Egyptians Cool Toward U.S.; Want to Scrap Peace Treaty With Israel

By Patrick Goodenough | April 26, 2011 | 4:41am EDT

In this frame from video, officials remove a portrait of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the main Cabinet building in Cairo, on Sunday, Feb. 13 2011. (AP Photo/APTN)

( – A new survey of Egyptians’ attitudes two months after President Hosni Mubarak’s departure depicts a society in which the Muslim Brotherhood is broadly popular, the United States is not, and more than half the country would like to scrap Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

Muslim respondents in the poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, were almost equally divided between those who say they agree with Islamic fundamentalists (31 percent) and those who say they do not (30 percent).

Sixty-two percent said Egypt’s laws should strictly follow the teachings of the Qur’an, while only five percent said laws should not be influenced by Qur’anic teachings. Another 27 percent favored another option – that laws should follow the values and principles of Islam but should not strictly follow the teachings of the Qur’an.

Interestingly – given the argument that poverty breeds Islamic radicalism – sympathy for fundamentalists is greater among middle- and high-income Egyptian Muslims (35 percent) than among those in the lower-income group (20 percent).

Egyptians’ attitudes towards the United States have not changed significantly since the uprising that resulted in Mubarak’s resignation in February.

“Nearly eight-in-ten Egyptians have an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. – virtually unchanged from last year,” Pew reported.

The trend for this question over the past six years has ranged between a low of 69 percent in 2006 to a high of 82 percent in 2010. The new poll finds that 79 percent of respondents view the U.S. in an unfavorable light.

President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Egypt in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As for Egyptians’ opinions on how the Obama administration handled the dramatic events in their country this year, only 22 percent of respondents say the U.S. impact has been positive, compared to 39 percent negative. Another 35 percent chose the “neither” option, which Pew said means that they “essentially see the U.S. as a non-factor in Egypt’s political changes.”

On the U.S. response to the protests across the broader Middle East, 52 percent said they disapproved with the way President Obama is dealing with calls for political change, while 45 percent approved. Among those who disapproved, 42 percent said Obama had shown too little support for protesters in Egypt and elsewhere.

Asked how they would like ties with the U.S. develop in the years ahead, only 15 percent of respondents said they would like to see a “closer” relationship. Forty-three percent preferred a more distant relationship and 40 percent wanted it to remain “as close” at it is now.

With regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, a combined 75 percent of respondents expressed a “somewhat favorable” or “very favorable” opinion of the veteran group.

On the other hand, when asked which group they would most like to see lead the next government saw only 17 percent picked the Muslim Brotherhood. It nonetheless scored second highest among five groups, beaten only by New Wafd, a liberal nationalist party, which scored 20 percent in that question.

Of likely candidates for president in elections expected to be held in the late fall, Amr Moussa, a former foreign minister and outgoing secretary-general of the Arab League, received a combined favorability rating of 89 percent (41 percent “very favorable” and 48 percent “somewhat favorable”).

Next up were Ayman Nour with a 70 percent favorable rating, and Mohamed ElBaradei with 57 percent.

Nour challenged Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate election in 2005, and was jailed for alleged election fraud soon afterwards. He remained in prison until released on health grounds in 2009.

ElBaradei is a former secretary-general of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

One figure scored even higher than Moussa: Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, received a 90 percent score. The military has said it will not field a candidate in the presidential election.

‘Cut ties with the Zionists’

The survey’s questions relating to the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979 found that fundamentalist-leaning Egyptians are not alone in wanting to annul the agreement.

In fact, when asked this question 51 percent of those identifying themselves as sympathizing with fundamentalists said the treaty should be abolished, and 51 percent of those who say they disagree with fundamentalists, agreed.

A split on the issue was evident between poorer and wealthier Egyptians. Sixty percent of lower-income respondents want the agreement annulled while 45 percent of higher-income respondents agreed.

Following the Camp David accords signed in 1978, President Anwar Sadat – Mubarak’s predecessor – became the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel the following year, a move that led to three decades of peace, if not warm relations, between the neighbors.

The Muslim Brotherhood has made no secret of its desire to see the treaty thrown out. Earlier this year it called for an immediate review of “Egyptian foreign policy, especially regarding the Zionists and the need to cut ties with them and support the Palestinian resistance.”

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