Egyptians Want to Ditch Peace Treaty With Israel, Poll Shows

Patrick Goodenough | May 14, 2012 | 4:18am EDT
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Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, left, and former foreign minister Amr Moussa take part in Egypt’s first-ever televised presidential debate in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, May 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Khaled, Al Masry Al Youm)

( – As Egyptians prepare to vote for their first post-Mubarak president next week, the antipathy towards Israel espoused by the frontrunners aligns with the findings of a new survey, in which 61 percent of Egyptian respondents favor abandoning the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, up from 54 percent a year ago.

The poll, by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, also finds a small decline among Egyptians in favorable views of the United States – now just 19 percent – while 61 percent of respondents said the billions of dollars the U.S. gives their country in military and economic aid has a “mostly negative” impact.

Asked their views on Egyptian-U.S. ties, 38 percent indicated the relationship should be more distant, 35 percent said it should remain as it is now, and 20 percent said it should be closer.

Among other findings:

--On the role of religion in government, 61 percent chose Saudi Arabia as the preferred model. (Turkey came in at 17 percent).

--Asked whether Egypt’s laws should strictly adhere to the Qur’an, 60 percent said yes while 32 percent said it should follow the values and principles of Islam and only six percent said laws should not be influenced by the teachings of the Qur’an.

-- Seventy percent of respondents viewed the Muslim Brotherhood favorably, down from 75 percent in 2011. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, also received the highest support rating among political parties, 56 percent.

--Priority issues in the election are the economy and a fair judiciary (81 percent each), with others including free speech (60 percent), equal rights for women (41 percent) and religious freedom (38 percent.)

The foreign policy issue with arguably the biggest implication for regional stability related to the peace treaty with neighboring Israel. The agreement, hammered out at Camp David in 1978 and signed at the White House the following year, remains the centerpiece of decades of U.S. mediation between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

The survey found that 61 percent of Egyptians want to abandon it, while only 32 percent think it should be maintained.

Support for annulling it has grown in particular among younger Egyptians (up by 14 points since 2011) as well as among those with higher education levels (up 18 percent since last year.)

The two frontrunners in the 13-strong presidential race, Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh and radical nationalist Amr Moussa, squared off in an unprecedented televised debate on Thursday, less than two weeks before the election.

Aboul-Fotouh, formerly a Muslim Brotherhood leader, used the word “enemy” to describe Israel, while former foreign minister Moussa settled for “adversary.” Both men said they would review the peace treaty, with the view to renegotiating some aspects.

Aboul-Fotouh told Egypt’s Capital Broadcasting Center television in a program aired Saturday that the peace agreement with Israel was a threat to national security, and should be revised, the Al Ahram newspaper reported.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Friday declined to comment on the comments relating to Israel during the candidates’ debate.

“We’re not going to get into the back and forth of what’s happening in a campaign,” she said. “People say things in a campaign and then when they get elected they actually have to govern.”

Nuland did say that the administration has made clear “our hope and expectation, that whomever is elected, that the Egyptian political system going forward will honor existing obligations and have peaceful relations with its neighbors.”

A foreign appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee last week makes economic and security aid to Egypt conditional on Cairo’s adherence to the peace treaty with Israel as well as respect for the due process of law.

Egyptians go to the polls on May 23-24. If no candidate secures an absolute majority a run-off will be held in June.

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