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Islamist Victory in Egypt Raises Concern in Israel

A rally on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi on Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, June 24, 2012 (Elizabeth Arrott/VOA)
JERUSALEM -- The victory by a Muslim Brotherhood candidate in presidential elections in Egypt is raising concern in neighboring Israel.

Israel says it respects the outcome of the democratic process in Egypt, in which Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected president. A statement by the prime minister’s Office in Jerusalem Sunday said Israel hopes the new Egyptian administration will respect the 33-year-old peace treaty between the two countries, which Israel says “contributes to regional stability.”

But some Israeli analysts and media are warning that the peace treaty is in jeopardy.

“I think they will try to kind of freeze or to minimize the agreement,” said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo. He says Morsi is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which traditionally has been hostile toward Israel. “It is an Islamic, extremist movement. They have said they hate Israel; they would like to see Israel wiped off the map.”

Because Egypt receives nearly $2 billion in annual aid from the United States, Mazel does not expect Cairo to cancel the peace treaty.

“They cannot do it immediately, they cannot go into war, he said. "But between war and nothing, there is many other possibilities.”

Israel fears that Egypt will turn a blind eye to increasing terrorist activity in the Sinai Peninsula, and strengthen ties with the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip.

Hamas, which Israel and the West regard as a terrorist organization, welcomed the Egyptian election results as a great victory. Tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza to celebrate, handing out candy and waving Egyptian flags.