Many reactions were expected as a result of Israel's bombing campaign in Lebanon, which brought about massive destruction and resulted in many injuries. Yet the official Egyptian reaction to the repeated Israeli aggression was not one of these expected reactions. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt indeed surpassed all expectations when he paid a visit of support and sympathy to the Lebanese government on February 19. Mubarak's trip was truly a historic one, not only due to the fact that it was the first of its kind by a modern Egyptian President, but also because of his strong support to Lebanese resistance groups and their battle against Israel's occupation forces.
Israeli as well as other nations are now struggling to analyze the sudden move by Egypt in which Mubarak used strong words of condemnation regarding Israel's immoral acts. Others are finding the unexpected shift in the Egyptian stand -- from moderate and relatively neutral one to a strongly opposing of Israel's conduct -- hard to comprehend in terms of the timing and intensity.
Before proceeding, it is necessary to emphasize the uplifting and positive outcome of the assertive Egyptian diplomacy toward Israel's violation of an Arab country's sovereignty. While such a stand should have been taken earlier by Egypt and most Arab countries who appear comfortable with worthless words of condemnation, President Mubarak deserves to be recognized for breaking the cycle of lingering apathy.
"This behavior is rejected and unacceptable," President Mubarak told Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak in a heated telephone conversation following the Israeli air strikes on Lebanon, according to Egypt's Middle East News Agency. The above quote indicates an end to years of Egypt's soft-tone politics with Israel.
The Egyptian reaction can be viewed and examined in terms of two main variables: Egypt's own experience with Israel and its broken promises, and Egypt's quest to define itself as a leading Arab and Muslim entity.
Israel had its reasons to believe that Egypt was out of the picture in the Middle East power dynamic. First, the yearly American aid to Egypt -- which itself is a cultivated result of the Camp David Peace Accord -- although helping Egypt to deal with some of its financial shortages, appeared as a factor that kept Egypt in check. Israel, aware of its Capital Hill lobbies, potential and influence, believes that any Egyptian shift toward what Israel sees as the radical camp, could jeopardize the flow of the American aid to Cairo. For Israel, Egypt was completely eliminated as an opponent, although practically it failed to guarantee its friendship.
In the meantime, Israel has miserably failed throughout the years, particularly following the initiation of the peace talks, to demonstrate a genuine and committed stand to introduce peace to the region. At the beginning, Egypt was pleased to know that soon it would be out of its isolation as the only Arab state who signed a peace agreement with Israel. But the joining of the Palestinians, Jordan and Mauritania, failed to wipe the embarrassment caused by the phony Israeli promises and ceaseless violations of human rights and sovereignty of its neighbors. With each new Israeli leader, Egypt saw a new promise, hoping for a true messenger of peace to finally come. Yet, throughout its relations with Israel, Egypt has never been as enthusiastic and cheerfully welcoming to an incoming Israeli leader as it was upon the arrival of Ehud Barak. In no time, Barak himself proved to be a promise breaker, a confiscator of Palestinian land, and an aggressor with a violent approach. The recent bombing of Lebanon was the straw that broke the camel's back. Egypt found that it could no longer play the same game over and over again. Mubarak was faced with a great deal of pressure at home as many Egyptians felt the need for a strong and uncompromising Egyptian stand.
The change in Egypt's outlook came suddenly, without many signs or predictions of its emergence. The abruptness of the Mubarak's visit to Lebanon, and his unconditional support of Hizbullah is an indication of the level of frustration which was felt by Mubarak, who no longer strives to find a middle ground. According to Mubarak, the middle ground was already found, through the April of 1996 agreement that prohibited the targeting of civilians during any dispute between Israel and Lebanese resistance movements. But Israel has failed to honor so many of its commitments, including that one.
It is not too late to produce an effective Arab policy to back those violated and targeted by Israel in the region. Barak tried to undermine Mubarak's strong stand, sending top officials to Cairo to contain the Egyptian anger, proving that he is very concerned and alarmed by the Egyptian position. With headlines like, "Mubarak supports Hizbullah attacks on the IDF," Israel's media was as shocked as its government to see Egypt leaving its shell and siding wholeheartedly with Lebanon. The challenge remaining however, is strengthening and prolonging Arab and Muslim solidarity in such consequential times. Without converting the mere verbal condemnation into a meaningful cooperation to expose and stop the Israeli aggression, more and more innocents are likely to fall victim to Israel's military might regardless of how many peace treaties have been signed.