The Egyptian revolution has led to economic bankruptcy, says Egypt’s Boutros Boutros-Ghali, a former U.N. secretary-general. Factories are closed and Egyptian workers are no longer wanted abroad, he lamented.

Sub-Saharan Africans and Pakistanis from Baluchistan have replaced Egyptians who once worked in Libya and oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, adding millions to the 12 percent unemployed among Egypt’s 85 million.


The only country that seems to be worse off is Pakistan where 64 million of its 185 million people live below the “absolute poverty line” and 74 million are under the age of 30. The biggest fear is of another military coup — which would be Pakistan’s fourth since independence in 1947 — by radical generals who would acquire control of the country’s nuclear weapons.

Boutros-Ghali, a Christian Copt, also says Egypt hasn’t found a leader who could benefit from last year’s revolution.

That’s not quite the way the much feared Muslim Brotherhood sees it. After lulling Egypt’s millions into a false sense of security by pledging they weren’t interested in running anyone for president of Egypt, they reversed field. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Khairat el-Shater, officially No. 2 in the radical religious order but in reality one of Egypt’s wealthiest men, will be Egypt’s next president, succeeding the ailing Hosni Mubarak, now confined to a prison hospital.

Shater has been in and out of military prisons and he must realize this could happen again.

The Muslim Brotherhood won 49 percent of the seats in a relatively free election and the radical religious Salafists 25 percent, more than enough to clinch the presidency. But some of the less radical Muslim Brothers say it’s not a slam dunk. The army is still in charge of the country and its political landscape.

Yet the Muslim Brotherhood will have the principal voice in drafting a new constitution. It is bound to be an Islamist document.

At first the Muslim Brotherhood also said it didn’t want to interfere with Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Now Muslim Brotherhood watchers say that was a tactical sleight of hand to induce a false sense of security. Army brass, heavily dependent on $1.3 billion in U.S. aid a year for its part in keeping the peace with Israel, will be on guard against Muslim Brotherhood troublemakers on the Egyptian-Israeli border in Gaza and the Sinai.

Uncertainty on the Israeli-Egyptian border reinforces Israel’s hard-liners in the ruling Likud-led coalition led by Binyamin Netanyahu who are determined not to bite the bullet for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank — or at least not for one that would be truly independent.

One of the most optimistic Arab voices about the chances for a Palestinian state come hell or high water was the moderate voice of one of Jordan’s best known political figures, now vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Marwan Muasher, former Jordanian foreign minister and deputy prime minister, now says there isn’t a snowball’s chance in the Sahara for a Palestinian state in the West Bank — now, tomorrow or as far as anyone can peer into the future.

Muasher says, and a rapidly growing number of Mideast experts concur, that Israel is now condemned to continue its army occupation of the West Bank as far as anyone can see into the future. Some 340,000 Israelis live in 120 settlements whose population grows by 5.5 percent a year, almost thrice the rate in Israel.

They live under Israeli military protection. They have their own connecting roads that Palestinians aren’t allowed to use. And they control the water aquifer under the West Bank.

Palestinians say they are now akin to South Africa’s native black population prior to the lifting (after 40 years) of apartheid in 1990 by President F.W. de Klerk.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, when he was out of government, said at some point in the future there will be too many settlers in the West Bank to actually extricate Israel from the territory and Israel will become an “apartheid state,” and “that would be a tragedy for us.”

A civil war next door in Syria is not conducive to Israeli concessions.

Some Israelis are hoping that a successful air attack on some of Iran’s key nuclear installations will once again elicit the admiration of the world, much as the Six Day War victory did in 1967. But this won’t remove the apartheid stigma in the West Bank. Nor does it take into account Iran’s still formidable, asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities.

Arnaud de Borchgrave, a member of the Atlantic Council, is editor-at-large at UPI and the Washington Times.  This column was syndicated by UPI.