MIDEAST MIRROR 18.05.15, SECTION A (ISRAEL)
No majority too small
On the day after Jerusalem Day – the anniversary of the unification of the city in 1967 – Israel Hayom leads its Monday edition with a quote from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech. Speaking at the official ceremony at Ammunition Hill, Netanyahu said that Jerusalem has only ever been the capital of the Jewish people, and so it will remain. 'This is our home and here we will stay,' the prime minister added.
Netanyahu stressed that Israel ensures that Jerusalem will be an open and tolerant city. 'Only under Israeli rule is the freedom of worship in Jerusalem guaranteed for all religions,' he said. 'Believers pray at their holy sites, not despite our control over the city but because of it.'
President Reuven Rivlin, addressing the same gathering, said that his Jerusalem is Zion and Zionism, but the city does not belong only to its history – it belongs first and foremost to its people, and all its residents: secular, religious and ultra-Orthodox, Arabs and Jews.
Earlier in the day, police were deployed in heightened numbers throughout the city to secure the Jerusalem Day festivities. Thousands of youths took part in the traditional flag procession through the city that ended at the Western Wall Plaza. At Safra Square, left-wing activists held a counter demonstration against the flag demonstration. Four police officers were lightly hurt in clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in Jerusalem's Old City. Six Palestinians were detained on suspicion of throwing rocks and assaulting police officers.
Yedioth Ahronoth continues to lead with the protests by residents of the southern town of Dimona, where dozens of people face dismissal from their jobs at the Israel Chemicals factory on the outskirts of the town. According to the report, Netanyahu has decided to establish a ministerial committee to address the issue of employment problems in the south. The team will be headed by the minister of economy and Negev and Galilee Development, Arye Deri. The decision to form the team was made in a meeting attended by Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Economy Minister Deri and Dimona mayor Benny Biton.
Deri, during a visit to Dimona, expressed hope a solution would be found soon to the planned layoffs. According to reports, the Histadrut labor federation and Israel Chemicals were reportedly close to a deal that would end months of labor actions on the planned layoffs. According to reports, the deal would reduce the number of planned dismissals to about 40, instead of more than 100.
Haaretz leads with the first day of work for new ministers in Netanyahu's fourth government, headlining comments from Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev. Specifically, Haaretz focuses on Regev's comment that she 'won’t lend a hand to undermining the image of the State of Israel, Israel Defense Forces soldiers or the state’s heritage as a Jewish and democratic state.'
Meanwhile, Israel Radio reports that – in the first sign that the opposition intends to live up to its promise to make life hard for the new government – Zionist Union MK Omer Bar Lev told fellow members of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the IDF needs to take action against tunnels that Hamas is actively digging into Israeli territory. 'Hamas is digging attack tunnels that breach Israel's sovereignty and action must be taken against them as soon as tonight,' he stressed. 'The defense minister and prime minister's indecisiveness harms deterrence against Hamas and Hizbollah, and abandons the residents of the Gaza Belt to their fates. The weak and fawning policy that typifies Netanyahu encourages Hamas and Hizbollah to tighten the rope against us,' he charged.
Bar Lev added that it is quite possible that one of the tunnels being dug from Gaza into Israel has already crossed into Israeli territory. He said that if he were defense minister, he would take immediate and urgent action against it. 'There is now a moral justification, and even a moral compulsion, to take proactive action against any tunnel that crosses the fence,' he added.
In related news, Army Radio reports that, earlier this month, the Shin Bet, in a joint operation with customs inspectors at the Nitzana crossing, succeeded in preventing an attempt to smuggle diving suits into the Gaza Strip. According to the import documentation, the shipment was to have contained sports clothing, but upon closer inspection by the Nitzana customs officials, the container included 40 diving suits, which require special documentation for import into Gaza, which had not been provided.
Bar Lev's boss – Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog – also lambasted Netanyahu over the dismissal of Communications Ministry Director General Avi Berger. Netanyahu, who is currently the Acting Communications Minister, fired Berger over the phone on Sunday night. Writing on his Facebook page Monday morning, Herzog accused the Prime Minister of taking a page out of the playbook of repressive regimes in the region. 'Is Bibi learning from neighboring countries? An all-out war against the media? Did he fire the Communications Ministry Director over the telephone, so that everyone will know the new boss has arrived? He should not be able to,' Herzog added.
