News of Egypt’s first ‘democratically elected’ president, Mohammed Mursi, has dominated global headlines for much of the past two days. Mursi’s stance on Israel and Palestine has featured prominently in stories of the election. How will the election of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mursi change the status quo?According to Bloomberg News, his focus as president would be in uniting the nation. Mursi vowed that Egypt would respect the terms of its existing international and bilateral pacts. We should not expect an Islamist revolution akin to Iran 1979 and, despite the claims of many poorly informed American pundits and politicians, Egypt does not now present a military threat to Israel.
However, Egypt does represent at least the possibility for progress in the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements continued unabated for over a decade. The United States has proven unwilling to lift a finger on the issue and pre-revolutionary Egypt lacked the ideological conviction to take a stand.
President-elect Mursi has already called for a formalization of Palestinian rights in accordance with international law and for re-visiting the various Camp David summits held between Arab leaders and Israel, reports Ahlul Bayt News Agency. Mursi stressed the importance of returning to negotiations with Israel as equal partners in a post-election interview with FNA.
Many in Israel, and in the pro-Israel political environment of the United States, are worried that the election of an Islamist candidate in Egypt threatens stability in the region. War between Egypt and Israel is very unlikely given Israeli’s superior military and technological strength.
The Egyptian government is already a seasoned third-party broker of truces and ceasefire agreements between Hamas militants and the Israeli military. Hamas joined other Palestinian Islamist groups in Gaza in celebrating Mursi’s victory, according to al-Resalah. The Hamas leadership believes that a Mursi presidency will eventually lead to formal recognition of the Palestinian state, reports Ma’an News Agency.
President Mahmoud Abbas, of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, has also congratulated Mohammed Mursi and the Egyptian people on the results of the election.
Cairo has no interest in going to war with Israel – either for the purposes of liberating Palestine, or for wiping the Jewish state from the map – and Egypt has been one of the United States’ strongest regional allies for decades. These facts are unlikely to change, but if Egypt’s new leadership is truly dedicated to assisting Palestine in its struggle for international recognition and eventual freedom from occupation there may be hope for reform.