Mohamed Morsi could have been Israel's worst nightmare, but turned out to be more pragmatic than expected

There were fears the deposed Egyptian president, who died suddenly in a Cairo courtroom on Monday, would have upended peace with Israel

June 17, 2019 19:45

The rise of an Islamist leader in Egypt was for years one of the worst strategic nightmares of the Israeli leadership.

Since the signing of the Camp David accords in 1978, the peace agreement with the largest Arab nation and its most powerful neighbour had become a cornerstone of Israel’s national security.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood had long been implacably opposed to peace with Israel and many in Jerusalem feared that the election of the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi as president in June 2012 would lead to the abrogation of the treaty.

It would be a disaster on an even bigger scale to the loss of Israel’s strategic ally Iran following the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

What followed in the next 12 months of Mr Morsi’s short presidency was a surprising reminder that politicians can, sometimes, be much more pragmatic than anyone expected once they are in office.

The Islamist president did not mention Israel’s name even once in public during his short term — it was almost as if it did not exist.

He did send a letter thanking then-President Shimon Peres for congratulating him on his election but, when word of it got out to the press, denied ever writing it. On all other levels, the “cold peace” continued to function as before.

Not only did Mr Morsi do nothing to cancel the Camp David accords, he did not even remonstrate with Israel when Operation Pillar of Defence in Gaza took place and Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s protégés, were under attack. Instead, he used his contacts with them to broker a speedy ceasefire within a week.

In another positive development from Israel’s perspective, the Morsi government placed itself in the anti-Iran camp, largely due to Iran’s support for the Syrian regime which was at the time decimating Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood. He also gave the Egyptian army full rein to fight the Al Qaeda elements who were wreaking havoc in Sinai just across from Israel’s border.

One important result of the 12 months of the Morsi presidency from Israel’s perspective was that the relationship was handed during this period nearly exclusively to the Egyptian military.

When, in July 2013, Mr Morsi was ousted by the army’s commander Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in a military coup, the relationship with the ultimate power in Egypt was already there.

June 17, 2019 19:45

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