CAROLINE GLICK: Lessons from the embassy takeover
By Caroline Glick
September 13, 2011, 4:19 AM
We are able to consider the lessons of the weekend’s mob assault on the Israeli embassy in Cairo because the six Israeli security officers who were on the brink of being slaughtered were rescued at the last moment and spirited out of the country. If the Egyptian commandos hadn’t arrived on the scene at the last moment, the situation would have been too explosive for a sober-minded assessment of the rapidly deteriorating situation with our neighbor to the south.
Any assessment of the weekend’s events must begin by recounting a few key aspects of the assault. First, this was the second mob attack on the embassy in so many weeks. During the first assault, an Egyptian rioter scaled the 20-story building where the embassy is housed, tore down the Israeli flag, and threw it to the frenzied mob below which swiftly burned it. Rather than being arrested for the crime of assaulting a foreign embassy, the rioter was embraced as a hero by Egypt’s military regime. The governor of Giza awarded him an apartment and a job.
Second, for six hours after the assault on the embassy began on Friday evening, Israel’s leaders tried desperately to contact the leaders of the Egyptian military junta to request their intercession on behalf of the trapped security officers.
Field Marshal Muhammad Tantawi refused to speak with either Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Third, Egyptians authorities refused to intervene to save the lives of the Israeli security officers until after the Americans intervened directly on their behalf.
That is, Israel’s entreaties, and Egypt’s international legal obligations were insufficient to move the Egyptian authorities to act to save the embassy personnel from the mob. Only the apparent threat of direct US action against Egypt convinced them to act.
The behavior of the Egyptian mob and military junta alike served as a wake-up call for two key constituencies.
Until last weekend, both the Israeli Left and the US foreign policy establishment believed the situation in Egypt was not significantly worse than it had been under deposed president Hosni Mubarak.