Israel must weigh the mobilization of a counterterrorism intervention force for Sinai if faced without a choice, a former deputy IDF chief of staff said on Wednesday.
"I emphasize that this should only be considered if there is a lack of alternatives. Egypt is a very important country," Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, who formerly headed the National Security Council, said. The near future will determine whether Egypt falls under the sway of the Middle Eastern radical axis or not, he said at a security conference by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan.
Firefight erupts on Egyptian border
The comments came as security chiefs in Israel watched developments in Egypt closely, and remained disturbed by the prospect of a breakdown in law and order across Israel¹s southern neighbor, which could enable radical jihadi groups to launch new attacks on southern Israel.
Earlier during the conference, entitled "Israel in a New Strategic Environment," Prof. Hillel Frisch, an expert on Islamic politics from the Begin-Sadat Center, said Saudi Arabia was funding the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Syria and was seeking to use the cash as a means of gaining an influence in the cash-strapped countries.
"The Saudis are willing to invest to prevent Iranian influence and moderate these regimes," he said.
The revolutions rocking Syria and Egypt meant that conventional military threats to Israel have been significantly weakened, Frisch said.
"It's diminishing before our eyes. The militaries of Syria and Egypt are weakened. Compared to the 1950s and '60s, this is a blessing," he said.
"It allows us to divert resources to ballistic and nuclear threats [from Iran] and the rocket-based war of attrition [from Gaza and Lebanon]." Ultimately, a rise to power by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will fail to create a successful government, he predicted.
"Then, real steps towards democracy will happen. This is the inevitable destiny," he said.
Prof. Eitan Inbar, head of the Begin-Sadat Center, took a less
optimistic view, and cautioned that new, inexperienced elites who are
"less careful and more ideological" could lead Egypt and Syria.
He also warned that Arab states were "losing sovereignty," noting that
in Egypt, police stations, Coptic churches and gas pipelines have all
"The collapse of law and order will allow terror groups to rise up,"
Inbar said. "We could find ourselves in an Islamic lake. Turkey is not
our friend... Syria was not our friend and will not be our friend under a
new regime with an Islamist influence. Lebanon is controlled by
Hezbollah. Sinai could turn into Somalia."