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Israel Braces for a New Egypt

The Wall Street Journal:

Israelis are bracing for a more adversarial regime in Egypt, one they expect could lead their country to expand its army, fortify the two countries’ desert frontier and possibly re-invade the Palestinian-ruled Gaza Strip.

Three decades after Israel settled into a “cold peace” with Egypt—breaking its encirclement by hostile Arab states but failing to win much popular sympathy from Egyptians—Israeli officials are reviewing the ways the U.S.-backed transition in Cairo could affect the Jewish state.

The most likely scenario, say people familiar with the review: A new leadership, swayed by Islamist support and popular sentiment against Israel, would downgrade diplomatic and commercial ties, casting doubt on the long-term survival of the two countries’ 1979 peace treaty…

Senior Israeli officials have warned that the crumbling of Mr. Mubarak’s rule has already diminished U.S. and Israeli strategic clout in the Middle East, in the face of regimes in Iran and Syria that support armed Islamist groups and now seek to draw Egypt into their camp. “It will become more difficult for Israel to control events and their outcomes” over the coming year, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, chief of planning for the Israeli armed forces’ general staff, told a security conference in Israel this week…

… Israeli officials are also pondering a worst-case scenario in which the Muslim Brotherhood dominates the next government, abrogates the treaty and ends the partial blockade that Egypt imposed on Gaza to help Israel isolate Hamas and choke off Gaza-bound weapons shipments.

A more likely outcome in Egypt, say Israelis familiar with the government’s forecasting, is a ruling coalition that is sensitive to domestic public opinion and has minority Muslim Brotherhood representation. Such a coalition, they say, would likely maintain the peace treaty and gas exports for now but would also be likely to adopt a more critical tone toward Israeli policies and might become less accommodating to Israeli officials, entrepreneurs and other visitors…

… Several former military and intelligence officials are arguing publicly that Israel must be prepared to reoccupy Gaza, or at least a wide swath of the enclave along its eight-mile border with Egypt. Other experts counsel caution, warning that such an operation would plunge Israel into years of fighting…

Read the whole thing here.

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