A Very Important Poll: Egyptians Favor Peace with Israel
Today, the Wall Street Journal published a poll conducted by the International Peace Institute measuring Egyptians’ political leanings on a number of issues.
The results are significant, and signal that Egypt – despite its current fluidity – may be the country best positioned to bring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before September (and the prospects of a unilateral declaration of statehood by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the U.N.).
The Poll – On Peace With Israel
Regarding how Egyptians view continuing a peace accord with Israel, we have this from Haaretz:
A poll conducted by The International Peace Institute published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday shows that a majority of Egyptians would like to see a continuation of the peace treaty with Israel.”Maintaining and advancing peace with Israel has far wider appeal than a rupture in relations,” reads the report on the poll, citing 60 percent of those polled as supporting maintaining the peace treaty with Israel.
That a strong majority of Egyptians favor continued peace with Israel is significant for several reasons:
1. Israeli politicians will have less success arguing that a post-Mubarak Egypt cannot be a trusted potential broker in peace negotiations, particularly if the country continues its march toward true, democratic rule. This is important because…
2. Currently, Mahmoud Abbas and the PA are relying heavily on Egyptian assistance with regard to solving its own internal conflict with Hamas. PA officials have met with Egyptian military officers recently, and Abbas is speaking with upper-level figures in the Egyptian military, seeking counsel on how to end the internal divide between Hamas and the PA. Such Egyptian intervention in its current reconciliation efforts indicates that the Palestinian side would trust this “new” Egypt to be a broker with regard to the I/P conflict as well.
3. Given the above two points, and given that the majority of Egyptians desire that relations with Israel remain normalized, Egyptian leaders are not only in a position to be an effective broker, but they will have domestic political pressures to do so. For not only does the poll reveal that a majority of Egyptians want peace with Israel, but that they want to see a state for the Palestinians as well.
The Poll – On Becoming an Islamic State
The other significant result that came out of this recent poll is the following, again from Haaretz:
The poll also addressed another source of concern for many in the region, the possibility that an Islamist-leaning government could cause potential uprisings against surrounding secular governments.The poll, however, produced unexpected results, with 38 percent of Egyptians polled saying they favored the Muslim Brotherhood, while nearly 50 percent prefer the secular Wafd Party led by Egypt’s former foreign minister, Amr Moussa.
Israeli officials (among others) have been concerned that Egypt, post-Mubarak, could turn into a radical, Islamic state run by the Muslim Brotherhood. This despite clear evidence to the contrary vis-a-vis Egypt’s large secular social component.
What this poll confirms is that Egypt will not, in fact, become a country dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, but rather a secular, democratic state with an expected, natural Islamic character. Such a country is a far cry from the radical state Israeli officials have been warning about.
Bottom line: this recent poll from International Peace Institute goes a long way toward countering Israeli fears about the nature of this new, Egyptian state being formed.
It also goes a long way toward showing that a democratic Egypt will be well positioned to serve as an influential broker in the I/P conflict.
Whether or not the U.S. or its allies, France, Britain and Germany, will recognize this, and push for Egypt to be included as a serious, multilateral partner in future I/P negotiations, remains to be seen.