Alienating Friends and Enemies

Published: February 1st 2011
in News » Israel

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Israel has never had a lot of friends, but with the recent upheavals in the Arab world, that number threatens to plummet. 


After last May’s Mavi Marmara incident, where Israel shot nine Turkish activists aboard a flotilla headed towards Gaza with aid and a subsequent Israeli report clearing the IDF of strategic wrongdoing, diplomatic relations have suffered severely.


One down, how many to go?


Israel may be democratic and its citizens may be staunch supporters of democracy and feel bad for citizens living under autocratic regimes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worried about the consequences should these regimes fail.


Egyptian President Mubarak ruled Egypt for 30 years and continued the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Whatever his faults, Israel could depend on him not to interfere with its wars and could save on its military budget because it could count on the Egyptian military to defend its border with Gaza. Haaretz reports that cutting the military budget since 1985, directly related to “peace” with Egypt, has largely improved Israel’s economy.


For all of Mubarak’s reign, Egypt was a cranky neighbour that stayed in his own house, peering out the shutters. He didn’t come over with apple pie, but neither did he cut down the trees on property that wasn’t his own.


That’s been good enough for a long while.


What happens if the situation changes?


The Egyptian public is largely hostile to Israel and it is still unclear who will fill the power vacuum that Mubarak will almost certainly leave. There is a high chance the next leader will not have the same attitude towards Israel as Mubarak.


So far, Israel has been careful not to comment on the situation or criticize Mubarak and Netanyahu has ordered his cabinet to remain silent on the issue.


They will have to tread carefully, since without Egypt, Israel has to depend on Jordan and the PLO for strategic alliances and they can’t fill the huge gap Egypt will leave.


King Abdullah II of Jordan is terrified that spillover from anti-government sentiment from Egypt will spill over into its country.


After public protests demanded changes in governance he dismissed his government today and hired new Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit who, The Globe and Mail reports, support Jordan's peace treaty with Israel.


So far, even amid some protests, Jordan seems to be holding as a stable Israeli neighbour. 


“Unlike Egypt, we don't want a regime change in Jordan and we recognize the Hashemites' rule in Jordan, but we want to see real political reforms introduced,” said Hamza Mansour, leader of the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood's political arm, reports The Globe and Mail.


With the Middle East and North Africa in upheaval Israel will need to search out new alliances. Everyone look north-east to Syria, it’s the most likely bet for Israel’s next Friend and/or Enemy.

Related articles: (Israel, Jordan, Egypt)

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