Finally, Army Radio reports that three mortars exploded in northern Israel on Sunday. According to an IDF assessment, the shells landed in Israel because of badly-aimed firing from the civil war inside Syria, and were not intended to hit Israel. The mortars landed in the area of Alonei Bashan, on the Golan Heights. No warning sirens went off, but there are no reports of injuries.
THE HOUSE ON BALFOUR STREET: Writing in Calcalist, Yoel Esteron says that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's fourth government is hugely problematic – because of its leader and because of the people he has chosen to surround himself with.
"Who would have believed that we'd end up missing Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister? Well, maybe that's a bit of a stretch. But compared to Tzipi Hotovely – the new deputy foreign minister, who said that the prime minister promised her she wouldn’t have a boss overseeing her – Lieberman at least understood the importance of Israel's strategic relationship with the United States. Hotovely seems to think that ties between Jerusalem and Washington are 'fine.' She will explain to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his European counterparts the error of their ways. But, as someone who has refused for reasons of modesty to shake the hands of male colleagues, what will she do if one of them extends his hand?
The choice of Hotovely as deputy foreign minister is not the exception in the fourth Netanyahu government. Some ministers are natural choices for their positions – Moshe Ya'alon in the Defense Ministry, Moshe Kahlon at the treasury and Yaakov Litzman at the Health Ministry spring to mind. But most of them look like they are completely out of their depths; they know little or nothing about the subjects that they are supposed to oversee and they are alienated from (and in some cases hostile to) the professionals who staff their ministries. It's arguable whether this is the most right-wing government in Israel's history, but it's unquestionably its most capricious.
No one had any high expectations for this new government, but Binyamin Netanyahu managed to disappoint even them. There are some good people in the Likud, but the prime minister has decided to keep them at arm's length or to humiliate them – and if possible, both. Silvan Shalom desperately wanted to return to the Foreign Ministry and was hugely insulted when he was forced to accept the Interior Ministry, which had much of its authority stripped from it. He was also thrown a bone in the shape of the meaningless title of deputy prime minister. What are the chances of any meaningful reform taking place at the Interior Ministry during Shalom's tenure?
Arye Deri, for his part, dreamed of returning to the Interior Ministry, but was forced to give up on the dream and take a position that means much less to him. The Economy Ministry is not exactly the place from where he can provide payback for the people who elected him. Industry? Manufacturing? These are not the issues that Deri has specialized in. But let's be optimistic: as far as we know, he doesn't loath industrialists.
What can we say about Communications Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and minister without portfolio designated to serve in the Communications Ministry, Ofir Akunis? Netanyahu and Akunis loathe the free press and they have made no secret of their intentions. Netanyahu made sure to keep the Communications Ministry within his grasp and he will exert intense pressure on his coalition partners to support anything he decides to do in that area.
Ayelet Shaked will not be the first justice minister not to have a legal education. But, judging by some of her comments against the Supreme Court and the attorney general, appointing her was a clearly hostile move by Netanyahu against the independence of the law and the legal system. Netanyahu’s election promises that he would undermine the Supreme Court are, it seems, worth exactly as much as all his other promises.
Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, is a sworn enemy of the liberal and secular team that makes up Israel's state-run education system. He comes from the ranks of the national-religious camp, but he lacks the tolerance of the previous generation. Miri Regev could have been a good welfare minister, which is the position she wanted. Instead, she's culture minister. In one of her first statements in that position, she insisted that cultural institutes which receive state funding 'will have to be balanced – and if I have to exercise censorship, I will.' Our culture minister despises culture. The only one who is suited to his position is Benny Begin; he's minister without portfolio, without purpose and without point.
This is not the first time that the State of Israel has had ministers who were unworthy, who did not suit the job they were given and who were even antagonistic toward their ministries. But there has never been one like Netanyahu's fourth government. It won't attack Iran; it will attack itself and its citizens. There's no point even talking about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, of course, but there's also no hope of progress on the social and economic front.
This is Israel's 34th government in 67 years. As Netanyahu said in his speech to the Knesset on Thursday night, that's an average of one every two years – which makes stable government almost impossible. Bibi's right; we do have a problem with our electoral system. But the bigger problem we're facing is the dementia of the current resident of the house on Balfour Street."
