Likely Egyptian presidential contender Amr Moussa criticized the amenable Israel policy of the Hosni Mubarak regime that was toppled in a popular uprising in February, claiming that his country’s foreign policy should “reflect the consensus of the people” in the future.
The septuagenarian chairman of the Arab League told The Wall Street Journal this week that the former regime’s attempts to mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had “led nowhere” and that if Egypt is to remain a friend of Israel, “Israel has to be a friend, too.”
Since Mubarak was removed from office, Egypt’s military interim government announced plans to normalize relations with Iran and permanently open the border with the blockaded Gaza Strip.
The moves are part of an effort to realign Egypt’s standing in the Middle East where its previous closeness to the West is deeply unpopular. Moussa said that his country had to be “part and parcel with those who influence the current circumstances in the region or in the world,” adding that Egypt is now “outside this circle” because of Mubarak’s “own policy.”
Immediately after the power shift in Egypt, Daniel DePetris predicted that its foreign policy would change. Whereas Mubarak cooperated and advanced virtually every American objective in the Middle East without compliant, including the containment of Iran and the closing of the Egyptian-Gaza border in order to drain Hamas of its weapons caches, the West will find it “more difficult,” he forecast, “to convince a new Egyptian government to continue those policies.”
Although few analysts believe that the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement is actually in jeopardy, Moussa owes much of his popularity to his trenchant criticism of Israel and the United States while he was foreign minister in the 1990s. A recent poll found that 89 percent of Egyptians had a favorable impression of Moussa. He comes from a secular background and supports Egypt’s market economy and openness to international trade but warned that Islamists would likely become the dominant faction in parliament after elections this September.
In a referendum last month, Egyptians overwhelmingly voted for rapid parliamentary and presidential elections, underscoring the strength of established political organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood and remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party which both urged a “yes” vote. Executive power was also limited under a series of constitutional reforms that were approved by the populace.
Opposition members were skeptical however, noting that they lacked time to form effective political organizations with elections mere months away. Most “no” votes emerged from Cairo and Alexandria whereas support flowed in heavily from the provinces. Moussa, along with Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, called on people to veto the proposed constitutional changes at the time because they had to be voted up or down in a bloc.