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22.12.2014
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US, Europe express concern over Morsi's power grab in Egypt
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Boaz Bismuth

Dr. Morsi and Mr. Hyde

During his work to help bring about a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the West got to know Dr. Mohammed Morsi. A mere 24 hours later, the West was introduced to Mr. Hyde.

What, then, can the White House do now? It can criticize the good doctor, and hope for the best. The White House doesn't want any shake-ups, and has made this clear to the Egyptian military. Sometimes the ultimate value is democracy, other times it is stability and maintaining vital interests.

On Tuesday, however, everyone will meet once again at Tahrir Square in Cairo. On one side, the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohammed Morsi; on the other side, all the rest.

Morsi, an engineer by training, received his Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Southern California in 1982. On Nov. 21, he received a degree in statesmanship from the Americans after he helped his new friend, U.S. President Barack Obama, engineer a cease-fire in Gaza. Morsi, however, is really an expert in systems engineering: After democratically taking control of the legislative and law enforcement systems in his country, he brought the judiciary to its knees.

Twenty-two months ago, country-wide protests erupted in Egypt and led to then President Hosni Mubarak's removal from power. Morsi and his associates were not present at the onset of the protests. They let the liberal youths, the old government guard and the military wrestle in the mud. The Muslim Brotherhood arrived just in time to snatch the revolution, ripe for the taking.

The clashes that have erupted in Egypt this time are about power, legitimacy and vision. The president's secular and liberal rivals, namely Mohammed El-Baradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahy, have a problem: Morsi's legitimacy comes from the people following democratic elections and a tailwind from the White House, which Mubarak lacked. What Morsi doesn't have, however, is the Tahrir legacy. The Muslim Brotherhood benefited from the chaos.

This is the reason that Morsi chose on Thursday to wrap his unacceptable presidential decrees in logical decisions.

The firing of the attorney-general, one of Mubarak's people, and the decision to reopen cases for those suspected of killing protesters, is not a problem. The problem is with the extra decrees that position Morsi above the law.

Was it worth it for Morsi – the "pragmatist," the "fighter for peace," the "statesman" – to spoil, in one day, all the superlatives that were showered on him on Wednesday? For his part, the answer is yes, because his main interest is to protect the constitutional draft committee, which will shape the new Egypt.

A team of 100 committee members has been working to write a new constitution, mainly to define the new Egypt's Islamic status and decide if Shariah law will reign supreme in the Arab world's largest country. Many of the liberal and left-wing former members of the draft committee resigned for exactly this reason. The parliamentary court is currently examining a demand to disperse the committee because it does not represent all of Egyptian society and is overwhelmingly comprised of hard-line Islamic elements.

Egypt's constitutional draft committee has no Coptic representatives, nor does it have anyone from the April 6 Youth Movement, the young people who started the revolution to unseat Mubarak.

Morsi miscalculated the public's outrage and the judiciary system's resentment that his anti-democratic decrees would cause. In cities like Alexandria, Ismailia, and Port Said, Muslim Brotherhood offices were vandalized.

On the other hand, it is possible that Morsi has received an insurance policy allowing him to act precisely according to what was expected of him – as the "new pharaoh dictator."

White House officials have apparently internalized that an Islamic dictator has replaced a secular dictator in Egypt. Perhaps it is because of this that U.S. criticism of Morsi this weekend came from the State Department and not the White House.

There are those who thought that Morsi's mediation efforts with Israel and Hamas signaled the arrival of a new Arab leader, one who would advance peace for his people and bring the Israelis and Palestinians together. One should have seen the criticism he received from home as a result of his mediation efforts, however, in which he was called "America's puppet, just like Mubarak."

Today it is already clear that Morsi will first and foremost advance his own vision. His vision, to our sorrow, has only one thing in common with Herzl's vision – a beard.

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