Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


From Cairo to Jerusalem

What unrest and elections to the south could mean to the north

Print Email
Tahrir Square in Cairo yesterday.(Odd AndersenAFP/Getty Images)

As we wake up in the United States, they are going to the polls in Egypt for the first parliamentary elections since the reign of President Hosni Mubarak. At times fatal protests rocked Cairo and elsewhere over the past several days (the prominent Egyptian-American columnist Mona Eltahawy was arrested, treated brutally, and sexually abused, she said) as it became clear that, regardless of the elections’ outcome, the ruling military council—meet the new boss, same as the old boss?—does not intend to relinquish power. So, both today’s nominal results—expected to be a victory for Islamist movements, chiefly the Muslim Brotherhood—and the likely irrelevance of those results could increase an unstable situation in the most populous Arab country and thereby fulfill the prophecies of those in Israel and the United States who feared the worst following Mubarak’s ouster. (Cut to: the natural gas pipeline in the Sinai being sabotaged for the ninth time this year.)

“Israel and Egypt have an interest to preserve peace and stability,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu in response. He added that “nothing would be better for prosperity, for security, for peace,” than for Egypt to be democratic. Which is of course dubious! A democratic Egypt is very likely an Egypt run by the Brotherhood—indeed, the unrest of recent days has if anything strengthened the hand of the country’s oldest and most organized political party. Already, the Brotherhood has been able to throw its newfound weight around: through Egypt and Jordan (whose monarch is scared of his own revolt), it has blocked the demolition of a bridge in the Old City of Jerusalem. The point isn’t whether you agree that the bridge should not be removed (some allege the project is intended to ease settlers’ access to the Temple Mount). It’s that already popular Islamist movements in the Arab world have been able to affect Israeli policy.

Regionally, this has wider implications. The New York Times’ indefatigable Anthony Shadid published an essay yesterday taking stock of the region and noting that the Islamist complication, among others, means that the Arab Spring, which at various times over the past year has seemed so neatly tied up, is going to go through several more messy stages yet. Elections held Friday in Morocco saw the Islamist Justice and Development (yes, that is also the name of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s party) win the plurality of parliamentary seats. In Egypt, there are a number of ways this could all play out. The military council offered to immediately form a new government with one ex-prime minister; protesters rejected this and instead proposed a National Salvation Government to be helmed by Mohammed ElBaradei, the once and perhaps future presidential candidate.

Notably, the National Salvation suggestion was put forth by a coalition of Islamist and secular protesters, a sign that Egypt could at the least be moving toward a Turkey-style model of official but comparatively moderate and tolerant Islamism. (Still not great for Israel, if Turkey is any indication, but given that the alternative is something closer to the government of Gaza … .) Another promising notion is the truism that the surest way for an ideological movement to lose support is for it to gain power and be summarily introduced to the compromises that power necessitates. So far, Egypt’s Brotherhood has maintained a deliberate ambiguity about what exactly their vision of politically realized Islamism is—they know the second they are forced to articulate it, many of their supporters will disagree. Which is a good reminder of why democracy is indeed the worst form of government except for all the others.

Egypt’s Turmoil Shadows First Post-Mubarak Vote [NYT]
Analysis: Islamists Strong Ahead of Egypt Poll [Reuters/JPost]
Egypt’s Activists Unite Against Military [WSJ]
Post-Uprising, a New Battle [NYT]
Netanyahu Delays Demolition of Jerusalem Bridge Over Egypt, Jordan Warning [Haaretz]
Political Islam at a Crossroads [LAT]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

From change in Cairo to carving up the occupied territories. Well at least some things stay the same.,7340,L-4153319,00.html


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

From Cairo to Jerusalem

What unrest and elections to the south could mean to the north

More on Tablet:

The Kindergarten Teacher Who Won Cannes

By Vladislav Davidzon — Hungarian actor Géza Röhrig stars in Auschwitz drama Son of Saul