News / Middle East

Egypt Unrest Concerns Israel

Former US national security advisor and retired Marine Corps General James Jones (file photo)
Former US national security advisor and retired Marine Corps General James Jones (file photo)
Meredith Buel

Israel is concerned that Egypt's political upheaval could spread to other Arab nations and bring radical Islamists to power.

Israeli officials worry that any sudden change in the Egyptian government could bring chaos and threaten stability in an already volatile region.

With demonstrations growing against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and his decision not to run for re-election in September after three decades in power, security experts continue to wonder what impact the change could have on the Middle East.

Addressing a policy conference in the Israeli city of Herzliya, former U.S. national security advisor and retired Marine Corps General James Jones asked the questions on the minds of many people here.

"The unrest in Egypt, following the events in Tunisia, has gripped the attention of policy-makers the world over and for good reason," said Jones. "Could the peace that has existed for so long between Israel and Egypt be in jeopardy?  Will the forces of radicalism be buttressed or diminished by these events?"

Treaty with Egypt cornerstone of Israeli strategy

For more than 30 years, Israel has counted on its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt as the cornerstone of its regional security strategy.

The revolt that has brought large numbers of protesters into the streets of Cairo has created uncertainty for Israeli government officials, who constantly point out that they live in what they term "a very dangerous neighborhood."

"We are really afraid," said Zvi Mazel. "Really afraid and it is legitimate for us to say that we are afraid."

Zvi Mazel is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt.  He says Israel is particularly anxious about the Muslim Brotherhood, a well-established Islamist movement that is officially banned in Egypt.  While the group has not played a leading part during the current protests, Mazel says Israel is extremely concerned about its potential role in any future government.

"We can do one only thing, warn the international community that they should put pressure on Egypt to keep the peace with Israel, whatever government emerges," he said. "If it is the Muslim Brotherhood, there will be, it may lead, it may lead to war.  But is this the wish of the people of Egypt, to go back to war?"

Retired Israeli General Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and currently a member of parliament, says the Arab uprising is a stunning development and potentially creates a severe threat to Israel.

"We must admit that Israel, the West and the entire region were taken by surprise by the strength and power of this earthquake that began in Tunisia, Egypt and threatens to expand to other countries in the region," said Mofaz. "This is an existential threat."

For decades, Israel has benefited from the cooperation of some autocratic leaders in the Middle East, however the current uproar has shown that some such governments are potentially unstable.

Israeli leaders say while they support the spread of freedom and democracy, they are worried if changes come too quickly.

Shlomo Avineri is a former director of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs who is now a political science professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

"I think, like all Israelis, we would like to see democracy in Egypt," said Avineri. "If Egypt will become a democratic country, democracies, we know, do not go to war against democracies.  And this will be the best thing that could happen to Israel if there is going to be a true, consolidated, democracy in Egypt.  However, I am afraid this is probably not going to happen."

Future of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

The current uncertainty is threatening efforts to revive the moribund peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israeli President Shimon Peres says now is the time to increase efforts to solve that conflict.

"The events of the recent period raise the need to free our agenda of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as soon as possible because the conflict is exploited by all sides, both by the Arab side and by us," said President Peres. "Israel must maintain its strength in the face of all enemies that rise up against it, but at the same time it must stretch out its hand in peace to all those who are willing to conciliate with it."

Israel is hoping for a smooth transition managed by Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman.

Suleiman has had a lengthy relationship with the Israelis and a 2008 diplomatic cable made public by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks  shows he has been Israel’s favored successor to Mr. Mubarak for years.

Former ambassador to Cairo, Zvi Mazel, says Israel is very grateful Mr. Mubarak’s government has not disintegrated.  

"The situation now in Egypt is a kind of a stalemate or standoff, it is an intermediary phase, absolutely because it is not finished and I think it is being characterized by the fact that the regime is still on," said Mazel. "The regime did not collapse.  It is a fact."

The former ambassador says Israel hopes for an orderly transition in Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid