Despite crisis, Egypt can't afford to end peace treaty with Israel

By Trudy Rubin

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Published: Friday, Nov. 23 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The new president knows his reputation will rise or fall on whether he can make ordinary Egyptians' lives better. He rashly promised to improve Cairo's impossibly congested traffic and woefully absent garbage collection in his first 100 days. But Cairo's main roads are still so jammed that they often resemble parking lots, and piles of garbage sit on many streets.

Morsi's FJP, which espouses free-market principles, also knows that it will be judged in next year's parliamentary elections by whether the president has delivered. Having been banned for decades, with many of its members imprisoned, the Brotherhood speaks of its parliamentary and presidential victories as divinely ordained. It came into office full of grandiose plans to eliminate Egypt's legendary corruption, revamp its bureaucracy, and restore its historic glory.

Those promises quickly collided with a bureaucracy that has a 6,000-year history. Gehad El-Haddad, a member of the executive council of the Brotherhood's Renaissance project (which is supposed to design a new, Islamically moral framework for the economy), offered a telling example: The Ministry of Information had 48,000 employees but only 12,000 desks — and no necessary functions. And when bribes were outlawed, it and many other ministries ground to a halt.

Facing such obstacles, Morsi most likely will try to avoid new ones for the foreseeable future. He simply cannot afford a major conflict with Israel. And the moment is not ripe for any full-court press on sharia law.

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Email: trubin@phillynews.com.

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