THE FIRST KISS: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Nahum Barnea says that he cannot escape the feeling that most Israeli politicians are merely going through the motions when they protest government policies.
"On Thursday night, the Knesset plenum convened to vote on a new government. After the prime minister gave his speech, the head of the opposition, Isaac Herzog, delivered his response. His was a very aggressive speech. If I am not mistaken, it was the speech of his life. He attacked Netanyahu personally, mercilessly, and accused him of alienating Israel's minorities, of plotting to undermine the legal system, of orchestrating political and military failures, of selling out the country and its values and of giving in to extortion. He called the establishment of Binyamin Netanyahu's fourth government a 'circus.'
Netanyahu squirmed in his seat uncomfortably. Then he did what so many previous prime ministers have done when they don't want to listen to the harsh truths coming from the podium: he turned to speak to the ministers sitting next to him around the government table. But they were only half present: they were present because occasion demanded their presence; they were absent because of the insulting way that Netanyahu had treated them. When Tzipi Livni stood up to address the plenum, Netanyahu decided that enough was enough and walked out.
Once the voting was over and the new government approved by the slenderest of majorities, there was a swearing-in ceremony: each minister took to the podium and swore allegiance to the government and to the State of Israel. The ceremony lasted until close to midnight. The commercial television stations had resumed normal broadcasts long before. As is usual, members of Knesset congratulated the new ministers on their special day. Among those who extended their blessings were members of the opposition. That politeness is something that we should welcome: it's good to know that Israeli politicians are capable of behaving like human beings.
But some Knesset members did not stop at a simple handshake. They gathered like sheep at the foot of the podium, waiting to see who will be the first to embrace the new minister, who will plant the first kiss on his or her cheek. Among those vying to be the first to congratulate the new ministers were Likud backbenchers – but there were also some senior figures from Zionist Union, including the chairman himself, who fought for the first kiss.
Anyone watching this spectacle could be forgiven for asking themselves what is real and what is just for show. Where is the real Isaac Herzog? Is he to be found in the heart-felt speech or in the eagerness to embrace? Where are the real opposition MKs, like Stav Shaffir and Mickey Rosenthal, who have promised to be a fighting alternative to the government, yet who found themselves fighting to be first to congratulate the new ministers?
Israel's fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, recently published a fascinating autobiography – which I highly recommend – titled 'All the Way.' The following anecdote did not make it into the book, but Navon told it to me several years ago. In the seventh Knesset, he related, he served as deputy speaker. He was chairing a session at which ultra-Orthodox MK Meir Porush delivered an impassioned speech about religion. In the heat of the debate, Porush tore up a prayer book published by the Reform Movement, which he just happened to have brought with him. The Knesset was in uproar: How can Porush dare to desecrate a book that many Jews hold sacred? Porush explained that his outburst was entirely spontaneous. He was so angry, he said, at the Reform Movement, that he was unable to control himself.
But here's the thing: as Porush walked up to the podium, he whispered to the speaker, saying 'Just wait to see what kind of uproar I'm about to cause.' Tearing up the prayer book was preplanned and was just for show.
On many levels, politics is like theater. The famous line in Shakespeare, which tells us that 'all the world's a stage,' can go some way to explain the behavior of politicians. But there's a limit. When the play is over and the audience is applauding, we expect Julius Caesar to embrace Brutus; we hope that Iago will present Desdemona with a bouquet of flowers; and we know that Lady Macbeth will kiss all of her victims. We don't expect similar behavior from politicians. Not so soon after their archrivals have been sworn in. When that happens, there's a sense that all the bad things we say about politicians – about their hypocrisy, their inconsistency, their duplicity – are grounded in the truth."
WAS ISN'T OVER: Writing in Maariv, Yossi Melman says that, while the assassination of ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf is an important milestone in the war against the organization, it is not a significant turning point and that the battle goes on.
"The assassination of senior ISIS commander Abu Sayyaf by U.S. Special Operations forces does not represent a turning point in the West's war against these barbarians. But it is an important milestone.
