Still making Sukkot, a man under his vine and under his thatch, the Egyptians were informed of the death of Muhammad Hussein Tantawi. There is no Israeli officer or intelligence officer whose name is foreign to him. Some even knew him personally. The “Mushir” (Field Marshal) Tantawi served 21 years as commander of the fighting forces and Minister of Defense of Egypt. He was the secret man of Hosni Mubarak and the patron of his successor Sisi.
Despite Mubarak’s admiration for him, Tantawi was the main figure pushing his president to resign in February 2011 under mass pressure. Mubarak agreed to go home, and Tantawi, having no choice, took his place as temporary sovereign. He was a fascinating figure, hidden to the tools, whose life was intertwined with the annals of the Egyptian army from the time of Gamal ‘Abd al.Nasser to the time of the current president Sisi.
In the summer of 2012, a special moment was recorded in Cairo. A representative of the Muslim Brotherhood entered the presidential palace for the first time, Muhammad Morsi. For eight decades the movement strived for this moment, but the officers always stood as a solid cliff and blocked its way to power. And here the officers give their senior representative a legitimate entrance ticket to the palace. Morsi took office on June 24, full of courage and good intentions to be president of all Egypt.
A few weeks after taking office, his spokesman suddenly came out and informed the public that the new president had retired the field marshal. The news made headlines around the world, but few knew what was behind it.
Morsi was a photographer in the regime’s hall. He was appointed in a staged election process and in an agreement between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood. The street was rioting with bloodshed and bloodshed, and in order to stop the chaos, the army decided to give the brothers the right to enter the presidential palace. The army knew that after the situation stabilized, the officers would return to them and regain the reins of power. Morsi was inexperienced in managing this huge ship, and a representative of a hostile establishment to the military. His chances of success were slim, and the secret was that he was scheduled to serve in his position temporarily.
And here, Morsi gets up one bright day, and he, a president of the Muslim Brotherhood, sends home the national hero. It was a provocative and inconceivable move on his part. But Morsi was not the one who ousted Tantawi. Behind the scenes, a group of young officers in the Supreme Military Council secretly operated. They are headed by the head of military intelligence, an anonymous public official named ‘Abd al.Fatah al.Sisi.
Sisi was a student of the Field Marshal and was greatly admired. In one piece of advice with Tantawi, who was then 76 years old, the officers decided to send home the veteran fighter so they could take over his powers and act as planned. Since the military controlled the prosecution system and the courts, Tantawi was assured that unlike his president Mubarak, he would not suffer any harm.
The officers demanded that Morsi take responsibility for the move, so that it would not be seen as an internal coup but as a move within the authority of the president. Morsi did not pay to resist. It was a well.written show where everyone benefits. Sisi climbed to the starting position for the presidency. Tantawi won a smooth retirement, and Morsi, for his part, received points from the public as someone who deflected another of the symbols of the old regime.
Battalion Commander at the Chinese Farm
Sisi wasted no time. He and his friends began to build the case for Morsi, until they ousted him by the sword a year later and regained the reins of power. Thus, Sisi’s path was paved to the top of the pyramid, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief flirtation with the presidential palace ended. Sisi served as Egypt’s interim leader for about two years, and in May 2014 became president following an official election process. Tantawi ended his life peacefully and comfortably in the arms of his loved ones.
“I lost a father and a teacher today, and a jealous citizen of his homeland,” Sisi paid tribute to Tantawi upon learning of his death. Although not officially served as such, for the Egyptian military establishment, Tantawi was like a president. Authoritative, well.liked and patriotic with receipts.
Tantawi fought against Israel in three wars, in all of which he was wounded. From Operation Kadesh to Yom Kippur. In ’73 he commanded a battalion on the Chinese farm. In 1991, Mubarak appointed him Minister of Defense and Commander of the Fighting Forces, and slowly and surely became the most important figure in the President’s kitchenette. Amos Gilad, Who knew Tantawi personally, says that Mubarak was melted when he saw the senior officer.
Gilad described to me this week a valued figure, an officer and a gentleman as ever. The Egyptian army, as is well known, dominates lands and factories, and in fact serves as one of the largest business entities in the Egyptian economy. Tantawi, he said, could have gotten rich from it, but barely made it home.
“He’s a man of leaders,” Gilad said. “You know, ‘Do you know what it’s like for me to talk to you? It’s very difficult. But peace is a strategic decision, and I respect it.’ “A lot of water in the Nile. Since then the relationship has developed a lot more. Sisi mentions him. He is also a tough person, says what he thinks, honest and without small talk.”
In his remarks, Gilad expresses the gap in the perception of peace between Israelis and Egypt. Obviously they want no less from us in this peace. After all, they signed it voluntarily and have since defended it by choice. But the wounds of war in their hearts are deep, and they are slowly freezing. Their slow devotion to this peace produces for us the feeling of coolness. We, the Israelis, are just the opposite. Give us a firm peace, and we will immediately fall into your arms. We might as well forget you a thing or two, as a loved one whose head is dizzy.
On September 9, 2011, when Tantawi served as acting president, a violent mob stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo and threatened to lynch six emissaries. Prime Minister Netanyahu called Tantawi and demanded that he order his soldiers to act. Tantawi did not respond. Netanyahu mobilized the White House in a panic, and also the requests of Defense Minister Leon Panta, Cairo replied blankly.
It was only after long hours and a clear American demand from the Egyptians to do what was necessary that the Field Marshal ordered a rescue force to be sent. An Egyptian commando pulled the six out of the building, shortly before the crowd managed to break through the embassy’s fortified doors. That event could have degenerated not only into a lynching of the Israeli emissaries, but also into an unprecedented crisis in Cairo.Jerusalem relations.
If the biography is written about Field Marshal Tantawi, It will probably be assigned a special chapter to the role he played in Mubarak’s last days. For him, too, these were test days. The violent protest reached its peak, and the streets of Cairo burned with blood and fire. Many rulers in these situations used the army as their private defensive force, and ordered officers to open fire on the protesters. This is what Assad did during the war, this is what Gaddafi did, and this is what the King of Bahrain did, with the help of the Saudi army, in a rebellion that broke out in 2011.
In Egypt the army is the army of the people, and when its supreme commander, Tantawi, is required to decide who is more important, the leader or unity of the army – he decides in favor of the army. Tantawi, according to the testimonies later published by senior government officials, made it clear to Mubarak that the game was over. The tanks will not be ordered to shed protesting blood in front of the cameras.
On his death this week he passed away in the last days of the Mubarak regime. The almighty intelligence chief Omar Suleiman He died ill and alone in the United States, a few weeks after Morsi entered the presidential palace. Hosni Mubarak skipped a series of show trials held for him, and died entitled about a year and a half ago. “It’s not a trivial matter. There were days when all of Tantawi’s education and time was aimed at harming Israeli soldiers.”
The author is the commentator on Arab affairs of Gali Tzahal