The Israeli government is reacting cautiously to the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, with officials hoping for a peaceful transfer of power. Some Palestinians are applauding Mr. Mubarak’s decision to step down, hoping it will lead to democracy in the Arab world.
A top Israeli government official who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation says it is a pivotal moment in Egyptian history and too early for evaluation or predictions.
The official said Israel is hoping for a transfer of power without violence that will lead to free elections and a freely elected government.
The Israeli government official said the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt must be preserved because, in his words, “it is the anchor to the stability of the whole region.”
Former Israeli Ambassador to Cairo Zvi Mazel says Mr. Mubarak will be missed by many in the Jewish state.
“We are sad, very sad," said Mazel. "Mubarak governed the country for 30 years. He kept the peace with Israel. He was the foundation of the West, of the United States, in the Arab world. He was leading the war against Iran, against radical Islam. I think as of now Egypt is not anymore a regional power.”
Egypt has been a cornerstone of Israel’s regional security strategy.
While most Israelis support democracy over dictatorship, they also prefer continuity in the first Arab government to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state in the Middle East.
Raphael Israeli is a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University.
He is concerned about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a well established but officially banned Islamic group.
“I am afraid that these popular forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and others may reverse the situation and launch us and the United States into another state of instability in the Middle East and this nobody can predict," said Israeli.
Professor Israeli says Islamic movements are gaining strength in the region.
“If we are surrounded with this kind of Islamic - we have them already, Hezbollah has taken over practically Lebanon and we have Gaza, which was taken over by Hamas," he said. "If we have also Egypt, Israel will be practically under siege, violent siege. This is a recipe for war and more war in the future. So I believe the situation is very, very, very dangerous.”
For Palestinians, Mr. Mubarak has been a critical ally, both in peace negotiations with Israel and as a mediator between rival Palestinian factions such as Fatah in the West Bank and the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Still, some Palestinians are applauding the change in Egypt and jubilation erupted in Gaza.
Bassem Eid is the founder and director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group based in East Jerusalem.
“I believe that everybody is so happy with the resignation of Hosni Mubarak right now," said Eid.
Eid says many Palestinians hope for a free and more democratic future.
“I hope that the revolution of the Egyptian people is really going to lead the Arab world and especially the Middle East to a new Middle East," he said.
Both Israelis and Palestinians will continue to try and calculate what the momentous changes across the border in Egypt will mean to the rest of the Middle East.
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