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18.04.2014
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Egypt on the brink as Morsi rebuffs military's ultimatum
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Boaz Bismuth

Egypt's secular-military coalition

This time, like in the first revolution two years ago, the Egyptian army is supporting the people. The first time, surprisingly, the army abandoned Mubarak. Today it is turning its back, almost naturally, on Mohammed Morsi.

The military is acting like a people's army. With half a million soldiers to the 17 million civilians protesting in the streets, the army had little choice but to adapt to the reality of the situation.

Adorned in Egyptian flags, the six helicopters hovering above the demonstrations and the practically simultaneous resignation of six senior officials (five ministers and an adviser) determined the outcome of the struggle. The masses did the math -- six against six -- and understood their victory.

Since the Tahrir revolution, Egypt has lived with the military-Muslim Brotherhood-seculars equation. In 2011 it was the seculars, the heroes of the revolution, who were removed from the game by the strange coalition between the army and Muslim Brotherhood. Two days ago and yesterday the seculars, armed with portraits of Gamal Abdel Nasser, returned to the streets with one goal in mind: to oppose the hand they were dealt at the voting booths and to deal the cards again.

As it stands now, following the army's ultimatum to Morsi, the seculars -- with the army's help -- are on their way to removing the Muslim Brotherhood from power. On Monday evening the generals were already meeting with constitutional law professors to discuss how Morsi could be deposed without damaging the democratic process.

Admittedly, a secular-military coalition is considerably more natural than the current one. It is possible that something positive for Egypt will eventually emerge, maybe even for us here in Israel. Here we have the Muslim Brotherhood movement, born in Egypt in 1928, ascending to power in 2011, and suffering a severe blow in 2013. Though still a far cry from democracy, this could certainly be the beginning of a return to sanity in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood announced yesterday that they were asking for time to study the army's message, which was essentially a request to leave the stage. Last July, it was Morsi who did the exact same thing to the generals. In Egypt, where decisions are made in the square instead of in parliament, everything is fluid. The Muslim Brotherhood forgot one crucial thing: It is not enough to win power -- it needs to be preserved.

Today's Egypt is a nation of 85 million people searching for direction, money and bread. A substantial percentage of the 17 million protesters flooding the streets truly don't have much to lose. The prospect of new elections has yet to appear on the horizon and their government institutions are unable to function.

However, the army does have something to lose: Its relations with the West, its authority, its power and, most importantly, the wealth it attained during the Mubarak era. All of these are threatened under Morsi.

The military needs a quiet environment to maintain itself and the capital it has accrued. After 2011 the Egyptian army became the tie-breaker between the seculars and Muslim Brotherhood.

These are tough days facing Egypt. The economy is crumbling and the country will struggle to stand on its feet without making drastic and difficult reforms. The army would prefer to give this unthankful task to the secular transition government. Even army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is less ambitious than his predecessor Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

Only a year ago the seculars looked on with anger at Morsi's swearing-in ceremony, arguing that the Muslim Brotherhood stole their revolution. Today it is the Brotherhood screaming to the sky that the seculars, with the army's help, are stealing their election victory. Both sides are right.

Today, Egypt is a divided country, and it is reasonable to assume that the religious extremists haven't had their final say. It cannot be forgotten that the Tahrir revolution also strengthened the Salafists. The big question now is how the army will be able to dislodge the Muslim Brotherhood from power while avoiding violence in the streets. Of course, this also depends on the Brotherhood. In the meantime, based on how things appear in the field, for every Muslim Brother there are 10 secular brothers.

The Muslim Brotherhood waited 84 years to ascend to power, and within one year they proved that their magic formula of "Islam is the solution" doesn't work.

Egypt is searching for a new leader today. The candidates are kindly requested to present themselves without beards.

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