American and Israeli Media
As Egyptians took to the streets in protest of Mubarak, the United States and Israel initially held back support for the protests against their ally, instead focusing on regional stability. Western media picked up on these concerns, primarily regarding the future of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. The downfall of the Mubarak regime would have “a massive effect, mainly negative, on Israel’s position in the region,” according to Israel’s Haaretz military expert Amos Harel, who added it could threaten the Egyptian and Jordanian treaties.Ian Black and Middle East editor, “Egypt Protests: Israel Fears Unrest May Threaten Peace Treaty,” Guardian (London), January 31, 2011, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jan/31/israel-egypt-mubarak-peace-treaty-fears.
On February 23, 2011, eight days before Mubarak officially stepped down from office, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Brotherhood member, in which she warned the West about the Brotherhood’s increasing power and suggested ways in which the U.S. might counter it.Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “Get Ready for the Muslim Brotherhood,” New York Times, February 3, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/04/opinion/04iht-edali04.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=egypt.
As Mubarak fell and the Brotherhood became a key player in the new Egyptian political world, Western media continued to focus on the question of the treaty. Days before Mubarak left power, the Washington Times reported on a Japanese interview with a Brotherhood leader who called for any future Egyptian government to withdraw from the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, while a Brotherhood spokesman told CBS that the Brotherhood would respect the treaty as long as Israel made progress with the Palestinians.Eli Lake, “Muslim Brotherhood Seeks End to Israel Treaty,” Washington Times, February 3, 2011, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/feb/3/muslim-brotherhood-seeks-end-to-israel-treaty.
In a February 6, 2011 interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei addressed Israeli concerns. Israel has a treaty with a single man, Mubarak, and not the Egyptian people, he said, adding that the Israelis “should understand that it is in their long-term interest to have a democratic Egypt as a neighbor.”“ElBaradei on Democracy’s Chances in Egypt: ‘We Could Experience an Arab Spring,’” Spiegel Online, June 2, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/elbaradei-on-democracy-s-chances-in-egypt-we-could-experience-an-arab-spring-a-743825.html. Prefacing his comments with how he disagrees with the Brotherhood’s ideology, ElBaradei defended the Brotherhood, which he said had “agreed to play by democratic rules.”“ElBaradei on Democracy’s Chances in Egypt: ‘We Could Experience an Arab Spring,’” Spiegel Online, June 2, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/elbaradei-on-democracy-s-chances-in-egypt-we-could-experience-an-arab-spring-a-743825.html.
In the lead-up to Egyptian elections and during the early days of the Brotherhood government, many U.S. and Israeli media outlets questioned what a Brotherhood-led government would mean for the Israel-Egypt peace treaty and U.S.-Egyptian relations if Egypt nullified the treaty. U.S. media outlets were deluged with op-eds warning against the Brotherhood’s rise to power. For example, Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, called in a CNN op-ed for the opposition to find a voice, or else “the Muslim Brotherhood will probably be the dominant power in the next Egyptian parliament and that could pit the movement against the army….”Fawaz Gerges, “Muslim Brotherhood’s Key Role in Egypt,” CNN, February 14, 2011, http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/02/14/gerges.muslim.brotherhood/. Including the Brotherhood in a transitional government would be “a mistake of historic proportions,” according to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).“John McCain on the Dangers of the Muslim Brotherhood: ‘They Should Be Excluded from Any Transition Government,’” Spiegel Online, June 2, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/john-mccain-on-the-dangers-of-the-muslim-brotherhood-they-should-be-excluded-from-any-transition-government-a-743819.html.
As the Brotherhood emerged as the leading political party in Egypt, media outlets continued to question what that would mean for the United States and Israel. The New York Times reported that the young people who had driven the revolution had lost control of it as the Brotherhood gained power.Michael Slackman, “In Egypt, Muslim Group Takes Lead Role in Post-Mubarak Era,” New York Times, March 24, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/world/middleeast/25egypt.html. Questions in the Western media continued to swirl around what role the Brotherhood would play and whether the Israel-Egypt peace treaty would survive. “While the two countries have benefited from a peace treaty for more than 32 years, the prevailing atmosphere of uncertainty is unsettling,” the American Jewish Committee’s Kenneth Brandler wrote in an op-ed for Fox News.Kenneth Bandler, “Will the Peace Hold Between Egypt and Israel?” Fox News, February 11, 2011, http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/02/11/peace-hold-egypt-israel.
Western media did not rush to embrace Morsi after his victory in the June 2012 presidential elections, and speculation continued about what his presidency would mean for the U.S. and Israel. Dan Ephron in the Daily Beast wrote, “He won’t attack Israel and he’s unlikely to tear up the peace treaty, at least initially. But Israelis are worried that Mohammed Morsi… will lead an isolation campaign against the Jewish state, shore up Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and bring relations between the two countries to their lowest point in more than 30 years.”Dan Ephron, “Morsi’s Win in Egypt Sparks Fear in Israel,” Daily Beast, June 19, 2012, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/19/morsi-s-win-in-egypt-sparks-fear-in-israel.html.
The United States has refused to call the Egyptian army’s July 2013 removal of the Brotherhood a coup, and media outlets have taken note. CNN’s Jake Tapper observed that hours after Morsi’s overthrow, President Obama “purposely avoided using the word ‘coup.’”Jake Tapper, “No Coup? Obama’s Careful Words on Egypt.” CNN: The Lead With Jake Tapper, July 4, 2013, http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/04/coup-or-no-coup-obamas-careful-words-on-egypt. The “coup” label carries legal repercussions for U.S. aid, so “while what happened in Egypt fits the definition of a military coup—don't expect to hear that four letter word from the administration,” Tapper warned.Jake Tapper, “No Coup? Obama’s Careful Words on Egypt.” CNN: The Lead With Jake Tapper, July 4, 2013, http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/04/coup-or-no-coup-obamas-careful-words-on-egypt. However, CNN itself ran a story on the day of Morsi’s disposal with the headline: “Coup topples Egypt’s Morsy; deposed president under ‘house arrest.’”Ben Wedeman. Reza Sayah and Matt Smith, “Coup topples Egypt’s Morsy; deposed president under ‘house arrest,’” CNN, last modified July 4, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/03/world/meast/egypt-protests/.
Other media sourcesw such as Foreign Policy, also found themselves questioning why the United States would not label the Brotherhood’s overthrow a coup: “Though few think the ruling Muslim Brotherhood governed in an inclusive fashion during its one year in power, and many decried Morsy’s authoritarian power grabs over parliament and the judiciary, reporters pushed officials to call a spade a spade.”John Hudson, “Obama Administration Won’t Call Egypt’s Coup a Coup,” Foreign Policy, July 8, 2013, http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/07/08/obama_administration_wont_call_egypts_coup_a_coup.
Despite disagreement over how it happened, Western pundits have largely embraced the fall of the Brotherhood government as positive. The Brotherhood revealed itself to be “a Leninist-style organisation, intent on power for power's sake, that was leading the country into Islamic totalitarianism and economic ruin,” wrote Hugh Miles in the Telegraph.Hugh Miles, “Egypt Crisis: Why Coup against the Muslim Brotherhood May Not Be the End for Political Islam.” Telegraph (London), July 4, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/10159514/Egypt-crisis-why-coup-against-the-Muslim-Brotherhood-may-not-be-the-end-for-political-Islam.html.