Israel, which has been at peace with Egypt since 1979, has expressed its support for the beleaguered regime of President Hosni Mubarak, while its allies in Europe and the U.S. have more aggressively pushed Mubarak to enact reforms in the face of a massive uprising.
The turmoil in Egypt has reportedly become of great concern to Israel, with military officials engaged in strategy sessions, trying to determine what to do in the event Mubarak is deposed from power.
Yesterday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that his government is anxiously monitoring the upheaval in Egypt (his first public comment on the subject).
Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these ties be preserved. At this time, we must display responsibility, restraint and utmost prudence,'' Netanyahu added.
Also, Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak, discussed the crisis situation in Egypt with his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates on Sunday.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israel has requested the Europeans and Americans to tone down their criticism of Mubarak in a bid to preserve stability in Egypt and the whole Middle East.
Moreover, Israel’s foreign ministry ordered its ambassadors in key foreign countries to stress ... the importance of Egypt's stability.
Of paramount concern to Israel is the potential rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Should that scenario occur, Israel’s 30-plus-year peace treaty with Egypt might vanish, resulting in increased military activity on its borders and a higher defense budget.
According to press reports, Israel currently spends about 9 percent of its GDP on defense (versus a figure of 23 percent in the 1970s, prior to the peace treaty with Egypt).
Mubarak and some of his associates in Egypt also served as a key mediator between Israel and Palestinians.
The assumption at present is that Mubarak's regime is living on borrowed time, and that a transition government will be formed for the next number of months until new general elections are held, wrote Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, in Yediot Ahronot, a Tel Aviv-based newspaper.
If those elections are held in a way that the Americans want, the most likely result will be that the Muslim Brotherhood will win a majority and will be the dominant force in the next government. That is why it is only a question of a brief period of time before Israel's peace with Egypt pays the price.”