Alexa

Israel watches Egypt uprising with fear

Israel watches Egypt uprising with fear

Israel watched fearfully Saturday as anti-government unrest roiled Egypt, one of its most important allies and a bridge to the wider Arab world.
The Israeli prime minister ordered government spokesmen to keep silent. Officials speaking anonymously nonethless expressed concern violence could threaten ties with Egypt and spread to the Palestinian Authority.
The Egyptian unrest dominated Israeli media. Israeli TV news channels provided hourly updates. Israel Radio reported extensively on developments and dubbed its broadcasts "Fire on the Nile."
Writing in the Haaretz daily, columnist Aluf Benn speculated that President Hosni Mubarak's "fading power" leaves Israel with few friends in the Middle East.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday called Mubarak, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa. Abbas told the Egyptian leader that he is eager to see Egypt stable and secure, the agency said.
If Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood _ the main opposition group _ gains power in the turmoil, the balance of power between the rival Palestinian camps could change. Abbas is backed by the West, while his Islamic militant Hamas rivals draw their support from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Hamas is the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Two Israeli officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered all government spokesmen not to comment on the mass riots in Egypt, where protesters are demanding Mubarak resign after nearly 30 years in power. Both officials were speaking on condition of anonymity.
The spokesmen have likely been silenced out of fears that any perceived Israeli involvement could further compromise an ally whose ouster would pose a serious threat to Israel.
The officials said they expect Mubarak to survive the unrest but that it could damage ties with Israel if the country's popular opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, makes gains.
Egypt was the first Arab country to reach peace with Israel three decades ago. Ties have never been warm, but Egypt has played a critical role as Mideast peace mediator between Israel and Palestinians.
"A stable Egypt with a peace treaty with Israel means a quiet border," one told The Associated Press. "If there is a regime change Israel will have to reassess its strategy to protect its border from one of the most modern militaries in the region."
The Israeli security officials also said they were worried that violence might spread to Gaza, the West Bank, and possibly to its other ally in the Arab world, Jordan.
Eli Shaked, a former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt, speculated in an interview with Channel 10 TV that if Mubarak's reign is destabilized, radical Egyptian Islamists could fill the void.
"It's good that Israel is keeping quiet, but there is no doubt that what is happening in Egypt is not good for Israeli interests," Shaked said. "It will only be a matter of time before a leader of the revolution arises and he will come from the Muslim Brotherhood.