Though official results do not come out until Thursday, Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, the new face of the Muslim Brotherhood, claimed victory over the historic Presidential elections with street celebrations rivaling those of the Euro 2012 fans. Provided that the Islamist candidate, Mohammed Morsi, officially wins the popular vote, Egypt would become the only Arab state with an Islamic government.
The question on everyone’s mind is how a new government, more specifically, an Islamic one, would affect Egypt’s diplomatic relations with the major players, Israel and the United States. The question should be whether a true democracy, free of old alliances and trade agreements, can alter ties between the three states.
In March, the United States commended the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) last year for the “transfer of legislative authority to the new People’s Assembly” and for promising a democratic transition after the new president is elected. The U.S.’ largest concern is maintaining strategic relations with an “Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy”.An Egypt that abides by the U.S.’ regional interest would be less likely to launch an attack on Israel and would be more favorable in the eyes of the State Department.
It is possible that U.S. will review its ties with Egypt, including its $1.3 billion in annual military assistance, if the interim government does not transfer power.
“We call on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to restore popular and international confidence in the democratic transition process by following through on their stated commitments," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Monday.
However, concerning its geopolitical interests, it is likely that the U.S. would continue to fund the nation's military provided that Egypt's new governments steps up security at the border with Israel. Under former president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt maintained friendly relations with the United States by meeting obligations under the 1979 Peace Treaty with Israel. However, given changes in leadership, it is clear that Egypt is moving away from the old regime’s foreign policies.
In late April, Egypt ended its natural gas agreement with Israel. The deal supplied 40% of Israel’s gas needs, and it was a major decision on Egypt’s part. Over the past year, gas flow to Israel was interrupted about 14 times due to militant attacks. Although both countries claim the gas dispute was a matter of business, there is a deeper issue.
Earlier that month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu labeled the region as “a kind of Wild West.”Aware of Egyptian anti-Israeli sentiment, Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, responded with: “We will break the legs of anyone trying to attack us or who comes near the borders.”
Israeli officials spoke about security concerns on the Egypt-Israel border after an early Monday militant attack. An Israeli tank was deployed in the region, possibly violating the peace treaty.
At this point, there is little Israel and the United States can do but wait for the scheduled power transfer at the end of the month.