Egyptian anti-Camp David opponents forge coalition
Egyptian opponents of the Camp David accords have formed a potentially powerful new coalition. Unlike previously announced movements directed against the peace process with Israel, the latest "national coalition" is firmly based on those opponents of the process who remained inside Egypt, rather than on Egypt's vast diaspora. This is what Lutfi al-Kholi, a veteran Egyptian left-winger, told the Monitor while in London.
Mr. Kholi, a former labor lawyer and a playwright of some note, is a member of the secretariat of the left-wing National Progressive Unionist Party in Egypt. But now he is devoting more and more time to the work of the new coalition. He lists two former prime ministers, leaders of the Islamic revival, as well as prominent figures from the revived Wafd Party as fellow members.
Mr. Kholi says the members of the coalition have joined on the basis of a clear three-point program:
* For the overthrow of the Camp David policy and Egypt's return to Arabism.
* To move from the present "illusory democracy" in Egypt toward a national unity government.
* The ending of the open-door economic policy, with a return to "planned development within an Arab context."
Mr. Kholi claims that resentment against the Camp David policy is growing rapidly within Egypt. He attributes this to the failure of many of President Anwar Sadat's original promises in his peace initiative.
"Sadat's original argument was that, in order to solve our economic and social problems, we had to solve the problem with Israel, and that afterwards the other Arabs would follow us. He said that the road of reconciliation with Israel would lead to friendship with America and thus to prosperity for Egypt.
"But that road has not led to prosperity," he said. "Instead, the economic problems in Egypt have increased, and all long-term development has been halted."
"We were also promised our conciliation would tame Israel," Mr. Kholi continued. "But instead of becoming more reasonable, Israel has shifted toward greater extremism and aggression. . . ."
Mr. Kholi has mellowed considerably since the days when President Nasser imprisoned him for his left-wing views in the 1950s. Now he is particularly interested to note the opposition to Camp David growing among Egypt's large class of industrialists.
"They at first supported the peace process, and thought they could retain their Arab markets," he said. "But the success of the Arab boycott of Egypt has forced them to choose between the Arab and Israeli market-places. And, of course, the choice they prefer in commercial terms, is the Arab markets.
"Thus for the first time," he concludes, "the Egyptian bourgeoisie, which has traditionally looked down on other Arabs, has become Arab nationalists -- something Nasser failed to achieve throughout all those years!"
Mr. Kholi considers that, however great the internal opposition to peace, Mr. Sadat would nevertheless be unable to reconsider his support for the whole Camp David policy.
"He cannot leave Camp David because the nationalist forces in the region would not permit him back into their camp," he said. "Also -- because his allies in Camp David will not allow him to leave it!"