By Rania Al Malky
CAIRO: It was only a matter of time before Israel entered the equation.
An attack by gunmen on a bus and blasts targeting two other vehicles in southern Israel near the border with Egypt that killed seven and wounded 25 were precisely what our neighbors were waiting for to wage an offensive of unfounded accusations that the attackers had infiltrated Israel through Egyptian territory. Egypt has lost control over security in Sinai, they said, despite having stepped up efforts to reign in radicals in the area.
In quick retaliatory attacks news reports said that Israeli aircraft bombed the Gaza Strip — despite denials by the ruling Hamas that the group was involved — killing six Palestinians and two Egyptian soldiers. And soon after, along the border of Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Taba in South Sinai and the Israeli city of Eilat, the site of the initial attack on Israel, an Egyptian army officer and two security personnel were killed by the Israeli military.
Last week more than a 1,000 army and police troops were deployed with tanks and armored vehicles to quell militants claiming affiliation with Al-Qaeda who carried out an armed assault on a police station and had previously sabotaged gas pipelines to Israel.
In the meantime, back in the capital bickering political players and the military prosecutor live in the twilight zone seemingly oblivious of the immediate challenges facing Egypt and their role in further complicating an already inflamed situation.
As the military prosecution whiles away the hours questioning political activists who risked their lives during the uprising, like Asmaa Mahfouz, for criticizing the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in a tweet, accusing her of “insulting” the military and inciting violence; and Loai Nagati, who was also about to face a military trial simply for tweeting at the site of violent confrontations between protesters and police last June (not even for the content of his tweets), Egyptian soldiers and security men are dying on the border.
Even though Mahfouz and Nagati were acquitted and the charges against them dropped following a public outcry and growing accusations that the military council is stifling dissent, thousands of other Egyptians have been sentenced to prison terms in quick military tribunals that show no regard for due process under the pretext of clamping down on thugs.
And away from street action and into the air-conditioned confines of the wise ones who have embraced the “civilized” political route, an increasingly uncivilized and contrived tug of verbal war continues over the constitution and its principles with no regard whatsoever to the fact that this debate, which threatens to tear Egypt into fragmented pockets of angry mobs in suits, will only distract from the top priority of moving along in the political process for the primary purpose of ending military rule.
What better pretext for prolonging the state of emergency and keeping the military in power, or worst still plotting to guarantee a privileged status for the army in the new constitution, than the looming threat of a confrontation with Egypt’s historical enemy?
A divided political class can only exacerbate the potential for a dangerous diversion from the democratic path this nation has paid dearly for with the blood of its children.
The alternative is not an unrealistic utopian scenario where fundamentally opposed political currents erase all points of contention, but rather a transitional scenario where there is a basic agreement on the path laid out by the March constitutional amendments and the results of the public referendum as well as consensus over a non-binding charter meant to guide the constituent assembly that will draft of the new constitution.
Both internal and external challenges threaten to hijack the achievements we have made so far. How to confront those challenges is in our hands, whether we belong to the military or are ordinary civilians, so let’s make the right choice.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.