Wednesday, July 10, 2013

U.S. aid to Egypt will not be cut

It doesn't matter what the law says, there is no way that the U.S. will cut off aid to Egypt.

Egypt gets the second largest American aid package in the world (the first goes to Israel) and most of that aid is military aid. How did Egypt end up with such a nice deal? It's basically a bribe for abiding by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

The aid package is a significant portion of the Egyptian military's budget. If it is cut off, the military would really suffer. And that reality is why, even when the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has long been against the Camp David Accords, gained power last year, Mohamed Morsi agreed to abide by the peace agreement. The bottom line is that the military would not have let him do anything else. And that's why the peace agreement with Israel is not at risk no matter who comes into power next. The generals know how to keep the gravy train running.

If aid is cut off for reasons beyond the Egyptian military's control (like if Rand Paul gets his way and Congress or the President does cuts it off), the peace treaty would probably not last long. Israel is very unpopular with the Egyptian public. Enforcing the treaty (not to mention Egypt's part in the blockage of Gaza) is a drag on the popular support of whoever is in power. Without the cash to make it worthwhile to buck public pressure, most Egyptian governments would find an excuse to back out of it. That doesn't necessarily mean that Egypt would declare war on Israel. But an Egyptian government freed from the constraints of the aid package might do other things that Israel wouldn't like that they can't do under the accord, like publicly renouncing peace with Israel, closing the Israeli embassy in Cairo, barring Israelis from entering Egyptian territory, barring tourists with an Israeli stamp in their passport from entering Egypt, re-militarizing the Sinai Peninsula, et cetera.

But that is also why neither Congress nor the President will cut off aid to Egypt. Both major American political parties consider Israeli security as one of the top, if not the top, American interest in the region. Both parties regularly fall all over themselves to show that they are looking out for Israel more than anyone else. As a critic of Israeli policy, I find that phenomenon to be very frustrating. But that's just reality. So long as aid to Egypt protects Israeli interests, that aid is secure.