The collapse of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt is not yet about Israel but soon will be, depending on his successor.
If the Muslim Brotherhood grabs the reins in the massive Arab country, Israel will face an enemy with one of the largest and strongest militaries around, built on some of the most advanced American-made platforms.
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The impact on Israel will be immediate – the IDF will need to undergo major structural changes, new units will need to be created and forces in the South will likely need to be beefed up. Since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the IDF has not had to worry about two fronts at once. Until now.
The appointment of Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman as the vice president in Egypt is a reassuring sign for Israel.
Suleiman has played a key role in Israeli- Egyptian relations over the years and is considered in charge of the “Israeli Dossier” His office has been responsible for coordinating efforts to stop smuggling via tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor with Gaza and he is considered something of a moderate in comparison to outgoing Defense Minister Mohamed Tantawi.
In a cable published recently by WikiLeaks, Suleiman told the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2009 that Egypt was stopping Iranian money from making its way through the country to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
A new regime in Egypt could change all of that, and the transfer of Iranian funds to Hamas would be the least of Israel’s concerns.
Due to the peace with Egypt and Jordan as well as the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the IDF has spent the last decade focused on the internal Palestinian threat, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. Israel’s military buildup was performed accordingly, including procurement plans regarding the number of tanks, armored personnel carriers and fighter jets acquired.
“With its current assets, the IDF will currently find it very difficult to be able to deal with two live fronts at once,” a senior defense official admitted recently.
In the meantime, in Israel the hope is that Mubarak survives the calls for his downfall and that the appointment of Suleiman as well as the dismissal of the government succeeds in easing the demonstrations on the streets.
At the moment, assessments in Israeli intelligence circles are that
Mubarak will survive. The demonstrations throughout Egypt, while large
and growing, do not have an organized leadership behind them, and
fearing a violent crackdown, the Muslim Brotherhood is staying
The question, though, is what happens the “day after” Mubarak? Who will
succeed him and what role will the Muslim Brotherhood play? Israel’s
concerns though are not isolated to Egypt. One former senior Mossad
official said on Saturday that Israel needed to be more concerned with a
potential revolution in Jordan.
“In Egypt, Israel has Sinai as a major buffer zone,” the official said.
“This is not the case in Jordan, where there is a massive Palestinian
population that could directly threaten Israel through the West Bank.”
This year is turning into a critical one for Israel, which is finding
itself increasingly isolated within the Middle East. Turkey is gone and
Egypt appears to be on the way.