By Barry Rubin
Something both positive and revealing has just happened and while it undermines one prediction of mine it reinforces another. I’m delighted to see it.
I predicted that since Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is a radical, Islamist group that wants to wipe Israel off the map and the ruling Hamas group in the Gaza Strip is part of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as also being a radical Islamist group and wants to wipe Israel off the map that the Egyptian regime would cooperate with Hamas in fomenting terrorism against Israel by facilitating the flow of arms, money and terrorists to the Gaza Strip. for that purpose.
In fact, though, it has now become clear that the Brotherhood regime is stopping weapons and other things from entering the Gaza Strip. (As did its predecessor, the Mubarak regime.)
But why, given that my above-explained chain of reasoning is true, is this happening?
The answer lies in another point I’ve made: That many revolutionary Islamists are over-confident (partly in the face of a weak United States; partly due to their ideology that puts the deity, literally, on their side, and partly because of the big gains they are making throughout the region and even the world.
These groups also bicker and even fight among themselves, most notably but not exclusively due to Sunni-Shia conflicts. So radical Islamist groups overreach and thus suffer self-inflicted defeats.
This is what’s happening with Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood’s reasons are is not benign. It seeks to consolidate control over a highly populated country and fundamentally transform it into a Sharia state under the Brotherhood’s perpetual rule. Hamas, however, by its nature, cannot accept Islamism in one country (to paraphrase Stalin). [Note below] Hamas isn’t interested in building up a Sharia state in the Gaza Strip as its main goal because it seeks to conquer Israel and the West Bank.
The reason, then, why the Brotherhood is stopping more aid or encouragement to Hamas is that the Egyptian regime doesn’t want a war or even a high level of conflict now. A second reason is simply that Hamas has become entangled with smaller radical Islamist groups that are waging armed struggle against Egypt, seek to overthrow the Egyptian government, and stage (without Egyptian permission) attacks against Israel across the Egypt-Israel border.
Here’s the key statement from Issam al-Haddad, a senior Brotherhood official and a presidential advisor on foreign policy, that the flow of weapons to Hamas (and then back into the Sinai terrorists) will undermine stability in the Sinai Peninsula.
Another factor cited is the need to fulfill Egypt’s obligation under the ceasefire agreement it helped broker between Israel and Hamas. U.S. pressure to keep this pledge was an incentive. This is to the credit of the Obama Administration.
Yet one wonders how cooperative the regime would be if Hamas had not antagonized it by doing more to stabilize Egypt than it did Israel. I’m not saying Hamas did this on purpose but merely that the small, even more radical groups it uses as fronts to strike against Israel also do other things. And one further wonders what would happen if Hamas clamped down on its junior partners and protected Egypt from Gaza-based destabilization.
Whatever the balance of reasons, this greatly reduces the threat to Israel from Hamas for the coming months or even years. At the same time, the Syrian civil war and the growing hatred by the rebels against Hizballah, which supports the dictatorship, is also undermining Israel’s main enemy to the north. With Iran still not having nuclear weapons that means Israel’s security situation is in excellent shape.
Another factor cited is U.S. pressure. Presumably this is in connection with the ceasefire agreement in which Egypt promised to shut down the arms’ flow. This is to the credit of the Obama Administration. (Of course, the Brotherhood is compliant because that helps it gobble up Egypt faster and easier, not to mention with Westerns financial subsidies.
But one must also note that things could change in future, especially with the Brotherhood confident once it has Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Syria. Remember that the nationalist regime went through a parallel cycle. Gamal Abdel Nasser’s movement seized control over Egypt in 1952 and took 15 years to get around to seeking confrontation with Israel, though within four years such a confrontation seemed possible.
For the time being, however, the situation looks better.
Note: The phrase “Communism in one country” meant that having Communism in one country–the Soviet Union–was enough for Communists and they would not try to spread revolution further. Communsts were supposed to reject this idea. The meaning here is that Hamas would be happy enough to run the Gaza Strip that it wouldn’t be aggressive or subversive to spread its rule further. I’m saying that isn’t true. The same applies for the Muslim Brotherhood generally. How much patience or risk-taking they employ is another matter.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Thirteen of his books can be read and downloaded for free at the website of the GLORIA Center including The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East and The Truth About Syria. His blog is Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.