I had not imagined that the American president would take a trip to the Middle East without including Egypt in his itinerary. Bearing in mind that the Egyptian president’s visit — scheduled for the beginning of this year — has been canceled, it is clear beyond reasonable doubt that Egypt’s international status has declined even further in the present, a decline we Egyptians have complained about in the past.
Egypt is, and will remain, an effective regional power that cannot be ignored on any matter concerning the Middle East. Unfortunately, however, this power’s role can be suspended if it is not managed well.
Mubarak’s regime did not completely solidify this role. Rather, in keeping with U.S. policy ensuring Israel’s security, Egypt was restricted to the narrow task of serving as mediator between Israel and Hamas. Recently, the remnants of Egypt’s Arab policy — which defined Egypt’s strong influence in the eras of Nasser and Sadat — have vanished, and the country has taken an adverse turn.
As in the Mubarak era, the nature of Egypt’s role in the region has changed. The case of the Palestinian issue, which has moved from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the General Intelligence Service, demonstrates that Egypt’s top priority is security.
Unfortunately, coming to power altered the Muslim Brotherhood’s positions regarding continued negotiations on the Palestinian issue; demands to cancel the Camp David agreement; the call for jihad and for millions to march on Jerusalem. Rising to power led the Brotherhood to adopt positions more consistent with U.S. policy, which calls for taking Israeli security into consideration. This is evident in the events that took place in Gaza at the end of last year. During the course of these events, the Brotherhood achieved for Israel what the Mubarak regime did not.
Therefore, the U.S. administration no longer has a problem with Egypt that requires a presidential visit to solve. However, Obama did have such a problem with Israel. It is known that there have been many tense moments in relations between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the American president. This is particularly true on the subject of Iran and the issue of settlements, which have caused Obama domestic problems with the Jewish lobby in the U.S.
In addition, Obama has other domestic problems related to Egypt. It is clear from growing opposition in Congress and public opinion reflected in the press that many Americans are against the U.S. administration’s support for the Brotherhood regime in Egypt, which they view as not much different from the previous authoritarian and autocratic regime. However, while mitigating domestic problems concerning Israel required a visit, relieving those concerning Egypt required avoiding one.