The euphoria that erupted in Gaza minutes after Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011 probably came second only to Egypt’s. The ousted dictator was Israel’s “strategic asset” for good reason. He secured the blockade of the Gaza Strip from the Egyptian side, sided against Hamas and proved a reliable ally.
Even during the 22-day Israeli war on Gaza at the end of 2008, Mubarak kept the Rafah border crossing firmly shut, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which binds Egypt, as a signatory, to protect civilians during times of war and foreign occupation.
Egypt’s dictator was removed but his legacy continues to influence realities on the ground in Gaza and around the Palestinian question in general. It does not help that his successor, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Muhammad Morsi, has done little to prove — thus far — that his policies will change course. Of course nothing is that simple. Morsi, willingly, inherited a difficult legacy of a mammoth, corrupt bureaucracy and questionable sovereignty after decades of subservience to the United States.
But judging from their discourse and performance during the past year, it’s evident that the Brotherhood — including their Freedom and Justice Party and the president — are too eager to prove their power-worthiness by demonstrating “pragmatism” and flexibility to the international community.
Some Brotherhood figures and sympathizers argue that this is vital to securing their ascendance to power in a shaky transition and to quell the fears of skeptics. This might be valid in some cases (where the regional balance of power isn’t in their favor) but it poses compelling questions on how far Morsi will go in Mubarak’s shoes under the pretext of realpolitik — and if he’ll eventually find himself trapped there. more