Ben-Eliezer: Confrontation with Egypt is looming

Labor MK warns that religious elements will gain in upcoming elections; says talks with PA will improve relations.

ben eliezer at post 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ben eliezer at post 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A confrontation between Israel and Egypt is an imminent possibility, Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned Monday amid violent protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
In an interview with Army Radio, Ben-Eliezer said Israel’s relationship with Egypt is of the utmost strategic importance, and that the only way to improve Israel’s standing in Cairo is by renewing peace talks with the Palestinians.
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Recent days have seen dozens of protesters killed in clashes with security forces in some of the worst violence since the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak. Ben-Eliezer described the situation in Egypt as “anarchy.”
Ben-Eliezer, a native Arabic speaker, had a close relationship with Mubarak. The former defense minister has said he had been in touch with the deposed leader “everyday for 20 to 30 minutes during the revolution” that ended his three-decade rule in February.
Ben-Eliezer said a clash with Egypt would not necessarily be military in nature.
“There is no prominent, moderate figure like [Gamal Abdel] Nasser or [Anwar] Sadat [to speak with], and in the elections in the coming days mainly religious forces will come out to vote. Secular people will stay at home,” he said.
“Israel is constantly expressing its desire to improve relations... but the leadership today is hand in hand with the people, and their expectations are high.
They will simply blame Israel” for any deterioration in relations, he said.
The 75-year-old lawmaker said returning to peace talks with the Palestinian Authority could help stabilize Israeli-Egyptian relations.
“The immediate conclusion is that Israel must enter negotiations with the Palestinians. Otherwise our embassies will continue to be attacked all over the world.”