Hosni Mubarak’s former regime got many things wrong, but Egyptian officials sure knew how to accurately read at least some parts of U.S. foreign policy. A State Department cable written in December 2007 recently released by WikiLeaks describes how the Egyptian government believed that “their discussions with the United States” passed “through a perceived ‘Israeli filter.'” It’s fair to assume that Egypt was referring to how, as Helena Cobban writes in Salon, “pro-Israeli groups and individuals in Congress and the rest of the American political elite” have enormous influence on how Washington conducts foreign policy.
The pro-Israel apparatus’ influence, which has created a powerful “Israeli filter” that affects the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, was fully on display during the Obama administration’s noticeably confused and flat-footed response to the anti-Mubarak popular uprising.
Immediately after the beginning of the uprising, President “Obama began placing calls to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel,” according to the New York Times. Netanyahu “feared regional instability” and “urged the United States to stick with Mr. Mubarak.”
The administration itself was split over what do to about Mubarak. The faction of the administration that favored having Omar Suleiman–the former Egyptian VP who was also Israel’s favorite— lead a “transition” included Dennis Ross, a core pillar of the Israel lobby inside the administration. The Los Angeles Times explained:
The other camp includes Dennis Ross, a former Middle East peace negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Ross, who has strong ties to Israel, is the author of a 2007 book that advised against treating the Muslim Brotherhood as a potential partner in Egypt’s political future, noting the group’s refusal to renounce violence “as a tool of other Islamists.”
Apart from managing the crisis, the White House is consulting with outside interest groups and foreign governments to ensure that its message is getting through.
National Security Council member Daniel Shapiro has sought to reassure pro-Israel groups that the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s political negotiations would not undermine the country’s peace treaty with Israel, according to people who have talked with him. Shapiro, who led outreach to Jewish voters in Obama’s presidential campaign, has tended to the president’s relations with Israel and other regional partners, as well as with Jewish leaders in the U.S.
While the Egyptian protesters forced Mubarak out, as well as ending any possibility that Suleiman would be the new dictator, the U.S. remains deeply concerned with how the revolution will affect Israel and its peace treaty with Egypt. Following Mubarak’s resignation, the White House insisted that “it’s important that the next government of Egypt recognize the accords that have been signed with Israel.”