The Daily Need

What Mubarak’s ouster means for the Arab world and the Middle East peace process

A screen capture of television coverage from Egypt on Al Jazeera today. Photo: Prachatai/Flickr

As Egyptian expats and their supporters across the Arab world celebrated the news of Hosni Mubarak’s ouster Friday, rumors began to spread about how the regime change might affect Middle East politics,  including the fragile Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, said in a telephone interview that Palestinian activists and Islamists in neighboring countries had already begun to speculate that a new Egyptian government might permanently open the Rafah crossing at the border between Gaza and Egypt.

The border crossing has been closed since Hamas won elections in Gaza in 2007. It was opened briefly after the war in Gaza in 2008 and the deadly flotilla raid last year but closed again two weeks ago after turmoil broke out in Egypt. The crossing is a sensitive issue for Israel, which has accused Hamas of smuggling weapons into Gaza to mount attacks on Israelis.

“I think they will allow some movement, but I don’t think it’s going to be totally open borders,” Kuttab said of the Rafah crossing. “I think they will be careful. The army is still in charge, and the army is still in general support of the peace agreement” with Israel.

Kuttab speculated that the establishment of a democratic government in Egypt might also undermine Israel’s efforts to maintain its military dominance in the region — for example, keeping its nuclear program secret — on the grounds that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

“I think its going to be very difficult for Israel to request military superiority in the Middle East because of the fact that they are a democracy,” Kuttab said. “If we have democratic government in Egypt, I think it will be very hard for Israel to insist on having military superiority.”

Perhaps the most notable geopolitical implication of the uprising in Egypt, Kuttab said, is that Egyptians will simply become more concerned with their own economy and their own domestic political affairs than with external issues such as the peace process. “Egyptians are going to be taking a much more inward look now than an external look,” Kuttab said. “Their economy and their internal governance is going to occupy a lot more space in terms of their interests.”

For example, Egypt has historically played the role of mediator in reconciliation talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Now, those talks may have to continue without Egypt’s help as an impartial broker. “Omar Suleiman was the one brokering all that,” Kuttab said, referring to Mubarak’s former vice-president and right-hand man, “and I think he’s going to be out of a job.”

 
SUGGESTED STORIES
  • thumb
    Egypt in transition
    Although it is unclear what authority Mohammed Morsi will have, his win is considered a huge victory for the Muslim Brotherhood. Watch our report from earlier this year, when correspondent Mona Iskander talked to regular Egyptians about their fears, hopes and dreams for their country's future.
  • thumb
    Clinton visits Burma
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a historic visit to Burma this week, recognizing the country's incremental reforms and setting the stage for an end to the country's long period of isolation.
  • thumb
    Can democracy thrive in Egypt?
    Egyptians on Monday began the lengthy process of choosing their first civilian government since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. But it remained unclear whether the military would give up power.

Comments

  • Guest 5

    It is true I believe Suleiman will soon be out of a job. I also believe Egypts people will want to maintain the Peace treaty with Israel. Also they will not support arms shipments to Gaza,but will open the gates to all other kinds of needed supplies to a people they perceive as persecuted as Palestinians and muslims with rights and not as a Terrorist group called Hamas.
    I really do need to understand any links or relationships of Hamas and Hizbollah which exist I hear, but am unsure if there are any links between the Muslim brotherhood and Hamas or Hizbollah. This is important.
    However, in a best case scenario I believe as well that Egypts new democratic government combined with Lebanon and Jordan ( without US interference ) can bring about an agreement and a 2 state solution for Israel and Palestine, with Israel having to concede a lot more than it does now in the interests of peace and security.
    Regards.
    Guest 5