor Mubarak, did not greatly violate some of the strategic foundations established in July 1952. However, Sadat was dragged, in a moment of tension, after the Camp David Accords into a clash with the Steadfastness and Confrontation Front. He was about to violate these important fundamental principles of Egyptian policy, including recognising the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as the legal and sole representative of the Palestinian people, and the right to a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, coupled with the assertion that Zionism is a racist concept.
These constants also included the Egyptian rejection of apartheid and insistence on freeing the region from weapons of mass destruction. The change which occurred to this strategy between 1952 and the Sadat-Mubarak era mainly pertained to the borders of a Palestinian state. The 1952 considered the state should consist of every area of historic Palestine, Sadat and Mubarak sought to establish Palestine on lands occupied by Israel in 1967.
Although the difference was significantly important and substantial, it led to a sharp disagreement between the Egyptian opposition and Sadat’s regime. The Camp David Accords and the resulting peace seemed, over time, to be accepted by most political powers, especially with the continuation of cold peace and the political and diplomatic support for the Palestinians within the frame of the two-state solution. Also, popular support was allowed from time to time to Palestinians.
But, after the January 25 revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood have assumed power, have Egypt’s strategic constants toward Israel and the Palestinian issue changed? In brief, we can say that foundations are being cracked in a way that may hinder establishing an accord important to the success of the power balance and building the civil democratic country sought by Egypt’s political powers.
The Muslim Brotherhood regards the Palestinian issue as an Islamic issue whose parties are Muslims and Jewish, in contrary to other political movements which see it as an issue of national liberation and right of the Palestinian people to establish a nation.
This main difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and all political movements is the same difference as that between Hamas- the Palestinian edition of the MB- and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, which brings together all Palestinian factions from the farthest left to the farthest right. It is well-known that Hamas, since its inception, was invited to join the PLO but it always refused due their different strategies.
When the Muslim Brotherhood considers the Palestinian cause to be a religious conflict, this means solving this cause is not related to building a Palestinian national state, but it is connected with establishing an Islamic Caliphate. The concept of nation or national territory has no importance. Not long ago, in the 1980s, a number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and Islamists announced that attacks on the national salvation government in Sudan (Al-Bashir-Al-Trabi), was aiming at undermining the pillars of the Islamic project and they considered that a Muslim Sudan was more important than a unified state.
Now we can substitute Palestine for the Sudanese and Hamas for the salvation government, and reread the current situation in view of the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach. We find that establishing an Islamic emirate in Gaza is not Hamas’ project as some of its leaders claim, but it is a project of the Brotherhood. So, it is not a coincidence that Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, continues his visits to Cairo to meet officials of the Brotherhood’s government.
And it is by chance that the Rafah troops killed in a terrorist attack was not sufficient reason to close tunnels in Sinai which are still open, smuggling of food, weapons and terrorists between Gaza and Sinai. Instead, the Brotherhood should provide a clear support for the Palestinian people through a direct and transparent dealing with the Palestinian national authority, the legal and sole representative of the Palestinian people.
Supporting Gazan people is a duty imposed by the necessities of Egypt’s national security along with the humanitarian reasons which differ from the Brotherhood’s approach in supporting Hamas. This approach deepens inter-Palestinian division harmful not only to Egypt’s security and economy, but to the unity of the Palestinians and their just cause, to build a nation with Jerusalem as its capital.