Egypt’s next president in the eyes of Palestinians

Gaza residents are captivated by Egypt’s presidential race, wondering what the result will mean for them – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Saleh Al-Naami, 24 – 30 May 2012.

… Social network websites were teeming with the opinions of Palestinians, especially the youth. Several Facebook pages were created in support of candidates, especially Abul-Fotouh and Mursi, while others supported Hamdeen Sabahi. A survey of conversations on these websites shows heated debate between the supporters of Mursi and Abul-Fotouh about the effects of the election of either candidate on the Palestinian situation.  

Although Palestinian factions are silent about Egypt’s presidential candidates, since this is a domestic Egyptian issue, many officials in Hamas — which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood — believe that Hamas’s experience in power proves that it is unwise that someone considered a Muslim Brotherhood figure should become Egypt’s president. Therefore, they openly support Abul-Fotouh. “We should not ignore the current balance of power on the international and regional arenas,” a leading Hamas figure who holds a senior position in Ismail Haniyeh’s government told the Weekly. “The world and some regional powers will not help a Muslim Brotherhood president succeed in his mission.”

The Palestinians hope that the Egyptian elections will be a defining turning point in eliminating the effects of the six-year siege of Gaza. Majed Abu Samha, a professor at the Islamic University in Gaza, said that with the exception of Moussa and Ahmed Shafik, all presidential candidates would not accept a continuation of the siege on Gaza. Gaza residents especially hope that Egypt’s presidential elections will put an end to smuggling via tunnels that has so far killed 180 young men who work in them.

Khalil Al-Shahri, an importer of electrical goods, hopes that the next Egyptian president will order legal trading between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, even if it raises the price of imported goods, because this would be a form of normalising relations between the two peoples. Palestinians also hope that the next president of Egypt will send experts in the medical and education fields to the Gaza Strip.

Unlike in most of the world’s countries, Egyptians living in the Gaza Strip could not exercise their right of voting in the presidential election, since Egypt does not have diplomatic representation there. The consulate was closed in 2007 after Hamas’s rise to power. While the exact number of Egyptians in Gaza is unknown, it is estimated at several thousand.

Meanwhile, Israeli decision-makers, intellectuals, the media and research centres are also closely following the presidential race in Egypt. Amnon Abramovich, a senior commentator on Israel’s Channel 2 television, described presidential elections in Egypt as a historic event, and quoted senior sources in the army and security apparatus in Tel Aviv as saying that the outcome of Egypt’s presidential race could entirely change the course of events in — and history of — the region.

Israel Radio reported that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu issued strict orders to cabinet ministers and senior army commanders not to comment on Egyptian presidential candidates, out of concern that it is construed that Israel prefers one candidate over another. Nonetheless, many Israeli officials welcomed Moussa’s comments that he does not view Israel as Egypt’s enemy.

Israeli President Shimon Peres described Moussa’s comments as “reassuring and responsible”. Israel’s Channel 1 television reported that strategic decision-making circles and research centres in Israel’s military intelligence apparatus and Mossad are preparing possible scenarios for the future of relations with Egypt after the presidential elections, depending on who the winner will be.

Israel’s Channel 10 television reported that Netanyahu and his foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, opened secret talks with senior US officials about the future of relations with Egypt, and the repercussions on the stability of the region. Lieberman had made headlines when he declared that Egypt after Mubarak poses a threat to Israel’s “national security” that far exceeds that of Iran’s nuclear programme.

Strategic and economic experts in Tel Aviv believe that dealing with Egypt as an enemy would take a hefty toll on Israel’s economy because it would mean more spending on security at the expense of civilian projects. Israeli commentators also agree that Tel Aviv’s ability to attack Palestinians after the Egyptian revolution and Mubarak’s ouster has greatly diminished.
(full text).

Link: Egypt: Ordinary budget.

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