Will Egypt’s Luck Run Out Someday?

With an ever-declining economy, political sclerosis, an Islamic State insurgency in the Sinai, and civil wars in neighboring Libya and Sudan as well as in nearby Yemen and Ethiopia, Egypt seems like a country with every reason to collapse. But it hasn’t. Samuel Tadros reflects on the country’s remarkable good fortune:

In his seminal essay, “The Sorrows of Egypt,” the late Fouad Ajami noted, in his masterful prose, the numerous sorrows of modern Egypt, from the steady decline of its public life and its dependence on foreign handouts to the deep sense of disappointment that engulfs the country as it rotates between false glory and self-pity; he concluded his treatise by remarking that “Egyptians who know their country so well have a way of reciting its troubles, then insisting that the old resilient country shall prevail.” The Arab sage, who professed “approaching the country with nothing but awe for its civility amid great troubles,” concurred with their assessment. “The danger,” he wrote, is not of sudden, cataclysmic upheaval, but of the steady descent into deeper levels of pauperization.”

More than 25 years after Ajami’s essay, his words seem prophetic. While Egypt has continued its descent, it has managed to avoid the fate of many of the region’s other countries. No great calamity has befallen the country as it has in Syria and Libya. Egypt’s avoidance of such a fate remains a puzzle. By all measures, the country should have faced a reckoning. The list of Egypt’s troubles is long and would have broken many a country by now.

After all, if Egypt’s ship has failed to sink, it is not for lack of trying. . . . And yet, somehow, against overwhelming odds, the ship has continued to float.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Egypt, Fouad Ajami, Middle East

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem