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Since the June 30 protests and the July 3 military ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel has signaled that it wants aid to Egypt maintained. Although Israeli officials were careful not to speak out directly about the internal strife in Egypt, unnamed government sources were quoted in the Israeli and international press in favor of upholding American aid and stressing the need to strengthen the Egyptian army.
Before the latest events, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee opposed cutting aid in a letter sent to leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Events in Egypt are rapidly evolving, and we believe that for now the United States should avoid taking any precipitous actions against Egypt, such as cutting off all assistance,” the letter stated.
The appeal was a response to a proposed amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, the Kentucky Republican, calling for a suspension of aid to Egypt because of the military coup. The amendment was tabled July 31 with only 13 senators, all Republicans, voting in favor.
But the bloody crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood protesters in Egypt shifted political views on the future of aid and led Israel and its supporters to abstain from making public statements.
Meantime, the neoconservatives who are usually on Israel’s side are split on this issue.
Douglas Feith, a former undersecretary of defense for policy in the Bush administration, told the Forward that he opposed cutting aid to Egypt because of America’s “certain affinity of interests with the [Egyptian] military.” But fellow neoconservative Clifford May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, argued that U.S. law requires an immediate suspension of assistance to Egypt, though he does not rule out resuming aid in the future if Egyptian rulers met conditions set by the president and Congress.
And Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who hardly ever break ranks with AIPAC, issued a call demanding that the administration cut its aid to Egypt.
Israel’s key concern is that slashing aid to Egypt will undermine the country’s military, which has ensured quiet along the border for more than three decades. If American aid is cut, warned Karim Haggag, an Egyptian visiting professor at the National Defense University, “you might see a public debate on adhering to the peace treaty.”
This, Haggag noted, would not necessarily force an immediate decision on the future of relations with Israel, “but it opens the debate.”