For Israel, Egypt Seen as More Dangerous than Iran
Following the recent disqualification of Egypt's first batch of presidential hopefuls, the Muslim Brotherhood on Sunday announced its new candidate, while Israel's foreign minister warned that Egypt is quickly becoming a bigger threat to Israel than even Iran.
Last week, Egypt's Presidential Elections Commission barred on technicalities the three frontrunners for presidency, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat al-Shater. Both Jerusalem and Washington were concerned that al-Shater would become Egypt's president, considering his hardline politics. But his replacement might not be any better.
The Muslim Brotherhood's new presidential candidate is Mohammed Mursi, who told a press conference on Saturday that if elected his government's top priority will be strong-arming Israel into accepting Palestinian land demands. When asked if he would honor Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, Mursi vaguely responded that he would abide by all international agreements, but would not be coerced by "externally-dictated policies."
While the Muslim Brotherhood already controls Egypt's parliament, Mursi faces a stiff challenge from former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa for the presidency. But Moussa, too, is likely to be openly hostile toward Israel.
While touring southern Egypt on Saturday, Moussa told reporters that if elected, he will work to make the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone, starting with Israel. He had previously stated that Egypt's peace treaty with Israel needs to be revised.
Before being disqualified from the presidential race, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman reportedly told an Egyptian newspaper that Muslim Brotherhood control of the presidency would lead to war with Israel.
"I fear that incorrect judgments will push us into confrontations with Israel. The Sinai may become an area from which rockets are fired into Israel and the parties may be drawn into war," Suleiman was quoted as saying by Israel's Army Radio.
Earlier this month, the director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs at Israel's Defense Ministry, Maj.-Gen. Amos Gilad, said that while the Palestinian, Iranian and Syrian threats are subdued at the moment, Israel's military remains wary of the direction in which Egypt is heading.
"The leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood keep declaring, 'We are committed to this peace.' I am not so sure," Gilad told a gathering at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He estimates that the Muslim Brotherhood is still engaged in an international charm offensive, but that after coming to power, the group's true Islamist agenda will take over.
Gilad noted that as Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood ultimately sees the Israel as an Islamic "Waqf," a "holy trust" that must be returned one way or another to Muslim control.
While Gilad tried to maintain a diplomatic tone, Israel's outspoken Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was pulling no punches in a recent discussion with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during which Lieberman labeled Egypt a greater threat than even Iran's defiant nuclear program.
"The Egyptian situation is much more disturbing," Lieberman was quoted as saying by the Israeli newspaper Maariv.
According to the report, Lieberman has advised significantly bolstering Israel's southern defenses ahead of the Egyptian presidential election.