Netanyahu Borisov 311 R.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is actively looking for friends and allies further afield to
counterbalance dramatic Islamic gains in the immediate neighborhood, a senior
government official said this week as Islamists appeared to coast to a
sweeping victory in Egypt’s parliamentary elections.
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According to the
official, the collapse of so many Arab regimes in the region – coupled with Iran
and Turkey sitting on the sidelines waiting to exploit the situation for their
own benefit – has Israel looking at three clusters of states as allies and
The first is the eastern Mediterranean circle,
made up of Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria. These countries, historic
rivals of Turkey, are concerned about Ankara’s widening reach and intentions,
and this has brought them into a much closer relationship with Israel than
existed in the past.
The second cluster is a number of countries in sub- Saharan Africa – Kenya,
Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria and South Sudan – whose concern about
Islamic terrorism at home has led to growing political and security cooperation
with Israel. This cooperation was evident in South Sudan’s opening diplomatic
ties with Israel soon after it gained independence earlier this year, and the
leaders of both Kenya and Uganda visiting here last month.
cluster includes countries in the region – as yet unnamed – that government
officials say are in contact with Israel on issues regarding Iran and the
sweeping changes in the region.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
recently made a couple of opaque references to ties with these countries,
believed to be Persian Gulf countries. One official said the prime minister was
signaling the Israeli public that despite the turmoil roiling the Middle East,
there were some “points of light.”
And even as Israel is casting its eyes
elsewhere for friends, it has not – one government official clarified on
Thursday – closed the door on ties with Egypt.
“We haven’t given up on
Egypt,” the official said. He added that the preliminary results in the Egyptian
vote showing that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, who are even more
radical, were poised to capture some 65 percent of the seats came as “no
surprise to anyone.”
“It is quite possible we will be moving into a
period in our relationship where we will not have the same intimacy, but
hopefully the same fundamental interest of both parties will prevail,” the
“Israel and Egypt fought a war in 1948, in 1956, 1967 and
1973. Thousands of people were killed. Is that what they want to go back to? Is
that what they are proposing?” the official asked of the Islamists currently
riding the wave in Egypt.
Formally Jerusalem had no comment on the
Egyptian elections, with one diplomatic source explaining that anything said
“could and would be used against us by the Egyptian media.”
He did say
that Jerusalem’s short-term goal was to keep open the channels of communication
with the Egyptians wherever possible, and to make sure not to intervene or be
perceived as intervening in the Egyptian process.
Israel, the diplomatic
source said, was currently trying to minimize any damage in ties with Cairo, but
was definitely not “writing Egypt off,” especially since there were so many
uncertainties regarding how the process there would play itself out.
are at the very beginning,” he said, pointing out that after the parliamentary
elections, the Egyptians would still have to write a constitution and elect a
It will “take months before the picture becomes clear,” he