How Will Turmoil in Egypt Impact Israel?

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egyptWhen millions of demonstrators forced the ouster of Hosni Mubarak two years ago, Israel most feared the rise of political Islam in his place and the collapse of the countries’ three-decade peace.

But with President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood ousted by the Egyptian military, officials and analysts aren’t celebrating. There are new fears: the erosion of central authority, rising chaos and economic collapse next door to Israel.

While the military is the one government institution that coordinates with Israel regularly and is seen as a short-term stabilizing force, there is also an acknowledgment that whatever government emerges might not be ready to face the country’s formidable socioeconomic challenges.

“There are those that think the boat is being rocked way beyond its capacity to stay afloat. It’s not staying the course,” said an Israeli official. “The concern is instability in a big and influential neighboring country.”

Israeli government spokespeople declined to comment on the turmoil in Egypt, keeping to a two-year-old policy of avoiding the appearance of taking sides in the domestic political struggles of the Arab Spring. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper this week that Israel is watching developments in Egypt “very carefully.”

To be sure, many experts see at least one upside: that the demonstrations against Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood in the streets of Cairo could figure as a rebuke to political Islam, with fallout spanning the Arab world.

The reverberations are likely to be felt in the Palestinian territories, which have been sensitive to political shifts in Egypt. Hamas, the militant Brotherhood affiliate that controls Gaza Strip, could be weakened.

“The mood coming out of Egypt has always had an impact on the Gaza Strip, and to a lesser extent the West Bank,” said Dore Gold, an occasional foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Netanyahu.

“The branches of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, from Tunisia to Yemen, will have a much more difficult time convincing [the Arab public] that they can improve the lives of the people.”

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

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