How Cutting Aid to Egypt Puts Israel at Risk
Policy + Politics

How Cutting Aid to Egypt Puts Israel at Risk

REUTERS/Bezuki Muhammed

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the White House’s decision to scale back aid to Egypt would have little impact on the country overall. But a key U.S. ally in the Middle East has warned that the United States should not cut back so much military aid that the nation’s interim government, which is now firmly in control of the country,  abandons its commitment to peace in the region.

Egypt’s interim government is right now involved in a bloody fight with heavily-armed al Qaeda-linked insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula.


Gilad Erdan, the minister responsible for Israel’s civil defense, said that he was “disturbed” by the American decision to cut back on aid. He added, “I hope this decision by the United States will not have an effect” on the Camp David Accords, the treaty that made peace between Israel and Egypt.

The only reason the United States has backed Egypt for as long as it has is to pay for peace with Israel. The Camp David Accords, signed between Israel and Egypt in 1978 after 13 days of negotiations with President Jimmy Carter, first established Washington’s aid to Cairo.

But with U.S. aid now being scaled back significantly, Washington has removed the carrot from the stick. So the rhetoric coming out of Cairo in response to the aid cut is even more troubling.

“The decision was wrong in terms of content and time. It raises serious questions about U.S. readiness to provide stable strategic support to Egyptian security programs amid threats and terrorism challenges it has been facing," a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Badr Abdel Atty, said in a statement.

The decision to suspend aid comes as the Egyptian military is gaining a hold on power it's unlikely to relinquish. New reports indicate civilians are being targeted indiscriminately. Students are protesting at Egyptian universities, setting the stage for more violence. Any semblance of democracy is quickly disappearing.

The Egyptian military claims that its recent actions are an attempt to root out Muslim Brotherhood members who seek to undermine the government. But new reports indicate the military is waging a violent campaign across the northern Sinai Peninsula, attacking civilians as well as government opponents.

Estimates are that more than 50 civilians have already been killed, according to reports.

“I was one of those that supported June 30,” Judge Abdel Hadi of the Sawarka tribe told Slate, a reference to the protests that called for Morsi’s ouster. “I had thought the army would be more professional in its operation and target only those attacking it, but it isn’t. This campaign is excessive.”

The north Sinai operation is the latest in a series of brutal crackdown attempts undertaken by the Egyptian military since the coup. It has raided towns and villages connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in an attempt to silence detractors. More than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been killed in the campaign.

The campaign has drawn little public criticism, however. In fact, just the opposite has occurred. Egyptians have rallied behind Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man behind the coup that removed Morsi – and there are growing calls for him to run for president.

“Sisi is a great man. He deserves to be president," Abu Yasser, a Sisi supporter, said recently at a rally for the military leader. “Whoever loves the Egyptian army, come here, he added. [mm1] 

That would return Egypt to the kind of government it had before the Arab Spring. For years it was stable, but the Mubarak regime committed numerous human rights abuses. Sisi’s fate, and the future of Egypt, has yet to be determined. But like Mubarak and with the backing of the military, he’ll be able to rule with an iron fist.