Israel has quietly dropped off Egypt Air’s route map this week.
The airline’s explanation is that “flights to Tel Aviv are operated by Air Sinai, which is a separate company.” It explains that “our website exclusively show destinations to which our own EA flights travel to.”
I’ve been unable to find a phone number, website or postal address for Air Sinai. That’s because it doesn’t seem to exist. Wikipedia states it “ceased airline operations in its own right in 2002 and operates as a ‘paper airline’ for its parent company, Egypt Air.”
Like a fair few other people, I suspect, I’m wondering if this is a sign of things to come in the Egypt-Israel relationship, because of the growing influence of people who would like to see Israel erased from maps, not just route maps.
Egyptians who backed the movement against Hosni Mubarak, the country’s unlamented former ruler, are beginning to realise that the revolution they sacrificed so much for isn’t headed quite where they’d expected.
Earlier this month, more than three-quarters of Egyptian voters backed constitutional amendments which will facilitate the early election of a new parliament and new president. This gives the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s best-organised and largest political force, an advantage: its opponents just haven’t had time to get their act together.
Muhammad ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate, and Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League, both campaigned against the amendments, calling, along with other liberal-secular groups for alternative proposals which would have curbed presidential powers.
For its part, Muslim Brotherhood hung out banners saying a “yes” vote was a religious obligation. The Egyptian Revolution Society, an Islamist group, warned the alternative was “that the call to the prayer will not be heard any more like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France and there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women.”
Part of the reason for the Islamist victory is that the revolution wasn’t – outside of the imaginations of some in the western media – a Woodstock-like flower-power upsurge. In a thoughtful report, the International Crisis Group observed that “the role of Islamist activists grew as the confrontation became more violent and as one moved away from Cairo; in the [Nile] Delta in particular, their deep roots and the secular opposition’s relative weakness gave them a leading part.”
There’s also the fact that the army, which now rules Egypt, trusts the Brotherhood more than the secular-democrats. Elijah Zarwan, an ICG expert, recently said there was “evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military.” This makes perfect sense, if you consider the Brotherhood can deliver peace on the streets. It was, until its better-than-expected showing in the 2005 elections, a close ally of the military establishment that rules Egypt
Essam Sharaf, Egypt’s new prime minister, thus made a speech in Tahrir Square with the Brotherhood leader Mohammad el-Beltagi standing by his side.
I’m guessing a harder line on Israel will be just part of the Brotherhood’s pound of flesh: its 2007 draft manifesto also calls for non-Muslims and women to be denied from standing from president, and an Iran-style council of clerics to guide the workings of government.