The millions of Egyptians who filled the streets of Egypt Sunday demanding the resignation of President Mohammad Morsi is a “very positive thing for people in the region,” according to Shimrit Meir, an analyst of Arabic media with The Israel Project.
“The Israeli perspective is to be quiet and do nothing – to wait and see and not interfere,” she said in a conference call Monday morning from Jerusalem. “They say this is an internal Egyptian issue and we do not interfere … But other voices paint a different picture.”
The millions who demonstrated represented a cross-section of the Egyptian population and far outnumbered Morsi loyalists. They have called on Morsi to resign by Tuesday evening and have threatened to surround his presidential palace if he doesn’t. Some fear a civil war erupting, but the Egyptian army said it would step in if the turmoil is not resolved by Wednesday.
“They are a game changer,” Meir said. “Some say they want the army to take over the country until a legitimate president is elected. The army is not like that. It is like the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] in Israel. It enjoys a great deal of legitimacy and support and even love of the people. It is seen as relatively balanced, and both sides want the army on their side. The situation is extremely tense and people are waiting to see the reaction of the Moslem Brotherhood.”
Meir, in a call arranged by the Israel Project, said she personally believes the anti-Morsi demonstration “is a very positive development. I know there are some who will say that Israel was able to achieve some kind of coexistence and understanding with the [Morsi’s] Moslem Brotherhood — that at the end of the day it worked to stop attacks against us [Israel] launched from the Sinai. But to achieve that, we had to use U.S. mediation and sometimes threaten the use of force. It was a very delicate situation. If you accept the rule that Israel would be better if its neighbors were in a better position, then the situation is good for Israel.”
She pointed out that the Morsi “regime would not take a phone call from the prime minister of Israel. And remember, Morsi spent a lot of time in his youth in anti-Zionist activities — and the pan-Arabic movement is extreme and hateful. Morsi has a close relationship with many in Hamas, and it is not a coincidence that people in Egypt are going against Hamas because they suspect people in the Moslem Brotherhood of helping Hamas stay in power.”
The demonstrations came just one year after the Islamic leader was elected president in the country’s first democratic election. He won by capturing 52 percent of the vote to the 48 percent won by his opponent, the non-Islamist Ahmed Shafiq, a retired general and former prime minister under Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak.
But almost since the election, Morsi has made misstep after misstep and his approval rating has now plunged to just 28 percent.
“So you have to conclude the Moslem Brotherhood is not good for Israel … and Egypt is too important to sacrifice. Other countries look at Egypt and draw conclusions. A victory of the Moslem Brotherhood could be very dangerous and have a negative affect on the Palestinians by encouraging the wrong forces in the Palestinian political system.”
As of Monday morning, 16 people had been killed since the demonstrations started Friday, including a 21-year-old American Jewish college student from Chevy Chase, Md., who was stabbed to death while photographing fighting between supporters and opponents of Morsi in Alexandria Friday. Andrew Driscoll Pochter was identified as a student at Kenyon College in Ohio and was in Egypt working as an intern for AMIDEAST, a nonprofit group devoted to promoting education in the Middle East and North Africa. He was reportedly there to teach English to children and to improve his Arabic.