It is clear from the reaction of the bulk of Egyptians to the Israeli aggression in Sinai that they have forgotten, or did not realize at the time of their revolution, the comments made by Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, as the revolution intensified in Syria.
In an interview with the New York Times newspaper last May, Rami Makhlouf said: “If there is no stability here, there’s no way there will be stability in Israel. No way, and nobody can guarantee what will happen after, God forbid, anything happens to this regime.” He added that “What I’m saying is don’t let us suffer, don’t put a lot of pressure on the president, don’t push Syria to do anything it is not happy to do.” He later went on to say “They should know when we suffer, we will not suffer alone.”
Well, what happened after that? Mr. Assad’s regime conducted a procession of Palestinians towards the Israeli border at the Golan Heights, after the failure of a similar experience on the Lebanese border. The plan in the Golan Heights also failed; Palestinians were killed, and Mr. Assad received a clear message from Israel. Thus the Assad regime tried something else, namely courting Israel through the recognition of the 1967 borders, alongside constant messages towards America, since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution, insisting that Syria is ready for peace. Yet all this did not help to quell the Syrian rebels, and afterwards came attempts from Gaza and Sinai to save the Assad regime from collapse, all of course with the help of Iran.
Therefore the question for the Egyptians today, or rather the questions, are as follows: Does Egypt want to dance to the rhythm of Mr. Assad? Does Egypt want its revolution to ease the pressure on a regime which has killed more Syrians than the total victims killed by the Israelis in the wars in Lebanon and Gaza? Does Egypt want to delve into an absurd conflict just to serve Mr. Assad? Has Egypt forgotten the remarks of Rami Makhlouf?
This is a truly amazing matter. It is true that the Egyptians have the right to be angry, and to adopt stances, but why, and in whose interests, and what are the desired goals? These questions must be answered rationally. Egypt is not Gaza, nor is it Dahiya in Lebanon. Egypt is yet to recover from its wounds, and must continue to search for its way towards reconstruction and a new start, rather than to enter into a war to defend Mr. Assad. Thus, the Egyptian Military Council today must exercise the greatest possible discipline, and not to succumb to the frenzy of emotion. Even when Turkey witnessed the deaths of nine of its citizens on a ship bound for Gaza last year, war was not looming as some say it is in Egypt today.
The issue is not one of inaction, but rather one of national interests. What Egypt needs today is for all political leaders to stand together, whether ElBaradei, Amr Mussa, or others, with a rational stance, and not to take part in settling scores that have no meaning. This is especially pertinent for the Muslim Brotherhood, for whom it is inconceivable that they would accept the defense of Mr. Assad, and betray the Syrians! The Egyptians must ask themselves a long overdue question: For how long will Egypt be a plaything for the Palestinians of Iran, NMr. Assad, or Hassan Nasrallah?
Egypt is larger than all of these, and larger than Rami Makhlouf, and of course smarter than Netanyahu and his gang!
(The writer is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was first published on Aug. 21, 2011.)