The Words of the Kamar Family

Jerusalem Peace and Security Forum: Egypt toward New Leadership

Miri Kamar
February 26, 2014

Jerusalem, Israel -- Diplomats, scholars, journalists and students of political science and diplomacy, gathered on Feb. 26, 2014 in the house of a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, Mr. Efraim Dubek; he and his wife Sarah were both born in Egypt and grew up there. Mr. Dubek was the legate in the first embassy in Egypt on 1980, right after the Peace Agreement between Egypt and Israel, and later on he was the ambassador to Egypt, from 1990 to 1992.

The president of the forum, Prof. Eliezer Glaubach, introduced the session by saying: "Egypt is one of the focal points in the Middle East. We want to evaluate the possible results of the coming elections and their outcomes in terms of the relationship between Egypt and Israel."

Mr. Efraim Dubek, Israeli ambassador to Egypt (1990-1992) Ambassador Dubek opened the discussion remarking the dramatic resignation of the Egyptian government the previous day (Feb. 25). He reviewed the events in Egypt since the fall of Mubarak, analyzing their causes and their implications on the future of Egypt. Dubek pointed the finger at Mubarak for the precarious situation of Egypt; there are two major reasons for Mubarak leaving office: First, Mubarak tried to promote his son as his successor, a decision that led the army to oppose him. Second, Mubarak chose to get closer to the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Imams started to get their salary from the state, and he turned Egypt from a free county with an unrestricted dressing code to a county upholding a religious code obliging women to wear veils. Mubarak believed that in this way he would gain the loyalty and support of the Muslim Brotherhood; nevertheless, they betrayed him and actually brought his downfall.

When the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, they harmed the army by dismissing all the regional directors who were former army officers, together with judges and other senior officials. This act led to an inevitable clash with the army, which used the first opportunity to get rid of the Muslin Brotherhood. "How will the regime of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi look? He is not the leader whom the Egyptian people are yearning for," said Dubek, and he predicted that El-Sisi will talk like Nasser and Sadat about Egyptian nationalism but will behave in a much crueler way. "Khalil el-Sisi cannot afford to lose power, because he knows that for him to lose power means a hanging rope around his neck in Tahrir Square. This will be his motivation to suppress the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, it seems that he will focus on rebuilding the Egyptian economy," explained Dubek.

Dubek is expecting a local war to develop in the Sinai Peninsula, similar to Syria's current civil war. He believes that the terrorism in Egypt will exacerbate in order to damage tourism. With regard to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, Dubek explained that Egypt wants peace with Israel and will adhere to the peace treaty. Even in the last year and a half while the Muslim Brotherhood was in the government, the peace with Israel was not violated and Israel's ambassador was not expelled from Egypt. According to Dubek, peace with Israel is important to Khalil el-Sisias well, and Dubek expects that Khalil el-Sisi will continue an undisclosed relationship with Israel; nonetheless, Dubek does not expect normalization and exchange of delegations: "The failure to normalize started back in the times of Sadat, and it has nothing to do with the Palestinians. Egypt is afraid of the openness of Israel and its ideas of democracy, equality, education and women's liberation; those are western ideas which Egypt is not interested in," concluded Dubek.

Mr. Zvi Mazel, Israeli ambassador to Egypt (1996-2001) and an expert in Middle Eastern affairs:

Mubarak's collapse began in January 2011, and since then Egypt has gone through a long period of social and economic instability. Since the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs in 641 AD, it became an Islamic tribal state. Just as in many Islamic countries, the religious social structure blocks their development, and this is the explanation why there is no foundation for democracy in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood organization was the moving power behind the Tahrir Revolution, in which young students with a new desire for a change and with a new moving spirit participated. These young people were exposed to the Internet and connected to the Western world. Regardless of its intensity, their revolution did not succeed because they did not have leadership who could take over the government.

The fact that the government was dismissed one year after the Tahrir revolution has a profound meaning; Egypt is a Muslim country but not a fanatic one, and its citizens wish to have a democracy.

