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Egypt

The Spectacular Collapse Of Morsi And The Muslim Brotherhood

O Tahrir Square, where art thou?
O Tahrir Square, where art thou?
Sonja Zekri

CAIRO - Several million demonstrators add up to a considerable force that no elected leader can ignore.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have a lot more people demonstrating against them than ever took the streets against former president Hosni Mubarak.

And still, given the off-with-their-heads rhetoric on both sides, the latest protests were overall more peaceful than others in recent months and years. Not a bloodbath; more like a street festival. No bread riots; more a revolt of a strangled middle class. Nor was Islam the central object of attention here, but rather a paranoid secret organization that wants to lock a tolerant 7,000-year-old culture into a prison of sanctimonious doctrine.

Making a country into a laboratory to conduct pedagogic experiments requires either a lot of time, or means applying a great deal of pressure.

It goes without saying that revolts against elected presidents are not a recommended course of action in parliamentary democracies. But it's an all-too-common scenario for post-revolutionary, post-authoritarian transitional systems: Expectations are huge, the economy beleaguered, institutions weak, the old regime is destructive, and new politicians lack experience. So taking to the streets may be about the only option left.

Nobody knows who will be governing Egypt by the end of this week. Morsi? A transition president? The army? The attacks on the grandiose Muslim Brotherhood headquarters -- a symbol of their ambitious claims to power -- and with them, the first casualties in the upheavals, could presage an escalation of violence.

Crash landing

But there is also a certainty: the Muslim Brotherhood that a year ago looked just about unbeatable -- Morsi winning the election seemed back then like the crowning touch for Islamist victory -- has failed spectacularly.

The Brotherhood, the mother organization of so many Islamist groups across the Muslim world, has become the ballast for religious groups in the whole region. But its show of piety couldn’t mask the political shortcomings.

Many conservative Egyptians see this piety as an attempt at monopolizing faith itself. Muslim brothers are not only not the better politicians, they’re not even the better Muslims. And that perception spread amongst Egypt’s people – this too is the sort of thing typical of transitional systems – with lightning speed.

If the Muslim Brotherhood were smart, it would step back right now, read a few manuals about inclusion, and try again in a couple of years’ time. Part of the Egyptian population prefers religious parties, and this group of voters needs an offer corresponding to their concerns – otherwise it will fall prey to radicals.

If the opposition were smart, it would give the Muslim Brotherhood the chance to fulfill that role for Egyptians. But mainly: it would not interpret the millions who are anti-Morsi as potential for helping that catastrophic old men’s club win power.

What would make most sense of all is for Egypt’s politicians to stop seeing their country as someone's personal trophy.

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Geopolitics

Utter Pessimism, What Israelis And Palestinians Share In Common

Right now, according to a joint survey of Israelis and Palestinians, hopes for a peaceful solution of coexistence simply don't exist. The recent spate of violence is confirmation of the deepest kind of pessimism on both sides for any solution other than domination of the other.

An old Palestinian protester waves Palestinian flag while he confronts the Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus.

A Palestinian protester confronts Israeli soldiers during the demonstration against Israeli settlements in the West Bank village of Beit Dajan on Jan. 6.

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — Just before the latest outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, a survey of public opinion among the two peoples provided a key to understanding the current situation unfolding before our eyes.

It was a joint study, entitled "Palestinian-Israeli Pulse", carried out by two research centers, one Israeli, the other Palestinian, which for years have been regularly asking the same questions to both sides.

The result is disastrous: not only is the support for the two-state solution — Israel and Palestine side by side — at its lowest point in two decades, but there is now a significant share of opinion on both sides that favors a "non-democratic" solution, i.e., a single state controlled by either the Israelis or Palestinians.

This captures the absolute sense of pessimism commonly felt regarding the chances of the two-state option ever being realized, which currently appears to be our grim reality today. But the results are also an expression of the growing acceptance on both sides that it is inconceivable for either state to live without dominating the other — and therefore impossible to live in peace.

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