News / Middle East

Israelis, Palestinians Closely Watch Egypt Turmoil

Palestinians carry trays of sweets and an Egyptian flag (C) in front of a placard depicting Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi in Gaza City, June 18, 2012.
Palestinians carry trays of sweets and an Egyptian flag (C) in front of a placard depicting Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Mohamed Morsi in Gaza City, June 18, 2012.
Scott Bobb
JERUSALEM - The political face-off in Egypt between the military and Islamists following the presidential election is being closely watched by Egypt's neighbors in Israel and the Palestinian territories. And as with many issues the viewpoints vary considerably.

Opinions are divided among Israelis and Palestinian groups over future relations with Egypt although all agree those relations will continue to be important.

The Muslim Brotherhood asserted that its candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the run-off election to be Egypt's next president.  Egypt's governing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces indicated it will accept the result but it has reduced the president's authority and given itself legislative powers while the elected parliament is dissolved.

The decree sets up a possible confrontation between two traditional sources of power, the barracks and the mosque.

An Israeli soldier secures an area near the border between Israel and Egypt, June 18, 2012.An Israeli soldier secures an area near the border between Israel and Egypt, June 18, 2012.
An Israeli soldier secures an area near the border between Israel and Egypt, June 18, 2012.
An Israeli soldier secures an area near the border between Israel and Egypt, June 18, 2012.
Peace treaty with Israel

Israel has been watching with concern. Its leaders attach great importance to maintaining the peace treaty signed with Egypt 33 years ago. Despite cool relations, the treaty is the basis for cooperation between the two neighbors in many areas including security, commerce, transportation, energy and diplomacy.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underscored this view recently.

He says he hopes any government that arises in Egypt, any president elected in Egypt, will choose to honor the peace agreement. He says the peace accord helped Egypt as much as it helped Israel, and he hopes that the next government will understand it is in Egypt's interest no less than Israel's.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated Egypt's now-dissolved parliament, has said it will respect all previous treaties. But some of its members have suggested submitting the Israel treaty to a popular referendum where its future would be much less certain.

The second major Israeli concern is the increasing lawlessness along the border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The upheaval in Egypt has led to a rise in smuggling, human trafficking and terrorist attacks across the border.

A Palestinian analyst in East Jerusalem, Mahdi Abdul Hadi, says Israel is closely following events in Egypt.

"The Israeli government is sitting in a bunker, watching, keeping an eye, trying to infiltrate here and there to get more information and putting [forth] different scenarios, not for today but for five years from now," said the analyst.

Hamas' reaction

The Muslim Brotherhood's assertion of election victory in Egypt brought celebrations in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement.

Hamas leader Ismail Radwan says relations with Egypt have improved since last year's popular uprising brought the Muslim Brothers into the power structure.

He says relations have improved a lot and he hopes what he calls "our big sister" will help break the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

That blockade, imposed five years ago following the Hamas takeover of Gaza, has seriously degraded living conditions in the territory.

The Egyptian government allows goods and construction materials to cross through hundreds of illegal tunnels. But it continues to restrict the movement of goods across the Rafah Crossing to Gaza.

Hamas hopes a new Egyptian government will open up the Rafah Crossing and allow more legal trade.

The rival Fatah Movement, which controls the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority, views the Egyptian election somewhat differently.

Fatah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas enjoyed good relations with Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak, while the Mubarak government viewed Hamas with suspicion.  Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and is labeled a terrorist group by Western governments.

A Fatah leader in Gaza, Diab Al-Louh, says he hopes Egypt's new leadership will encourage Hamas to moderate its policies, soften its stance on Israel and implement a reconciliation agreement with Fatah.

He says Fatah is committed to what was agreed upon and ready to implement it fully.

A Gaza leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Kayed Ghoul, believes a government led by the Muslim Brotherhood will be pragmatic and focus first on reviving the Egyptian economy which has been battered by 17 months of political upheaval.

He says this reality will reflect on the political positions of the Muslim Brotherhood. They will likely keep the peace agreement with Israel, he says, and try to have Hamas align its positions more with the Brotherhood's.

A senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, speaking on the West Bank radio station Rai-FM, said he believes the rise of the Islamists will create a more balanced Egyptian position toward the various Palestinian groups.

He says they will not be like Mubarak regime, pressuring Hamas, closing all the crossings and borders and just allowing Fatah members or the Israelis to pass.

Analyst Abdul Hadi says Egyptian politics is in turmoil. "We are entering a new chapter. Uncertainty lies ahead," said Hadi.

He says this uncertainty lies in many areas.  How will political Islam relate to civil society? What role will Egypt's military play in defending the country and the constitution and balancing the various political groups? And finally, how will the various sectors of society address the growing problems of security and economic distress?

Analysts say it will take time for the turbulence to subside. But they note that Egypt values its relations with the various sides in Israel and the Palestinian territories.  And as a result whatever leadership emerges in Cairo is likely to want to maintain links with all of them.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 21, 2012 1:51 PM
In as much as it is in the koran for the muslim to hate Israel, any thinking that Egypt's new leadership will maintain relations with Israel is a pipe dream tantamount to delaying the evil day. Love and peace to the muslim means elimination of Israel even if the devil itself remains and God apportions blessings for loving Israel; an average muslim will prefer to go to hell. But the Nigerian experience should be a learning point for Egypt: Use an arm of the old block to wrestle power from them, afterwards to properly reform and reposition - not while they are still very much around - even though the military here is more sane the Egyptian political class.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs