From a diplomatic and military perspective, Israel is following
events in Egypt with great trepidation, in the knowledge that there is little it
can do. But it is not entirely impotent: Israel has been engaging in some
diplomatic lobbying, particularly in Washington and a number of European
capitals, with the intent of persuading those governments against rushing to
step up their condemnation of the latest Egyptian military operation to remove
the pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters from the streets of Cairo and other
Since the Egyptian military, headed by Defense Minister Gen.
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ousted the Islamist government of president Mohamed Morsi
six weeks ago, Israel has been secretly maneuvering via friendly nations,
deploying heavy diplomatic leverage to stop Western governments, first and
foremost the United States, from denouncing the overthrow by the Egyptian
security forces, deterring them from calling it a “massacre.”
fear is that such condemnation would weaken the new military-backed Egyptian
government, strengthen the will of the Muslim Brotherhood to continue its policy
of brinkmanship and give weight to its rejection of a political solution to the
crisis, thereby significantly reducing the chances of reaching any
Israel’s main concern is that the military regime, which for
now enjoys the support of most of the Egyptian people, may fall. Of secondary
concern is that the events in Egypt will also have an impact on existing
problems in Sinai.
The Egyptian army has in recent weeks been engaged in
an intense campaign against the global jihad movement’s terror networks in the
peninsula. No one knows how many armed militants are there – it could be
anything from several hundred to three thousand. Most of them are locals, with
their numbers swelled by Islamist volunteers from Yemen, Somalia and Iraq, as
well as by Palestinians from Gaza who “defected” from Hamas and Islamic
To facilitate an effective operation, Israel consented to a mass
Egyptian deployment of troops, tanks and helicopters in Sinai, in contravention
of bilateral peace agreements.
From an operational perspective, the
uncertainty and chaos in Sinai apparently provide Israel with the opportunity
for military action, such as, for example, a drone strike on terrorist cells,
which, according to foreign sources, is exactly what it did a week
Yet any attempt to exploit this situation could well backfire. The
last thing Sisi needs is accusations from his rivals that he is conspiring with
Israel, and giving it free rein to act against terrorism in Sinai. Israel must
tread carefully when it comes to the events unfolding next door.
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