Pakistanis from Baluchistan have replaced Egyptians who once worked in Libya and oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, adding millions to the 12 percent unemployed among Egypt’s 85 million.
The Egyptian revolution has led to economic bankruptcy, says Egypt’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a former U.N. secretary-general. Factories are closed and Egyptian workers are no longer wanted abroad, he lamented.
Sub-Saharan Africans and Pakistanis from Baluchistan have replaced Egyptians who once worked in Libya and oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, adding millions to the 12 percent unemployed among Egypt’s 85 million.
Mr. Boutros-Ghali, a Coptic Christian, also says Egypt hasn’t found a leader who could benefit from last year’s revolution. But that’s not quite the way the much-feared Muslim Brotherhood sees it.
After lulling Egypt’s millions into a false sense of security by pledging they weren’t interested in running anyone for president of Egypt, they have reversed field. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat el-Shater, officially No. 2 in the radical religious order but in reality one of Egypt’s wealthiest men, will be the country’s next president, succeeding the ailing Hosni Mubarak, now confined to a prison hospital.
The Muslim Brotherhood won 49 percent of the seats in a relatively free election, and radical religious Salafists won 25 percent, more than enough to clinch the presidency. But some of the less-radical Muslim Brothers say it’s not a slam dunk. The army is still in charge of the country and its political landscape. Under the Mubarak regime, Mr. Shater was in and out of military prisons, and he knows this could happen again.
Regardless, the Muslim Brotherhood will have the principal voice in drafting a new constitution, which is bound to make it an Islamist document.
At first, the Muslim Brotherhood also said it didn’t want to interfere with Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Now Muslim Brotherhood watchers say that was tactical sleight-of-hand to pacify army brass, heavily dependent on $1.3 billion in U.S. aid annually for its part in keeping the peace with Israel. The military will be on guard against Muslim Brotherhood troublemakers on the Egyptian-Israeli border in Gaza and the Sinai.
Uncertainty on the Israeli-Egyptian border reinforces hard-liners in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition, which is determined not to bite the bullet for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank – or at least not for one that would be truly independent.
One of the most optimistic Arab voices about the chances for a Palestinian state, come hell or high water, has been the moderate voice of one of Jordan’s best-known political figures, now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister and deputy prime minister, now says, and a rapidly growing number of Mideast experts concur, that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in the Sahara for a Palestinian state in the West Bank – now, tomorrow, or anytime soon – and that Israel is now condemned to continue its army occupation of the West Bank for the foreseeable future.
Some 340,000 Israelis live in 120 settlements whose population grows by 5.5 percent a year, almost thrice the rate in Israel. They live under Israeli military protection. They have their own connecting roads that Palestinians aren’t allowed to use. And they control the aquifer water under the West Bank.
Palestinians now claim to be akin to South Africa’s black population under apartheid. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, when he was out of government, said at some future point, the number of settlers in the West Bank will become too great for the Jewish state to extricate itself, and thus Israel will become an “apartheid state,” and “that would be a tragedy for us.”
A civil war next door in Syria also is not conducive to Israeli concessions.
Some Israelis are hoping that a successful air attack on some of Iran’s key nuclear installations will once again elicit the admiration of the world, much as the Six Day War victory did in 1967. But this won’t remove the apartheid stigma in the West Bank. Nor does it take into account Iran’s still formidable, asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities.
• Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor-at-large of The Washington Times and United Press International