The uprising in Egypt reinforces Israel’s strategic distress in the Middle East: We’re alone, without any allies.
It started about two years ago, in the wake of the collapse of our strategic alliance with Turkey. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power, he embraced President Hosni Mubarak and managed to form an alliance with him over the joint fear of Iranian penetration into the region.
Netanyahu visited Egypt several times and brought along with him the leading expert on Egyptian affairs within Israel’s political establishment – Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. The PM managed to convince Mubarak that he has good intentions. Hence, even if he did not spare criticism, the Egyptian president gave Netanyahu a chance. Yet Mubarak’s decline now leaves Netanyahu without any Arab allies.
Should Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman replace Mubarak, this will no doubt be good for the ties with Israel. However, in the near future Egypt will be preoccupied with its own affairs and won’t be involved in the peace process.
Hence, on the east Israel has been left with the suspicious regime of King Abdullah, who blames Israel for the diplomatic impasse, warns of impending doom, and refuses to meet with Netanyahu.
On the north, following the fall of the Saad Hariri government in Lebanon and the rise of a Hezbollah-controlled puppet regime, the moderate camp in the Middle East lost an important element.
In the territories, Mahmoud Abbas is engaged in a rearguard battle against al-Jazeera, which exposed the far-reaching concessions he made in the negotiations with Israel, thereby presenting him as a sort of traitor to his people. Now, the riots in Egypt raise fears that the Palestinian people will also develop an appetite for destruction and hit the streets in the aims of toppling their corrupt government.
And if all of that isn’t enough, the Middle East has been left with a weak American Administration that gives the impression that it has given up on the Middle East.
Under this state of affairs, Netanyahu may have one or two outlets: Immediately sit down with Abbas and finalize a deal that would be very similar to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal, or give up on the Palestinians and offer Damascus a real deal – withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for Syrian disengagement from Iran and Hezbollah.
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