Will the real Mohamed Morsi please stand up?

Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, is a man of contradictions.

Unlike most Egyptian leaders, he spent a large part of his life in the West. For seven years he lived in the US, studying and teaching engineering at the University of South California.

But it does not seem that life in one of the most liberal regions in the world rubbed off on him: he is one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s more conservative members.

In 2007, he added two clauses to the movement’s manifesto, disqualifying women and Christians from serving as president and subjecting the president to the Shura, a council of Islamic scholars.

In recent speeches he has repeatedly said that Egypt will respect all its international and regional agreements, a clear signal to the US and Israel that he does not plan to cancel the Camp David peace accords.
He was also quick to deny reports in the Iranian media that he seeks to improve Cairo’s relationship with Tehran, even threatening to sue the Fars News Agency for libel.

But at the same time, he called on Saturday for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Egyptian cleric who was convicted of planning to bomb the World Trade Centre in 1993.

“He certainly has a record as a hardliner,” said one Israeli official who is an expert on Egyptian affairs, “but his actions as president will, for the time being, be dictated by circumstances.”

And the circumstances are that within Egypt, he has to take into consideration the wishes of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which controls the army. Furthermore, his foreign policy will be heavily influenced by the fact that the only thing stopping the economy from going under are the billions in aid from the US and Saudi Arabia.

For now, Israel is hoping that pragmatism will win the day. Both President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have sent Mr Morsi congratulations on his win, expressing their hope that peace will continue to exist between the two nations.

Last updated: 12:23pm, July 5 2012