For the first time since coalition forces, headed by the United States, launched their airstrikes against ISIS, an American force carried out a ground operation. In the past, an operation to rescue an American hostage who was being held on the Iraqi-Syrian border ended in failure. The Delta Force began its mission, one can assume, from Iraq. Travelling in helicopters, it landed close to the target area and, during the firefight that ensued, Abu Sayyaf was killed, and his wife, who was his partner in some of the acts of terror and cruelty, was apprehended. During the course of the operation, a Yazidi woman who had been enslaved by ISIS was freed. Dozens of ISIS members were killed during the raid, including Abu Sayyaf's personal bodyguards. The American forces returned safely to their base in Iraq.
This successful operation proves that American intelligence services had accurate, up-to-date and reliable information about Abu Sayyaf's location, which allowed them to carry out their raid. It would appear that U.S. intelligence – with the help of their partners in the war on terror and on ISIS: the Kurds, Iraq, perhaps Iran and opposition forces in Syria – has significantly improved its intelligence-gathering capabilities.
The operation highlights the willingness of U.S. President Barack Obama to take a decision in an uncertain situation, when success is not guaranteed. He is willing to take risks. We saw similar character traits when Obama gave the go ahead for the operation in which Osama Bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. It's safe to assume that, if the intelligence is adequate, the U.S. president will not hesitate to launch similar operations in the future.
Abu Sayyaf was a mid-level member of the leadership of ISIS. He was not one of the organizations highest-level commanders. An American intelligence expert compared the operation to the FBI assassinating Al Capone's accountant. Abu Sayyaf was responsible for managing the oilfields that ISIS captured, for selling the crude oil and for laundering the money it raised. Oil money from fields in areas captured by ISIS is an important source of income for the organization, but it is not its main one. Despite the moral blow that ISIS sustained with Abu Sayyaf's demise, it's safe to assume that a replacement will quickly be found.
The war against ISIS is in no way close to ending. The successes that ISIS recorded a year ago, when it captured Mosul and shocked the world by starting to move toward Baghdad, have been reversed. At the moment, ISIS is on the defensive. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was injured in an airstrike and is unable to lead his forces. Nonetheless, this week saw publication of a recording of him, urging his followers to continue fighting. The airstrikes have given the West many successes, such as killing hundreds if not thousands of ISIS members and freeing Iraqi territory – a stretch of land almost as big as the entire State of Israel – that fell to the organization. Nonetheless, ISIS still exists and is showing no signs of capitulating. The war continues."
NO MAJORITY TOO SMALL: Writing in Maariv, Meir Uziel says that, while he would like to have seen a broader government established, he knows that Israeli politicians are incapable of putting national interest above their own, so his dream of a unity government is absurd.
"At long last, Israel has a government that is unified behind a lucid idea and a government that has a clear agenda. This may be a government with a majority of just one in the Knesset, but, when it comes to realizing human values and ensuring the survival of the State of Israel, there is no such thing as a majority that's too small. A majority is a majority and the will of the people is best expressed, in this case, by the 61-member government that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has established.
If it strikes you as strange that such sentiments should be expressed on the opinion pages of a newspaper, then you're probably right. But these are the very same sentiments that would be expressed everywhere if – instead of a right-wing government – the left had established a 61-member government.
In fact, you would probably be reading and hearing comments that are far more inspiring than anything I could come up with. There would be an impressive avalanche of rhetoric about the wonders we can expect from a new government headed by the left. Let's assume that Zionist Union and Meretz had won the election and formed the government. Yair Lapid, Moshe Kahlon and a few of the ultra-Orthodox parties, along with a handful of defectors from Likud (who would have changed overnight from enemies to darlings) would have joined without hesitation. Perhaps even Avigdor Lieberman would be on board. There's no doubt that the left would have praised him to the skies over his decision not to back Netanyahu.
None of that happened, of course. Therefore, all we will hear from now on are messages of rage and shock about a government with such a small majority. Leaders of the left will say, time and time again, that this government does not have the legitimacy to carry out any of its policies. That, of course, is totally fallacious. A government with a majority – any majority – can make good decisions; just as a government with an absolute majority can make terrible decisions.
I would like to have seen a broader government established, but how could Netanyahu have brought unity when the chasm in the nation remains even after the election and when division conquers the common sense of unity? This week, several people asked me to explain to them the absurd situation that is unfolding in Dimona, where people who have been laid off from their places of work are demonstrating against the government's economic policies. 'This government has absolutely no compassion,' people told me. 'These striking workers voted for Netanyahu, who is doing exactly the opposite of what is in their best interests.' Between the lines, the statement they were making was: These Sephardim who voted for Netanyahu out of tribal habit deserve whatever they get. It is utterly bizarre to suggest that Sephardi Israeli – unlike their Ashkenazi counterparts –vote in accordance with what is best for the country, rather than what is best for them personally.
