By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid
The oft-repeated word in Egyptian streets is “No.” Everyday Egyptians repeat this word several times. They say “No” to military trial, “No” to old guards, “No” to military council, “No” to election before drafting the Constitution, “No” to the Constitution committee, “No” to the election committee and “No” to delaying presidential polls.
They also pronounce “No” to many outside matters. They said “No” to taking World Bank loans, “No” to American assistance, “No” to Israeli gas, “No” to preventing NGOs, etc. The latest declaration of “No” was against Saudi Arabia after police arrested Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Al-Gizawi at Jeddah airport for carrying drugs.
Of course, it is possible for Egyptian citizens to impose their demands on their government but not on governments or institutions outside their borders. It is possible for them to close their embassy in Riyadh and prevent their citizens from traveling to Saudi Arabia. They can also prevent Saudis from entering Egypt and sever relations with the Kingdom. But they cannot prevent a foreign country from arresting an Egyptian for a crime committed on its land and cannot prevent punishing that man according to law of the land. Those who call for severing relations with a major country having joint interests like Saudi Arabia or for withdrawing workers from the Kingdom are people who want to impose their demands at the expense of other Egyptians whose opinion on the matter has not been sought.
If the Egyptians say “No” to all these common interests they have the right to do so. But the question is who has got the authority to say “No” or “Yes” on behalf of the Egyptian people, the demonstrators or Parliamentarians or the expected president? The sovereign Egyptian decision should come from the government and not from television talk shows or demonstrators.
The world has been waiting for nearly a year for the decision of Egyptians about their state. A year ago, Qatar pledged to give $ 10 billion to Egypt but only after the presidential election. The UAE also did the same. World Bank refused to give any assistance and is awaiting to see the shape of the new government.
The Egyptian system is still in a state of formation and about half of it has been completed. Two parliamentary councils — Representative Council and Consultative Council — have been set up. What remains now is the endorsement of the Constitution, election of the president and formation of the government, which would enable the Egyptians to take important decisions on foreign policy issues. But now every party intends to embarrass the other to win popular support, issuing unreasonable disapprovals.
Those who say “No” to World Bank loans to beef up the cash-strapped economy may not know that many countries like Spain, Romania and Greece are standing in the queue in front of World Bank and International Monetary Fund to get loans. They should realize that these things have nothing to do with prestige. Same is the case of people who oppose foreign aid, like the one given by the US as they ignore the fact that it is part of intricate bilateral relations and joint interests. Most countries in the region wish to grab the US aid to Egypt, which is $ 1.5 billion annually and exceeds the total foreign aid received by all other Arab countries.
With regard to the issue of Egyptian lawyer Al-Gizawi who is accused of carrying drugs to the Kingdom, I would like to point out four things. First, if there was any stand against him the Saudi Embassy in Cairo would not have given him visa. Second, Al-Gizawi is a person who rebukes others, especially Saudis. Third, Saudi Arabia is the second largest home to Egyptians as the country hosts the largest Egyptian community and they live in the Kingdom peacefully without any issues. Fourth, the labor law, about which some Egyptians complain, is applied to all expatriates. Saudis should know that Egypt is now like a ship sailing through a stormy sea without a captain and they have to bear with it for sometime.
I am confident that things would return to normal and foreign relations would not change much irrespective of who comes to power, whether a civilian or retired military officer or an Ikhwani or Nasserite. The Saudi-Egyptian relations have remained strong during the past 75 years despite the ups and downs in between. The late President Anwar Sadat was angry when the Kingdom refused to support his Camp David Agreement with Israel in 1979 but the relations were again restored.
Actually the new Egypt, irrespective of who rules the country tomorrow, is closely linked to the Kingdom. Egypt is the third largest economy in the region after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Its economy is greater than Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq and Libya. Egypt would not be able to activate its economic power without the support of major regional powers like Saudi Arabia.
Those who throw stones at the Saudi Embassy in Cairo are actually throwing them against their compatriots in Saudi Arabia who are deeply concerned with the chaos and confusion that is taking place in Egyptian streets. Many will be shocked to know that most of the 1.5 million Egyptian workers in the Kingdom had refused to transfer their funds to their country since last year fearing the Egyptian pound will fall again or banks would become bankrupt and political and security situation would worsen further. It is the duty of revolutionists to safeguard their country’s achievements.