The dramatic events of July 3, which saw the unseating of Egypt’s first and only democratically-elected government by a military coup stimulated by enormous popular demonstrations, has created a huge question mark as to the future governance of the Arab world’s largest and most important country. The ramifications and repercussions will be playing out for months and years, whatever steps are taken in the next days and weeks. However, two parties acutely affected by these events are watching with particular concern. Israel is assumed to have gained by Morsi’s deposition and Hamas to have lost. However, I suggest that the situation, insofar as it can be foreseen, has the potential to change the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and that it should be recognized as an opening for American diplomacy.
Immediately before the coup I presented a paper in which I contended that the events of the current “Arab Awakening” had destabilized the Middle East but, paradoxically, were serving to stabilize the Hamas-Israel relationship. Hamas’s exit from its long-term alliance with Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria, due largely to its opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s present course of slaughter, had facilitated its entry into the Sunni (anti-Shi`a, Iran, and Syria) bloc led by Saudi Arabia and Qatar and supported, to various degrees and in various ways, by Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, and the Gulf states. For most purposes, the interests of this Sunni axis parallel the interests of the United States and western Europe, though the former would presumably be horrified to think of itself as implicitly on the side of Hamas.
My paper argued that both Hamas and Israel were quietly satisfied by the current situation and that neither had any reason to endanger it. Hamas was reportedly trying exceedingly hard to prevent unauthorized rocket attacks on Israel, and Israel, having loosened its blockade over the last two years, was much less threatened by Hamas’s control of Gaza. Moreover, unlike what would be the case with a formal agreement, both were free to denounce each other to their hearts’ content while securing their positions. Israel would continue to build settlements and Hamas would consolidate its control of Gaza.
Since the policies of Iran’s and Syria’s embattled governments have no reason to change in the wake of the recent Egyptian events, the main outlines of the Sunni axis can be expected to remain in place, that is, support for the Syrian rebels and opposition to Iran.
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