Israel hopes for continued cooperation with Cairo

Prime Minister's Office says J'lem "respects the results of the presidential elections,” after Islamist Morsy wins in Egypt.

Netanyahu at start of Cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu at start of Cabinet meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Israel extended a supportive hand to Egypt’s new leader soon after the results of the country’s presidential elections were announced on Sunday, with the Prime Minister’s Office issuing a carefully worded statement saying it hoped to continue cooperation with the Egyptian government.
“Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential elections,” read a statement the Prime Minister’s Office issued some three hours after the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate emerged victorious.
Despite obvious concerns about what the election of the Islamist Mohamed Morsy will mean for bilateral relations and the future of the peace treaty, the statement read that Israel “looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, well aware of how closely the reactions from Israel will be watched, asked his ministers and deputy ministers at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting not to talk at all publicly about the Egyptian election results.
Officials said that because the results did not come as any great surprise, there was no sense of emergency in Jerusalem, with no special meetings to assess the situation held either in the Prime Minister’s Office or the Foreign Ministry.
“This was an eventuality that Israel has been considering for some time,” one official said.
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Another official scoffed at all those who thought the Tahrir Square revolution last year that deposed president Hosni Mubarak would bring liberals to power in Egypt, and chastised Israel for “gloom-and-doom” predictions that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over. “You see, we were not paranoid,” he said.
The official said that there were now basically two options before the Muslim Brotherhood.
They could be pragmatic and come to some kind of agreement with the military that would allow it to maintain its position in order to avoid a confrontation with the army, and realize that to bring the country back from an economic abyss they will have to court the West and retain the peace treaty with Israel.
The other option, the official said, was to push forward with a true Islamic revolution, thereby confronting the military, Washington and Israel.
While many analysts think the Brotherhood will take the pragmatic approach now that it is in power, there are, the official said, many historical examples – such as the ayatollahs in Iran, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza – that point to the contrary.
In the meantime, he said, Jerusalem has little impact on the events in Egypt and can do little for the time being but watch as they play themselves out. While there is little expectation that the Presidential Palace under Morsy will begin a dialogue with Israel, most expect that channels of communication will continue between the security establishments.
What is not clear, however, is whether the Egyptian Foreign Ministry will continue to have contact with its Israeli counterpart.
For the time being, officials said, Israel’s Ambassador Yaakov Amitai and a small staff continue to work out of a temporary residence in Cairo. Following the ransacking of the embassy last September, no new permanent location for the embassy has been found.