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Red Rag weekly column: Egypt: coup or revolution?
By: Gideon Spiro
11 July 2013

Coup or revolution?

President Obama is not the only one who is unsure of how to relate to the ouster of elected Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi by the army. Within the Left too, many are asking themselves if this was a military coup in the familiar and deplorable tradition of corrupt officers deposing civilians deposing civilians from power, like Idi Amin in Uganda or Augusto Pinochet in Chile, or whether this was a rare example of the army joining up with democratic forces to depose a religious fundamentalist president from the Muslim Brotherhood who was leading his country to a religious dictatorship like Iran. Freedom-loving people know that democracy is more than the mere process of holding elections, but a plethora of other principles like freedom of expression, a free press, freedom of association, minority rights, gender equality, separation of religion and state, replacement of the government through elections and other such good things. Morsi was elected in free elections, and all the signs indicated that for him democracy went no further than that. Subsequently he left no room for doubt that he wanted to lead Egypt towards a state ruled by sharia. In other words: a religious dictatorship. If so, the ouster was justified. But then we get the news of the slaughter of fifty demonstrators by the army, and I ask myself, if this is the way the new regime is going to act, have we not gone from the frying pan into the fire? Then we learn that Muhammad al-Baradei has been appointed vice-president, which is encouraging news, so maybe this is leading to something better after all. I am waiting.

Meanwhile I entertain myself with the following imaginary scenario: the Chief of Staff of the IDF convenes the General Staff for an extraordinary meeting. He says the following, more or less:

“This is a secret emergency meeting, and not a word of it is to be leaked. Our function is to prepare the armed forces for war in the event that it becomes necessary to defend Israel against armed attack. For 46 years now we have been depleting our strength by sending our soldiers to preserve the Occupation regime. Instead of preparing soldiers for what they are supposed to do – to defend Israel – we are wasting our forces by running after stone-throwing children, sitting at checkpoints and pulling children out of their beds in the middle of the night. We are producing soldiers who are police, not fighters. We are not fulfilling our role. It was not by chance that we were beaten to one degree or another in our last three wars: the Yom Kippur War and the two Lebanon Wars.
“We have an irresponsible government that is leading us toward the abyss. I do not seek justice for the Palestinians but what is good for Israel. And the best thing for Israel is to get rid of the Occupied Territories and go back to building an army that will be able to fight should the need arise. The money that is invested in holding onto the Territories is money that is not available to us to build a well-equipped professional army. Keeping the territories sets us on a path of confrontation with the entire Arab and Muslim worlds, which will oblige us to use the doomsday weapon, the use of which will boomerang against us and cause the destruction of Israel. In order to save Israel, we need to set up a Government of National Emergency under our leadership.
“Here is the plan I envision, in broad strokes, and I will welcome your comments. On Sunday, when the Government is convening for its weekly meeting, we will secure all the strategic points in the country. A General Staff officer will enter the cabinet room and inform the ministers that from that moment on the Government will be suspended and the ministers will be under house arrest until further notice. The Knesset will be dissolved until new elections can be held. All the communications media will be temporarily nationalized and put under the control of the military censor and the IDF Spokesman. In the West Bank the settlers will be barred from leaving the settlements and they will be confined to their homes until it is decided otherwise. Cells of five soldiers under the command of an officer will collect the settlers’ weapons. To the extent that there are disturbances of the peace or demonstrations, they will be firmly suppressed with riot-control methods (we have accumulated experience in such things, thank God). We will not hesitate to round up inciters and disturbers of the peace and house them in detention camps in the Negev. I have talked to the General Commissioner of the Israel Police and the heads of the Israel Security Agency and the Mossad and they have promised to cooperate.
“After we have stabilized our control, we will address the Palestinian Authority and tell them: we come in peace. We are freezing all construction in the settlements and East Jerusalem. Our differences are well-known and can be bridged. Let us begin intensive negotiations that will continue non-stop until the white smoke is released. A peace agreement that includes compromises on both sides will be based on the following principles: a Palestinian state based on the Green Line borders will be established. There will be small border adjustments with exchanges of territory on a one-to-one basis. Jerusalem will be the shared capital of both states. The settlements that remain within the Palestinian state will be subject to Palestinian law, and the settlers who prefer to remain within the Palestinian state will obey the laws of that state. The thousands of settlers who decide to return to Israel will be housed temporarily in transit camps similar to the ones that housed the masses of immigrants who came to Israel in the 1950s, until a permanent solution is found for them. The Holy Basin [1] will be put under international control which will ensure freedom of access and worship for all religions. All the lands that were confiscated by the Israeli military administration and/or the settlements will be returned to their owners. The Palestinian state will be divested of offensive weapons, and Israel will commit to respecting its independence. No Israeli army will remain within its borders, and in order to guarantee the agreement, an international force will be deployed along the Jordan River and along the border between the two states.

