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Middle east

Israel keeping wary eye on Egypt unrest

© Haaretz/ AP


Latest update : 2013-07-04

As Israel monitors the crisis in Cairo, channels of coordination between the Egyptian military and its intelligence and Israel’s security forces continue to operate, maintaining calm along the Gaza border, says Haaretz's Amos Harel.

Channels of coordination between the Egyptian military and its intelligence and Israel’s security forces continued to operate this week, despite the severe crisis in Cairo. The two sides continued to cooperate with regard to stabilizing the situation in Sinai and maintaining calm between Israel and Hamas along its border with the Gaza Strip.
In a prearranged move, Israel recently agreed that Egypt deploy more troops in Sinai to prevent clashes with bands of extremist Islamic activists operating among the region’s Bedouins. Egypt continues on a daily basis to mediate between Israel and Hamas to resolve incidents along the border fence and quash any possible escalation, as happened last week when Islamic Jihad fired rockets from the Gaza Strip into the Negev.
But as far as is known, a decision by the Egyptian army to confront the Muslim Brotherhood government directly has not been discussed with the Israel Defense Forces brass. Israel is being careful to avoid even the appearance of interference with events in Egypt. Hamas is also trying to demonstrate good will toward Egypt. Egyptian security forces have recently asked Hamas to prevent any passage of people from Gaza to Sinai via the Rafah tunnels, out of fear that extremist activists will pour oil on the fire of the struggle in Egypt. Hamas acceded immediately to the request.
Israeli is monitoring the drama unfolding in Egypt mostly by watching the media coverage and analyzing responses in the social media. At the moment, the crisis has no immediate security implications for Israel. In Sinai, special care must be taken for fear that armed Islamic groups will take advantage of the chaos to carry out attacks on the border with Israel. The Gaza Strip is more likely to show restraint. Hamas, which hopes the Muslim Brotherhood survives, now depends more than ever on Egypt. It seems that it has no interest at this time in sparking a flare-up with Israel.
In recent weeks the Egyptian army has shown increasing determination to take control of events in the country. Last night, Egypt underwent a military coup, even if the military leadership is signaling that such moves are only temporary. But it is hard to say that Israel hoped the Muslim Brotherhood would fall. In contrast to earlier predictions, and despite the clear ideological animus of the Muslim Brotherhood toward Israel, senior IDF officers say security coordination between the two countries over the past year has been better than it was during the Mubarak rule. The improvement is attributed to the efforts and interests of the Egyptian security branches, but the fact is that the Muslim Brotherhood has allowed security cooperation to flourish.
Assuming that the Egyptian military is successful at taking the reins, there will also be strategic implications for Israel. The most essential involves the nature of the ties between Cairo and Gaza. The ideological identification of the Muslim Brotherhood with Hamas has allowed Egypt to extend its patronage over Hamas and to bend Hamas to its policies. It is hard to know whether these ties will persist when the rulers in Cairo change.
Looking at it from Israel, the clearest phenomenon over the past few days is the magnitude of the split in the Egyptian people. At the moment it seems that quarreling is between two camps, almost equal in size and with boundless hatred for each other. The risk of major bloodshed is growing and it is very possible that weeks will pass before the situation stabilizes. Egypt’s problem is that even if an alternative to the Muslim Brotherhood regime emerges, the basic problems of the Egyptians will still be there: a crying lack of investment, the death of tourism, damage to the individual security of Egypt’s citizens, and above all the need to feed and provide livelihoods for more than 80 million people every day. Even Mohammed Morsi’s ouster will solve none of these problems, which seem too big for any regime to cope with.

By Amos Harel, Haaretz

Click here to read this article on Haaretz.

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Date created : 2013-07-04