For the Brotherhood, Morsi’s fall would have a domino effect

Keeping Egypt’s president in power will send a message to the Arab world, but Islamists will face a tougher battle should the opposition begin labor sanctions

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, June 30, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Hassan Ammar)
Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi protest outside the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, June 30, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Hassan Ammar)

The first battle between the the opposition and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ended in the early hours of Monday morning, when millions of demonstrators slowly dispersed to their homes after a long and bloody night.

According to figures from the Egyptian Health Ministry, 10 people died and 613 were injured during the confrontations that broke out between supporters of the two camps. The most severe clashes were near the Muslim Brotherhood building in the Muqqatam area south of Cairo, where four people were killed, but also in other cities, such as Asyut, Port Said, Al-Mahala, Al-Kubrah, and others.

Despite the tremendous achievement by the youths of Al-Tamrod, or The Rebels, it is doubtful the next confrontations will also end this way.

For the Muslim Brotherhood, the continued survival of Morsi as president is critical to send a message to the entire Arab world on the ability of the movement to be chosen and to bring real and positive change to the streets of the Middle East. The resignation of Morsi, and going to early presidential elections, would amount to an admission of failure and would have consequences for countries such as Tunisia, Morocco, and even Gaza and the West Bank.

At the moment it doesn’t look like the president or the Muslim Brotherhood are prepared to give up the power that they obtained in a legal and democratic manner.

By Monday daybreak, Tahrir Square was nearly empty, with only a few dozen tents of supporters of the Tamrod movement — which organized the protest demonstrations against President Mohammed Morsi — to bear witness to what happened there Sunday.

An almost identical sight could be seen Monday morning at Raba’ah Al-Adwiyah Square in the Nassir area of Cairo, where Sunday saw a demonstration by supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

At the start of Sunday it had seemed that the Muslim Brotherhood would carry the momentum when it managed to bring an enormous number of demonstrators into its square. However, as the temperatures dropped later in the day, the number of people gathering in Tahrir Square, and across from the presidential palace, began to rise. By 8 p.m. it was clear that the rally was the largest demonstration that Egypt had ever known.

Millions of people flooded every alley and street on the way to Tahrir and the palace, with one slogan on their lips: “Arhal,” or “Get out” — the same slogan that was used in the demonstrations at the time of Mubarak. But then came the violent confrontations, the shooting incidents and the arson.

Fires and gunshots may get headlines, but the long-term game plan of the Morsi opposers is to fell the regime by non-violent means, including through labor activism.

On Monday morning, Tamrod people joined by politicians from the Salvation Front announced that they had decided to give Morsi a one-day ultimatum: If he doesn’t resign his post by Tuesday afternoon they will call on all workers in the public and private sectors to begin a general strike.

That could yet prove to be an effective idea in light of the already unstable situation in Egypt. A general strike would generate much public anger as well as discomfort in the army, which has for the past two years acted as a mediator among Egypt’s warring factions. The question is how long can the army stand by and not become involved.

With all that said, it is worth remembering that at the moment it is easy for the opposition to arrange itself around the idea of bringing down Morsi. In the unlikely event of the president deciding to resign in the near future, then the old divisions between opposition factions would reappear. There is even a chance that should presidential elections be brought forward, a Muslim Brotherhood candidate would win yet again.

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