“Israel will be willing to recognize the injustice that was done to the Palestinians, and contribute its share to an international compensation fund that will be established in order to compensate them for their suffering and the loss of their property. As a goodwill gesture Israel will absorb an agreed-upon number of refugees, who will not change the national character of Israel. Bear in mind that we will be reducing the Arab population of Israel by 300,000 when East Jerusalem becomes part of the Palestinian state. In return, the Palestinian Authority will recognize the right of Israel’s citizens to self-determination. It will be agreed that the right of return will not include Israel within the Green Line, and it will be realized within the borders of the Palestinian state.

“The Separation Wall will be taken down as part of the process of dissolving the state of hostility. The border will be open, the two states will encourage and develop tourism on both sides of the border. There will be economic cooperation on a basis of equality. Rail lines will be built between the two states and between them and their neighbours. Israel will turn over the Population Registry to the Palestinian state, and undertake to delete it from its records. All the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons will be freed. Israelis will have to get used to images that will be painful to them, as people who they see as terrorists and murderers are greeted with mass outpourings of joy as heroes of liberation by the other side. The two states will commit to resolving all disagreements through negotiations under the aegis of the Quartet or any other international institution that both sides agree upon.

“I may have omitted one detail or another, but these are the outlines of the agreement as I see them,” added the Chief of Staff. And he continued: “upon the signing of the agreement, it will be submitted as it is for ratification in a referendum. No propaganda, for or against, will be permitted. It will be made available in all the communications media and the people will decide if they agree or not. I assume,” continued the Chief of Staff, “that the majority of the people will understand the meaning of the agreement, the horizons it opens, an end to the wars and peace with the Arab and Muslim worlds. After the agreement is ratified, a provisional civilian government will be established, composed of non-controversial figures who are trusted by the public, and it will prepare the elections. The elections will be free, open to all parties and by secret ballot. The Knesset that is elected will form the Government, and we will submit our resignation.” Thus the Chief of Staff concluded his speech.

As I indicated at the beginning of this column, this is a completely imaginary scenario, and in the realm of imagination, the sky is the limit. The only thing my imaginary scenario has in common with reality is that the army is neck-deep in politics in both cases. Even today, the government will not go to war if the Chief of Staff opposes it and warns of failure and catastrophe, and it will go to war if the Chief of Staff supports it and promises success.

I am aware of the fact that the other side can compose an opposite scenario that is much closer to reality than mine. I now ask my readers: if we assume – again, an imaginary assumption – that the unbelievable will happen and the imaginary scenario is realized, where do we stand? Do we support it, or do we take the position that no military intervention in the government is ever acceptable? If the people and their government prefer disaster, then we will follow the government all the way to the bitter end in the name of democracy, even when it exhibits suicidal tendencies.

Translator’s note
1. The “Holy Basin” is the Israeli term for the Old City of Jerusalem and adjacent areas.

Translated from Hebrew for Occupation Magazine by George Malent.

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