According to the Wall Street Journal, Israel, along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is gung-ho for the Egyptian army’s bloody campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. This, the Journal reports, “has pulled Israel into ever-closer alignment with those Gulf states.” Yes, concurs, the New York Times, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE support “the Egyptian military and sought to push back against Western entreaties that it temper its actions against the Brotherhood and the ousted government of President Mohamed Morsi and his supporters.”
We know the Arab Gulf states support Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s putsch because, as the Times and Journal report, they’ve given or pledged a total of $12 billion to Egypt. There’s no similar evidence that Israel backs the junta—unlike the Gulf states, Jerusalem has given no money. There is no official statement from the government of Israel that it supports the army, nor are there even any sourced quotes to substantiate the rather extraordinary claim that both articles make: Israel and the White House are at odds because while Obama is quietly considering the moral and strategic consequences of being seen to support Sisi’s crackdown, the Jewish state is cheering on a pogrom.
Nonetheless, according to the press, the same dynamic is at work closer to home, where America’s pro-Israel community also wants to see Sisi prevail, regardless of the bloodshed. The Egyptian army has a new best friend in Washington, says a story in Foreign Policy. Even with Washington’s $1.3 billion package coming under “global criticism,” AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—“is actively pushing for continued U.S. aid to Egypt.”
Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast finds the whole matter repulsive. “Israel,” he writes dejectedly, “wants the military to remain in charge.”
To be sure, some former Israeli officials do. Ehud Barak recently said on Fareed Zakaria GPS that, “the whole world should support Sisi.” Similarly, Ex-Mossad chief Danny Yatom argued that, “there is no question that Israel prefers the army to the Muslim Brotherhood and a secular regime over a religious regime.”
However, no one currently serving in the Israeli government is on the record for supporting Sisi against the Brotherhood. And for good reason—Israel, regardless of how it may reckon the morality of its neighbors, is not a superpower but a small state of some 6 million Jews and a million and half Arabs with virtually no ability to tinker with the internal mechanisms of other Middle Eastern countries. Accordingly, Israel keeps its head down, hoping for the best and planning for the worst, because, as one Israeli official told the Times last week: “Anything we say will be held against us. . . . If we condemn the violence we will be accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.” And if they don’t, he explained, “then it looks like Israel is in cahoots with the Egyptian Army.”
Israel has one key interest in Egypt, maintenance of the peace treaty. The treaty, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Face the Nation last month, has “been the cornerstone of peace between us and our neighbors, and it's also been the cornerstone of stability in the Middle East. And our concern, through changing administrations—first Mubarak changed; Morsi came; now Morsi went, and we will see what develops in Egypt.”