(CNSNews.com) – Two months after the Obama administration released $250 million in aid to Egypt in what Secretary of State John Kerry called “a good-faith effort to spur reform,” the country is witnessing a surge of anti-Israel sentiment, much of it stoked by the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
“Israel is our enemy,” senior Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leader Mohamed el-Beltagy chanted during a rally outside a prominent Cairo mosque on Friday, accusing the Jewish state of “irresponsible and apprehensible crimes against our Muslim brothers and sisters in Palestine and Syria.”
“As Muslims, we will stay as one, generation after generation, and our goal will remain the liberation of Jerusalem,” the Brotherhood’s website quoted Beltagy as telling the gathering. “We must mobilize all resources to remember the real enemy and the seriousness of the situation, so we’ll be ready to confront the injustice and the monstrosity.”
The MB and other Islamist groups are protesting recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria, reportedly targeting Hezbollah-bound weapons shipments, as well as Israeli policies in Jerusalem.
Fresh tensions surround the city’s contested Temple Mount, location of the al-Aqsa mosque and the site of frequent clashes between Israeli police and stone-throwing Muslims. Jerusalem police last Wednesday held the top Palestinian cleric for six hours of questioning about a violent disturbance at the mosque.
In a statement responding to the Syria airstrikes and mufti’s arrest, the MB said the Israeli action “confirms that Israel has been planted in the heart of the Arab world to spread chaos, terror and aggression, and to break up Arab countries so as to grab full control of the region.”
“Unfortunately, this is done right under the nose of the United Nations, with the support and complicity of the United States, amid Arab and Muslim inability to take any deterrent action against the Israeli aggressors,” it said, urging Muslims to “seek to liberate it [the al-Aqsa mosque] and the land of Palestine from their occupiers.”
In other developments:
--Delegates in the MB-dominated upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, on Monday demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the withdrawal of the Egyptian envoy from Tel Aviv, citing what they called “assaults against al-Aqsa mosque.”
Council Speaker Ahmed Fahmy, also a Brotherhood member, promised to pass on the demand to the cabinet.
--Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr on Monday accused Israel of violating international law in Jerusalem.
-- A prominent Islamic scholar regarded as the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, visiting the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip last week, extolled “resistance” against Israel, which he said had no right to exist.
“We will not give up on the resistance, and we will not give up our arms,” the Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted Qaradawi as telling a gathering at a Gaza mosque.
-- A senior MB figure refused to take part in a Washington Institute for Near East Policy conference last week, complaining about Israeli participation. Helmi el-Gazzar flew to Washington at the institute’s expense but failed to turn up at the event. (Gazzar said subsequently he had paid his own hotel bill and offered to refund the airfare.)
For the past three decades Egypt has been a top beneficiary of U.S. aid, receiving more than $60 billion in military aid tied to the peace agreement it signed with Israel in 1979.
The toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011 and rise of the Brotherhood – which had bitterly opposed the peace treaty – raised concerns about the agreement’s future.
Since taking office last June President Mohammed Morsi has taken a cautious approach, saying Egypt will honor its international obligations but giving no signal of any willingness to visit Israel or meet with Israeli leaders. (Early this year a video surfaced of a speech he delivered in 2010, in which Morsi called Jews “apes and pigs.”)
Last March, Kerry announced during a visit to Cairo that the administration was releasing $250 million in aid, including $190 million in budgetary assistance to address the country’s “extreme needs,” and $60 million to support “key engines of democratic change in Egypt.”
“When Egypt takes the difficult steps to strengthen its economy and build political unity and justice, we will work with our Congress at home on additional support,” he said in a statement after talks with Morsi.
A month later, the administration in its fiscal year 2013 State Department budget proposal requested $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt, plus $250 million in economic support funds.
Justifying the latter amount, the administration said the funding would provide Egypt with “critical assistance as the country continues its historic democratic transition.”
“U.S. assistance programs will seek to support a successful transition to democracy while assisting the Egyptian government to address obstacles to sustainable economic growth and recovery,” it said.
At least six separate initiatives have been introduced on Capitol Hill since the beginning of 2013 aimed at prohibiting or limiting aid to Egypt, some tied to Egypt-Israel peace agreement commitments and to the advancement of political, economic, and religious freedom.