Is a 61-member government – which includes ultra-Orthodox lawmakers who do not support the existence of a Zionist entity for religious reasons – the kind of government that we should rejoice in? Of course not. It would have been much better if any of the Zionist parties which are now in opposition had thought a little about the national interest. It is not too late for them to join the government and to help run this besieged and crazy country with a little more unity. They could have done so without inflating an already bloated cabinet.
It should not have been impossible to form a government with 18 ministers. In its current composition, that would mean nine Likud ministers and nine from other parties. By law, the prime minister was entitled to appoint no more than 18 ministers. So what did he do? He changed the law. By the same token, what's to prevent the average citizen from deciding that his house is too small, so he will simply expand it?
If everyone in the Knesset – members of the government and members of the opposition alike – were to put the good of the country before their own personal interests, the situation would improve beyond recognition and there would be some kind of harmony in the Knesset. But our expectation that MKs think about the general good – something they appear incapable of doing – is so ridiculous that there's little point even discussing it."
SAVE ISRAEL FROM NETANYAHU'S DANGEROUS STALEMATE: In its editorial on Monday, Haaretz says that the opposition parties in the Knesset must raise their voice and pose alternatives to the government's iron wall facing the Palestinians.
"Simple logic strongly suggests that the new government formed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not bring peace, certainly not on its own initiative. Netanyahu renounced the two-state solution during his election campaign, does not consider Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a partner, and sees the United States administration as the enemy. All this is enough to suppress any hope for a diplomatic turnaround.
But apparently Abbas is still interested in giving the diplomatic process a chance, and in a speech he gave to mark Nakba Day reiterated his terms for renewing negotiations – a halt to construction in the territories, the freeing of prisoners jailed before the Oslo Accords and continuous negotiations for a year, at the end of which a timetable will be set for ending the occupation in 2017.
One might raise an eyebrow at Abbas’ seeming naiveté or apparent disconnection from reality. One could also remind him that in an interview U.S. President Barack Obama gave to the Al Arabiya network he stated that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not possible in the coming year. (Incidentally, it’s permitted to wonder about and even object to Obama’s declaration, since who but the U.S. could pressure the Israeli government into changing its policies?) But it is precisely within this reality, which at the moment looks unchangeable, that a dangerous dynamic lies.
Europe, particularly France, is unwilling to put up with this deadlock. The United Nations General Assembly that will convene in September is more ready than ever to make tough decisions that will support the Palestinians’ demand for recognition of their independence. More and more organizations are joining the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Several European countries have announced that they recognize the Palestinian state or that they are prepared to do so. In the West Bank itself there is a growing feeling of despair over ever reaching a diplomatic solution, and one cannot count on the quiet there being maintained forever.
These thick clouds threaten the State of Israel and each of its citizens. When the government doesn’t recognize the danger inherent in a diplomatic stalemate, the opposition must raise its voice. This opposition must be combative and not make do with responses or slogans. It must adopt Abbas’ conditions as the opening negotiating position and declare that he is a worthy partner. It must operate domestically and internationally to recruit leaders and states into a multinational coalition that will push for diplomatic negotiations and present a realistic plan that will convince the public, both in Israel and abroad, that there is an alternative to the iron wall that the Netanyahu government has erected."
EGYPT'S GAME OF THRONES: Writing on the i24 website, Ksenia Svetlova says that Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sissi should learn from his predecessors' mistakes in tackling extremists and warns that the death sentence against former President Mohammed Mursi could backfire.
"He used to work for NASA; was awarded the title of 'World’s Best Parliamentarian', completed a PhD at the University of South Carolina and owned his own newspaper. Two years ago this smiling bearded man held meetings with Catherine Ashton and John Kerry at the presidential palace and traveled to Tehran to participate in the gathering of the OIC (Organization of Islamic countries). Now Mohammed Mursi‘s only dream is to have his life spared and his death sentence commuted to life in prison.