The Egyptian people gave to Dr. Mohamed Morsi 100 days of grace to fulfill his promises, which were: strengthening the economy, keeping the personal security, cleaning the streets and organizing the transportation inside the cities. However, Morsi and his party confronted with the people instead; the first thing Morsi initiated after he came to rule was the dismissal of judges and the Prosecutor General. In his next step, Morsi instituted a law which appointed him as the absolute legislator. Moreover, he dismissed 13,000 people who were in various governmental positions in the areas of journalism, judiciary, religion and culture. In their place, Morsi appointed people from the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The Egyptian people could not accept such actions and protested strongly against them.

"The people have the sovereignty and not the president," Gen. Khalil el-Sisi -- the minister of defense at that time – said to Morsi and asked Morsi to resign from his position. Several times Morsi was warned that he was leading the country to a civil war, but he was complacent and ignored these warnings.

Mr. Mazel, who researches world press reports daily, explained that there is a big gap between what is actually happening in Egypt and the information that is reported both in the Israeli and American press. Western countries were surprised by the dramatic changes in Egypt, since they had not been updated properly. Yet, those who who read Egyptian newspapers could foresee the outcomes.

The Egyptian people are no longer in fear of the government and will not accept a dictatorship regime. They are longing for a strong leader who will restore the state's economy. That will be the greatest challenge of the next elected president, who apparently will be Field Marshal el-Sisi.

Mrs. Ksenia Svetlova, Middle East correspondent, TV Channel 9:

Svetlova, who visits Egypt often, is very familiar with the Egyptian people and nation.

"The date for the Egyptian presidential elections date has not been decided yet, but the Egyptian media is already prepared for the elections campaign. Since the revolution of June 30 (2013), the media became more dichotomous. Various events in the political and security arenas are covered in a way that gives overwhelming support to the authorities and insignificant screen time to the opposing opinions. The media is clearly afraid to criticize the government.

Since June 30, Egypt national flag is appearing on the TV screens' corners on most of the channels, alongside a caption at the bottom of the screen announcing that "Egypt is fighting terror" (characteristic that were almost entirely copied from the US media after the 9/11 events). The headlines on the Egyptian newspapers proclaim malicious conspiracies of the Muslim Brotherhood who joined forces with all the enemies of Egypt: Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The media coverage of the activities of the Provisional Government recalls the Egyptian TV in the 1980s and 1990s which gave drab and mindless updates. If there is still an ongoing debate on the future of Egypt, it is happening away from the mainstream media.

In the past six months, several newspapers, TV channels and entertainment programs have been shut down by the authorities, and journalists were fired or forced to resign. During that period, hundreds of Egyptian and foreign journalists were arrested; dozens of them were tried and received various punishments ranging from community service to imprisonment. Thus, the media coverage of the presidential elections campaign, and later on the parliament campaign, is not expected to create any controversy or to reveal the dark sides of the contestants. "Although currently Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Anan is the only official candidate for the presidency, the Egyptian media does not relate to the "small detail" that El-Sisi has not yet applied to be an official candidate, but it appears from the media coverage that El-Sisi is certainly the most popular one," concluded Svetlova.

Prof. Glaubach closed the discussion on a hopeful note: "We have learned from the discussion today that the 1978 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is stable and will be upheld in the near future. It is a remarkable thing. Therefore, the State of Israel has the duty to cultivate the same spirit of upholding the treaty."


Mr. Ali Birani, president, Jerusalem Forum for Interfaith and Cooperation among Religions

Mr. Yossi Nesher, head of the Arab desk at Israel's National Radio Company "The Voice of Israel"

Dr. Sarah Ozacky-Lazar, research fellow, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Dr. Eldad Pardo, Iranian scholar and professor in the Department of Islamic and Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University

Mr. Menashe Shaul, commentator, expert on the Middle East

Mrs. Naomi Tsur, president, Green Pilgrim Jerusalem

Mrs. Yael Dessow, student of government diplomacy and strategy

Mrs. Michal Dray,Student, Government Diplomacy and Strategy

Mrs. Karen Levy, Student, Government Diplomacy and Strategy

Mrs. Miri Kamar, Secretary General, UPF-Israel

Mrs. Adi Sasaki, Director, Jerusalem Forum for Peace and Security

Mrs. Nurit Hirschfeld-Skupinsky, Director, Jerusalem Forum for Interfaith and Cooperation among Religions 

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