Sunday, January 30, 2011

Israel fears a future minus Mubarak

THE possible fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak confronts Israel with the possibility that its own geopolitical situation in the region could sharply deteriorate. 

by: Abraham Rabinovich 
Egypt under Mubarak has been the major force for stability in the region since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace agreement more than three decades ago in the wake of the Yom Kippur War.

Mubarak, who served as Egypt's air force commander in that war, made a point of honouring the deal and nurturing civil relations with Israel's leadership even though many of his countrymen, seculars as well as Islamists, object to relations with the Jewish state.

The peace treaty with Egypt provided legitimacy for Jordan to make peace with Israel as well and permitted other Arab countries to establish formal or informal contacts with it. Mubarak was personally active in trying to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and Israelis saw him as an honest broker.
Peace with Egypt, which has the largest army in the Arab world, permitted Israel to substantially reduce the burden on its own armed forces, from the budget to the number of years that reservists are required to serve. For more than 20 years, the Israeli army has not factored in possible war with Egypt in drawing up its annual budget. The large sums thus saved could be diverted to economic and social programs.

Egyptian security forces co-operated with Israel, at least to some extent, in reducing the number of weapons smuggled from their territory into the Gaza Strip and the number of armed militants attempting to cross into Israel.

If Egypt turns once again to be a confrontational state, then Israel will have to make a major shift in its military planning and deployment to be able meet a threat from that quarter.

Even without a direct confrontation with Israel, the rise of a radical regime in Egypt, or one unfriendly to Israel, is likely to encourage greater radicalisation in other countries in the region. Jordan, a peaceful and strategically important country on Israel's eastern border, could become a channel for anti-Israel militants from the east - Iraq or Iran - seeking to get at Israel.

Hezbollah in Lebanon to the north could be emboldened if it felt that Israel were distracted by a threat from Egypt to the south.
The same is true for Hamas in the Gaza Strip and for West Bank Palestinians, and even perhaps Israeli Arabs.
Despite the ominous scenarios taking shape in the minds of strategists, it is by no means certain that events will play out that way.
WikiLeaks has revealed that, in their growing fear of Iran, many Arab countries view Israel as a silent ally.
Stability is as important for Egypt and the other Arab countries as it is for Israel.

The man appointed by Mubarak as his deputy and presumed successor, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, is well known and respected in Israel, where he has frequently visited. It is presumed that his policies towards Israel would be similar to Mubarak's.


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