Analysis: Egypt proves peace role can survive Arab Spring

Thu Nov 22, 2012 1:59pm EST
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By Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) - Mediating the Gaza truce was a bravura diplomatic performance by Egypt's new President Mohamed Mursi, jacking up his personal stature and reassuring an anxious Washington that the architecture of Middle East peace can survive the Arab Spring.

For nearly two years, Washington has fretted over what would happen in a major showdown between Israel and the Palestinians without the Arab autocrats that kept stability for decades, above all Egypt's Hosni Mubarak who presented himself as the personal guarantor of its 1979 peace with Israel.

Mubarak was toppled by a popular revolt last year, and his successor Mursi hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group whose rise Washington has feared for decades.

But by keeping the trust of Israel and the United States, and using his own Muslim Brotherhood background to develop a rapport with Gaza's ruling Hamas militants, Mursi has passed the test of his first Israel-Palestine crisis with flying colors.

"Everyone is pointing to Mursi as a winner in this and as a crucial player," said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center. "He comes out of this with more political capital on the regional and international front."

Praise from Washington has come fast and thick.

"I want to thank President Mursi for his personal leadership to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and end the violence," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who spent Wednesday at Mursi's palace being briefed on the negotiations by his staff.

The achievement is especially extraordinary for a 61-year-old engineer once mocked as the "spare tyre" because he was selected as the Brotherhood's presidential candidate only after its first choice was barred from standing by a court.   Continued...

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (R), Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (C) meet at the presidential palace in Cairo November 21, 2012. REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/Handout