The First Year of the Egyptian Revolution:

The First Year of the Egyptian Revolution:

Assessment and Predictions


Itzhak Levanon

During the first year of the revolution the army took over from the president, but it had always been kept away from politics by Mubarak, so when power was transferred to them, they had no experience in domestic politics and they started to make mistakes. In all my meetings with President Mubarak, together with Israeli, American, and Palestinian personalities, Field Marshal Tantawi, the minister of defense, was never present.
Few in Egypt believe that the army is sincere about the transfer of power to the civilians. Many believe that the real objective of the army is to maintain its special status, which the army has had in Egypt since the revolution of 1952. They have their own hospitals and hotels. They are deeply involved in the economy, and they have their own budget. This is an institution that is quasi-independent, and very strong.
After years of imposed political exile, the Muslim Brotherhood has entered domestic political life in Egypt by the front door. At an early stage after the revolution, we detected at least a tacit understanding between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, to the detriment of the revolutionaries.
My assessment is that the Muslim Brotherhood will compromise with others and will seek a consensus. They understand that if there is failure, the failure will be theirs. This is why they would like to share it with others, and this basically means pluralism. This does not mean that they will not work very hard in order to reach their objective, which is to capture the public, not to change the regime. If they can spread their ideology to enough people, the change will come from them.
For at least 30 years, Mubarak’s regime intentionally reduced the volume of bilateral relations between Israel and Egypt, keeping a high-level contact channel only with the presidency and his close entourage. I believe there should have been reciprocity. Israeli ambassadors did not have free access to ministries, to parties, were banned by the media, were banned by all the unions, while in Israel the Egyptian ambassador is invited to meet with the top level, including the prime minister, and the media quotes him.

There are still security contacts at the upper levels between Israel and Egypt, and this is because there is an interest on both sides, but there are no bilateral relations. The public in Egypt is not aware enough that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is an Egyptian interest, no less than an Israeli one. It would be wise at this early stage to explain to the Egyptian public that the alternative to peace is a nightmare that we should all avoid.

Ambassador Itzhak Levanon served as Israel’s Ambassador to Egypt from 2009 to 2011.