By: Vickie J. Rubinson
The teetering of Egypt's regime caused widespread alarm in neighboring Israel this week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was watching events unfold with "vigilance and worry." He said he feared radical Islamists could take power and cancel the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the cornerstone of Israel's security. "Peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over three decades," Netanyahu said, "and our goal is to ensure these relations continue."
Israelis "want to rejoice" for Egyptians as they get a taste of real freedom, said Yossi Klein Halevi in "The New York Times." But our "grim assumption is that it is just a matter of time before the only real opposition group in Egypt, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, takes power." We've already seen the rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas--an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood--controls Gaza. Add a hostile Egypt, fully armed with advanced American weaponry, and you get the "ultimate Israeli nightmare" of being surrounded by enemies.
If President Hosni Mubarak falls, Israel faces some tough choices said Aluf Benn in Israel's Ha'aretz. Peace with Egypt "saved Israel enormous resources" and let it "focus militarily on Syria, Lebanon and Iran." If Egypt now goes Islamist, Israel could reverse that situation by cementing peace with the Palestinians and Syria and withdrawing from the West Bank and the Golan Heights. "Netanyahu will have to decide between holing up in a citadel and signing peace accords."
Stability is possible, said "The Jerusalem Post" in an editorial. A power transfer from Mubarak to intelligence chief Omar Suleiman looks "more likely than the toppling of the present military regime." Unlike Islamists or pro-democracy protesters, a transitional government including old-regime elements could ensure "basic human rights, freedoms and greater economic opportunities" while maintaining Egypt's security pacts. That "would be better not just for Israel, but for the Egyptian people as well."