In the past few weeks, many of us have written, in worried tones, about the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. (For an item of mine, go here.) Only two Arab nations have signed peace treaties with Israel: Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. In the history of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty, there have been only two Egyptian leaders: Sadat and Mubarak. (Many Israeli prime ministers, of course — democratically elected.) In the history of the Jordanian-Israeli treaty, there have been just two Jordanian leaders: King Hussein and his son.
In an interview with Der Spiegel, Mohamed ElBaradei said something rather unnerving. Referring to the Israelis, he said, “At the moment, they have a peace treaty with Mubarak, but not one with the Egyptian people.”
Now, given the context, I think ElBaradei meant, “It’s important that the whole of the Egyptian people embrace the treaty, embrace peace with Israel — not just an undemocratic government.” I don’t believe he meant that the treaty was illegitimate, or void upon the departure of Mubarak. Still, his statement was unnerving. (Also, it was slightly odd that he said “peace treaty with Mubarak,” when it was Sadat who signed it. It’s true that Mubarak has maintained it.) (Thank heaven.)
I give these thoughts in my Impromptus today, and already readers have written to warn me about what a bad actor ElBaradei is. They think I will underestimate his badness. I must now reach for an old expression from our cousins in Britain: Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs. I was anti-ElBaradei before it was cool, let me tell you.
When he and the IAEA won the Nobel peace prize in 2005, I had a piece in NR titled “How Low Can They Go?” (referring to the Nobel committee). I have since written a history of the peace prize (forthcoming): and say that a case can be made that the 2005 award was the worst the committee has ever given, in 110 years. I have chapter and verse, don’t worry.
Moreover, I have had personal experience of ElBaradei at international conferences. I saw him wring his hands over reporting Iranian nuclear violations to the U.N. Security Council — because that would trigger sanctions, which ElBaradei passionately opposed. I saw him all chummy with an Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharrazi, chortling over Washington’s concerns about Iranian nukes. Why, George W. and his fellow crusaders had been wrong about Saddam’s WMD, hadn’t they?
Despite and still (Robert Graves), ElBaradei should be allowed to compete in free elections, and Egyptians should defeat him — if there is a better alternative. Fingers crossed for better alternatives.