Will a 62-year-old engineer, businessman and father of 10 sons, who was removed from his university post by former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and was arrested by ousted President Hosni Mubarak five times, but is still considered to be a symbol of moderation in the Muslim Brotherhood, be the next president of Egypt? This is how Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper opened its report on Israeli and Western fears after the Muslim Brotherhood announcement that it will, after all, be putting forward a candidate, Khayrat El-Shater, for the presidency of Egypt.
The newspaper pointed out the many concerns in the West that Egypt may turn into an Islamic state, even though El-Shater is considered to be a moderate in the eyes of the Western world. An Israeli official described the Brotherhood’s decision to contest the presidential election as “worrying”. In a statement published by the New York Times, the anonymous official said, “It is clear that this is not good news.” The Muslim Brotherhood, he added, “are not friends; they won’t do good for us”. The big question, he claimed, “is how pragmatic” a Brotherhood president would be if El-Shater wins. According to the New York Times, the US State Department refused to comment on the nomination of El-Shater for the presidency.
Israeli analysts believe that Khayrat El-Shater is the strong man of the Muslim Brotherhood. He led on communications with the leadership of the armed forces; organised the commission for the parliamentary elections; led negotiations with the Gulf States and the World Bank to obtain loans to boost the Egyptian economy; and he is considered to be the real centre of power who is making efforts to expand the influence of his movement across Egyptian networks and institutions, despite opposition from senior officers in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
Yedioth Ahronoth pointed out that El-Shater is known as the man who has relatively moderate views towards Israel and the West, adding that he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 2005 that there is no justification for the fears of the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. After all, he explained at the time, he respects the rights of all political and religious groups. Just two months ago, in an interview with another newspaper, Al-Ahram, he made it very clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to all agreements and treaties signed by previous Egyptian governments, regardless of any reservations held. El-Shater’s views, indeed, led the New York Times to describe him as the moderate and most open man in the Muslim Brotherhood who is watching over the change of part of the movement’s principles in order to be more tolerant towards the West.