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What will Trump mean for US ties with Israel’s peaceful Arab neighbors?

Oren Kessler
11th January 2017 - Quoted by Sean Savage - JNS.org

The incoming Donald Trump presidency likely means a sharp break from President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. For Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel and two of the most reliable U.S. allies in the Middle East, the Trump administration will provide new opportunities and challenges going forward on issues such as Islamic extremism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the status of Jerusalem.

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Oren Kessler, an expert on Egypt and deputy director for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank, said that despite Trump’s controversial statements on Muslim immigration to the U.S., he is surprisingly popular in Egypt, mainly due to the unpopularity of Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Clinton is seen [in Egypt] as a key player in an Obama administration that was too quick to abandon [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak, a longtime [U.S.] ally, when protests broke out against him in early 2011,” Kessler told JNS.org.

Kessler added that the Obama administration’s reputation in Egypt was also damaged by its “cozy ties” with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian Islamist political movement that is now designated as a terrorist organization in its home country. Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, has called the Muslim Brotherhood “the most dangerous group promoting the totalitarian and Islamist supremacist doctrine of sharia” law, according to the Washington Times.

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“Many Egyptians also view the [Obama] administration as having been too harsh in responding to the military’s removal of the Brotherhood, and subsequent crackdown, a response that included withholding some [U.S.] military aid and Apache helicopters at a time that an insurgency was raging at full flame in the Sinai,” Kessler said.

Adel Guindy—the former president of Coptic Solidarity, a U.S.-based human rights organization that promotes equality for Coptic Christians in Egypt—echoed Kessler’s assessment, arguing that much of the perception on Trump’s reputation in Egypt has been shaped by the “anti-Trump” American media, but that Clinton and Obama have far worse reputations in the Arab country.

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FDD’s Kessler told JNS.org that he found Egypt’s sponsorship of the U.N. resolution “extremely bizarre” given the increasingly warm Israeli-Egyptian relations.

“Ties between Egypt and Israel are closer than ever before, as the Israelis provide crucial assistance to Egypt in securing the Sinai Peninsula and the border with Gaza. Diplomatically, Israel and its friends have encouraged Washington to be more invested in the relationship with Egypt,” Kessler said.

Kessler said the “only scenario” that makes sense to him is that “Egypt believed—or perhaps was told—that Washington wouldn’t wield its usual veto against anti-Israel Security Council resolutions, thereby allowing Cairo to push through this resolution and portray itself at home and around the Arab world as the champions of the Palestinians.”

Although Egypt’s involvement with the U.N. resolution may have been a setback for Egyptian-Israeli relations, many believe trilateral Israel-Egypt-U.S. ties will improve under Trump.

“Middle East analysts widely believe that the coming of the Trump era would mean that their relationship would grow even stronger, forming a sort of Washington-Cairo-Jerusalem alliance,” Kessler said.

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Tags

egypt, israel, un