“It is a people that shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.” (Number 23:9) Israel once again finds itself in a region of instability as the Egyptian military calls for a change in government.
For the second time in as many years, Israel is standing on the side, observing the overthrow of the incumbent leader in Egypt. Following the standard government line, top Israeli officials have not commented on Israel’s preferred winner of this most recent stand- off. However, this lack of public declaration, should not be misunderstood for a lack of interest or even opinion on the part of Israeli diplomats. The politicians are busily assessing the ramifications of the coup on foreign relations while defense officials fear that chaos in the region will bring to a renewed launch of attacks by Islamic extremists on Israeli targets.
At this point the government is not sure what to hope for. When Morsi was elected last year, Israeli officials were concerned that he would attempt to nullify the peace treaty with Israel, in an attempt to gain popularity amongst the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamic extremists. While Israel was no major fan of Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, they learned what to come to expect from him and found a way to keep the treaty alive throughout his thirty year tenure.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the events with Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera: “Like everybody, we are watching very carefully what’s happening in Egypt,” said Netanyahu. “Remember that for 30 years now we have had an anchor of peace and stability in the Middle East, and that was the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. We hope that peace will be kept.”
Until this point, Morsi has not annulled the treaty and has allowed military cooperation to continue between the two countries. On top of that, Egypt has also taken a tough stance regarding arms trading in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by factions of Hamas.
Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt had no problem expressing a pessimistic view of the events at hand: “Instability is bad for Israel. Instability is bad for the Middle East”.
At this point only one thing seems clear: no one knows who is going to be the next leader and how that will effect Egypt’s relationship with Israel. The only thing Israel can do is to remain alert and prepare for every eventuality.