Netanyahu and Barak in Sinai 390.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO)
The sudden ouster of top defense chiefs by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy
caught the Israeli defense establishment by surprise, but the consensus among
security officials is that the move will not lead to any sudden deterioration on
the southern border.
Until now, despite the visceral anti-Israel hatred
prominent in Egypt’s media, Egyptian military officials kept in close touch with
their Israeli counterparts and coordination between the two militaries was good.
The Israeli and Egyptian chiefs of staff even held meetings in Brussels during
Some commentators expressed concern that the sweeping
changes now made by the Islamist Egyptian president could see that cooperation
come to an end, but the Israeli defense community does not anticipate any
immediate changes on the horizon.
“It was a surprise, especially as this
occurred in the middle of a military operation to flush out terrorists from the
Sinai Peninsula,” an Israeli source told The Jerusalem Post
. The source added,
however, that he was not startled by the move. “I don’t think this will
influence relations more than Morsy’s ascension [already did],” he
“The new guys [appointed by Morsy to replace the ousted security
chiefs] come from the same place as their processors. The new appointments grew
up in an Egyptian army that received US assistance. They will also receive US
cash,” the source said. “The big enemy [for Egypt] is the Beduin in Sinai, not
Israel. Regionally, Egypt is worried about Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.
Their primary mission is to be the leader of the Arab Middle East.”
fact that Morsy does not have to answer to an Islamist opposition like his
predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, did means that he will be freer to restore security
in Sinai, the source argued.
“This could make him more practical and
allow for more security cooperation. Morsy’s first responsibility is to the
Asked about concerns that Morsy will wish to create an
Islamist-oriented military in the long-term future, the source said, “Then he
would have to build it with his own money. In actuality they need American aid.
Things are more complicated than they seem.”
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora
Eiland, a former national security adviser, offered a similar
“I don’t think anything dramatic will happen in the immediate
future. Recent developments offer opportunities, not just negative
The fact that Hamas is telling Egypt it is willing to close
off smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Sinai if the Rafah border crossing is opened
is exactly in the Israeli interest,” he told the Post.
As soon as the
Rafah border is opened, diplomatic pressure on Israel to end the security
blockade on Gaza will decrease, as Gaza will enjoy an open border with Egypt,
“Militarily, we can at least hope that if all the goods are
transported above ground, Egypt will not be able to ignore military supplies
[smuggled into Gaza],” he added.
“The main thing is the leverage the US
is able to place on Egypt on all issues connected to the peace treaty with
Israel. If the US stops military and civilian aid, Egypt will end up with
starvation,” Eiland said.
In Fiscal Year 2010, the US gave Egypt some
$1.7 billion in aid, consisting of $1.3b. in military assiatance and $400
million in civilian aid.