He also authorized a series of negotiations that ultimately leaves Hamas with greater access to the outside world, and permitted Hamas leader Khaled Meshal
to declare victory over Israel at a downtown Cairo press conference. "Everyone knew that the previous regime was biased and supporting Israel," Muslim
Brotherhood party spokesman Murad Ali told me. "The new regime ... is standing beside the Palestinians."
Then on Thursday, Morsi threw the Muslim Brotherhood another bone, issuing a
new constitutional declaration that insulates the Muslim Brotherhood from pending political threats. In this vein, it allows for the retrial of former Mubarak regime officials, thus
complicating the former ruling party's ability to challenge the Brotherhood in the next parliamentary elections, as it did during the May-June presidential
race. The declaration also prevents the courts from dissolving the Brotherhood-dominated constitution-writing body, which non-Islamists have abandoned en
masse, all but ensuring a theocratic Egyptian future.
Perhaps more importantly, the constitutional declaration grants Morsi unprecedented executive authority. It holds that all of Morsi's laws and decrees
since his June 30 inauguration "are final and binding" until a new constitution is drafted and new parliament is elected, and annuls all lawsuits against
his edicts. In Orwellian language, it further grants Morsi the unlimited power to "take the necessary actions and measures to protect the country and the
goals of the revolution."
Morsi's quick pivot from national security crisis to power grab is nothing new. In fact, he responded similarly to a major Sinai terrorist attack in
August, which he used as a pretext to issue a constitutional declaration that claimed full executive, legislative, and constitutional-assembly-appointment
authority. At the time, the Obama administration appeared hesitant to criticize Morsi, expressing its
bland "hope that President Morsi's announcements will serve the interests of the Egyptian people."
But unlike in August, when Egyptians appeared confused by Morsi's maneuver, Egypt's non-Islamist opposition has responded to Morsi's latest act with
immediate mass protests. Downtown Cairo is once again a teargas-saturated battleground, in which Egypt's notoriously violent security forces are
confronting anguished activists. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood has mobilized to support of Morsi, who encouraged them on Friday them by warning
of "weevils eating away at the nation."
Despite these developments, however, Washington's outlook remains the same: It appears disinclined from pressing Morsi publicly on domestic matters, apparently still believing that this will achieve Morsi's cooperation on foreign policy. Thus the State Department's
vanilla statement on Friday calling on "all Egyptians to resolve
their differences ... peacefully and through democratic dialogue."