In theory the only person authorized to do that is Egypt's Grand Mufti, Shawki Allam, although many in the country doubt that the honorable Mufti will make this decision on his own. One should also keep in mind that under Egyptian law, judges are bound by the Mufti's decision. There is also an appeal option, as was the case with another jailed Egyptian president - Hosni Mubarak. And yet, the judges have chosen to stress the importance of the Mufti's decision, unwilling to carry the burden by themselves.
Do Mursi and an additional 104 defendants in this trial actually deserve capital punishment? Some Egyptian critics say the charges are bizarre; that Lebanese Hizbollah couldn't possibly be a part of the Muslim Brotherhood; that Mursi couldn't possibly have committed all these crimes during his short rule; that he was illegally arrested on January 28, 2011 only to prevent him from participating in the Tahrir revolution, and so on and so forth.
But in today's Egypt facts don't always count. Otherwise it would have been rather difficult to explain why, along with Mursi, three well-known Palestinians were sentenced to death. One of them, who goes under the name of Hassan Salame, is serving 42 prison terms in an Israeli jail. The other two were killed a few years ago. Asked by a reporter how someone who is already dead or is serving time in an Israeli prison can be executed, the judge got furious and answered that 'there is no way to establish the real condition of these criminals.'
It is of no real importance whether Mursi was a spy on behalf of Iran and al-Qa’ida, secretly promised the Palestinians two-thirds of the territory in northern Sinai and wanted to blow up the Pyramids. The only thing that matters is whether the Egyptian regime wants to have its 'IS' moment. If the execution happens, Mursi will become Egypt’s first elected president and first Egyptian president ever to be put to death.
On the one hand, Mursi is known for past escape attempts and as long as he is imprisoned there will be forces working hard to set him free, provoking mass protests by his followers. On the other hand, incumbent President Abdelfattah al-Sissi should have learned a lesson from the unsuccessful experience of his predecessors who also fought Islamic extremism and terror. In 1954, when Gamal Abdel Nasser got rid of the country’s first president, Mohammed Naguib, he decided to put him under house arrest, thus neutralizing the competition till Naguib’s death. The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood were soon thrown into prison, where they wrote books that galvanized the masses.
Twelve years later, Nasser decided to execute a few dozens of the Brotherhood’s top leaders, including Said Qutb, the father of all radical Islamic Sunni movements. That move achieved the exact opposite. Qutb turned from a relatively unknown radical Islamist to a symbol, a martyr, a role model and a spiritual leader for millions.
Mursi never wrote anything except controversial presidential decrees, and he cannot be compared to Qutb. Nonetheless if executed, Mursi will forever be remembered by all as the innocent victim, framed and murdered by the competition for the greed of power.
The other example is former President Anwar Sadat, who fought the extremists, then flirted with them and was eventually killed by them. So the Grand Mufti - or whoever is making decisions on his behalf - should consider all the facts carefully. A mistake could cost al-Sissi's regime a fortune, and perhaps his life.
Yet, despite the media’s preoccupation with Mursi, it is hardly the most pressing issue on the Egyptian regime’s agenda. When assuming power on July, 2013, Al-Sissi, then minister of defense, pledged to tackle dire economic and security problems. Not a day goes by in the northern Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the cities of the Suez Canal, the Delta and Upper Egypt without some kind of terrorist activity. The jihadist Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis are successful in killing soldiers, policemen and judges, and the riots of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters in the universities go on uninterrupted. The question is whether the terrorists will turn to Cairo that had been peaceful most of the time due to increased security arrangements. Because no matter what happens in the periphery towns of Al-Arish, Sheikh Zweid or Minya, Egyptians will always look up to Cairo as the ultimate barometer for safety.
Al-Sissi’s regime is struggling. It has banned all 'Ultras' organizations and the April 6 and other protest movements. But the battle has only begun. It is not even close to a culmination. Al-Sissi is also struggling in the economic arena due to the sharp decline in tourism revenues, as well as a massive influx of workers escaping Libya and other Arab countries. Despite the generous Saudi and Emirati help, there has been no relief for the poor and the weak in Egypt. With so many promises he made to his people and such high expectations of him, al-Sissi does not have much time. He will need to provide solutions soon in order to forestall dissent and criticism.
So the Mursi verdict is no more than the tip of the iceberg. It is a temporary distraction that will not last long and will certainly not solve Egypt’s burning problems."
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