Washington is buzzing with talk that Congress may cut off Egypt's big foreign aid allocation – the second biggest in the U.S. foreign aid program, behind Israel's. Members of Congress, in particular, are making noise about cutting or ending aid going back to the Camp David peace agreement.
Think it's going to happen? Don't bet the kibbutz. In the past, Egypt has had some mighty important lobbyists who pulled out all the stops to ensure that the aid to Cairo continued – and I'm not talking about million-dollar-a-year K Street hired guns.
When aid cuts have been threatened in the past, the most effective lobbyists for preserving it were Israeli diplomats here who believed Washington's aid to Egypt was critical to Israeli interests in the region – including their interest in backing a Mubarak regime that has kept the peace with Israel for 30 years.
Almost nobody was surprised this week when WikiLeaks revealed U.S. diplomatic cables showing that Israel has “long preferred current Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman as the successor to President Hosni Mubarak,” according to JTA.
Suleiman, who has been Mubarak's link to Israel as well s to the Palestinians, is considered the most likely interim successor to Mubarak - and the successor most likely to maintain the preeminence of the military.
So I'm guessing that when the crunch comes – when Congress starts chewing on next year's foreign aid budget – Egypt's best lobbyists will come calling again, making the argument that boosting Egypt's military is a critical element in regional stability.
Sure, lawmakers will continue to huff and puff about cutting aid to the despotic Mubarak government. They may even insert language into authorizing legislation demanding free elections and other democratic niceties, which I'm sure will scare the pants off Egypt's military leaders.
But I'm betting a lot of the lawmakers who today are calling for an end to Egypt aid will quietly change their minds when the lobbyists from Israel begin knocking on their doors – backed, I should add, by the Pentagon, which loves Egypt aid almost as much as it loves Israel aid, in large part because so much of the money comes back here to defense contractors.
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