J.J. Goldberg

Reuters: Spreading Unrest in Arab World Bodes Ill for Israel

By J.J. Goldberg

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This is the first bit or reporting I’ve seen on the strategic implications for Israel of all the popular ferment in the Middle East. By Crispian Balmer of Reuters Jerusalem bureau, Analysis: Bad neighborhood risks getting worse for Israel:

Political turmoil in Lebanon has strengthened Israel’s Iranian-backed enemy Hezbollah, while a leak of hundreds of sensitive documents has dented the leadership of its frustrated peace partner, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Attention has now swung down to the south, where its longest-standing Arab ally, Egypt, has been jolted by nationwide anti-government protests.

While the upheaval in Lebanon has caused concern, the fear of serious strife in Egypt has set alarm bells ringing.

The piece quotes former Barak diplomatic aide Gidi Grinstein, now head of the Reut Institute, warning that the prospect of regime change in Egypt is the most serious strategic threat. Pundits are speaking of an emerging democratic-populist-Muslim Brotherhood coalition challenging Mubarak in a coherent way.

Balmer continues:

Israeli officials say in private they cannot believe that President Hosni Mubarak will be overthrown by the demonstrations, inspired by a popular uprising in Tunisia.

But if he should fall, there is no guarantee that whoever might follow him will continue to tend to Israel ties.

Ordinary Egyptians have never warmed to Israel, despite more than three decades of peace, and regularly blame it for their woes. Recently some even suggested that Israel might have trained a killer shark to terrorize a top tourist resort.

The main opposition force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, has said it would put the 1978 Camp David peace accords to a referendum if it took power.

“If Mubarak is toppled then Israel will be totally isolated in the region,” said Alon Liel, a former director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and a former ambassador to Turkey.

“That would not represent a security threat, but it would be a political blow, coming on top of our growing international isolation, and also a psychological blow to the Israeli public.”


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