Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


The View From Israel

Officials enter radio silence, watch events to the south anxiously

Print Email
Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Tomer Appelbaum/AFP/Getty Images)

(Yup, another Egypt post. Stuff’s important!)

Sometimes, during basketball games, the player with the ball will trip and fall, and the player from the opposing team will back away, hands up, facial expression directed at the referee and clearly communicating: “I didn’t do it. Please don’t call a foul.” That defender is Israel right now. “There’s nothing to gain by speaking out,” media consultant Jeremy Ruden writes. “The Arab world might be burning, and it’s our job to keep as far away from the flames as possible.” He concludes: “The best we can hope for is a cold peace. What should we be saying? As little as possible.” This seems to be the prevailing sentiment in Israel: Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered his cabinet into radio silence while privately instructing diplomats to try to get other countries to go easy on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak because of the value of the stability he provides. (He also briefly mentioned today that he is concerned of an Islamist takeover: “It happened in Iran.”) This course seems wise, although you could also rebut it: You could say that Israel (and America) have spent 30 years backing Egypt’s unpopular regime, and so they now look barely better to the protesting crowds than the regime itself does.

But make no mistake: An unfriendly, or even less friendly, Egyptian regime would rock Israel’s world like little else. Ethan Bronner of the Times gets the quote: “For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy,” a senior Israeli official tells him. “For Israel, it’s the whole arch.” His piece‘s prime takeaway: Israel would feel best with Omar Suleiman, or a similarly establishment figure, taking power; a government with a prominent Muslim Brotherhood presence would not definitely lead to the cancellation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, but would require some strategic realignment and radically different strategic planning, as war with Egypt, which for the past 30 years has been a relatively remote possibility, would become far more thinkable. Egyptian troops have been deployed to Sinai to try to prevent the flow of Hamas operatives from Gaza (Hamas is the Palestinian branch of Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood), which is something not permitted under the peace treaty; the troops are there only with the explicit permission, and no doubt under the extremely watchful eye, of the Israeli Defense Ministry.

But Israel is a more complex place than just what its government is thinking. Below, a few links that will hopefully give a fuller sense of what the events in Egypt look like to its neighbor to the north.

• Yaakov Katz warns that should the Muslim Brotherhood come to power, the IDF will not only have to take the prospect of war with Egypt more seriously, but worry more about arms smuggling into Gaza and the freer flow of Iranian money and arms. [JPost]

• Influential columnist Aluf Benn assesses that Israel may lose—indeed, may already have lost—its last best friend in the region. [Haaretz]

• Palestinian Authority President Abbas: Pro-Mubarak. Hamas: Anti-Mubarak. Entirely predictable, very useful to know. [JPost]

• Malcolm Hoenlein, the de facto head of institutional American Jewry, called Mohammed ElBaradei, the (formerly?) moderate Egytian opposition leader who was backed by the Muslim Brotherhood over the weekend, a “stooge of Iran.” [JTA]

• Here are some people—Democrats and Republicans; much like campaign finance, the Senate resolution was actually co-sponsored by John McCain and Russ Feingold—who warned that Egypt’s lack of democracy was setting it up for something like this. [Laura Rozen]

• Two left-wing Israeli women were right in the streets of Cairo protesting against the regime. Democracy! [Mother Jones]

Turbulence Rocks an Israeli Ally [NYT]
Egypt Deploys Troops Along Gaza Border [JPost]
Netanyahu Urges World to Tone Down Mubarak Criticism Amid Egypt Unrest [Haaretz]
Silence Is Golden [JPost]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Yale Gancherov says:

Suleiman transition to whatever non-Islamist!

Neveragain says:

Remember this “joke”?
“In Palestine, Hamas won by a landslide, huge, huge margin. How does this make Democrats feel? They can’t win anything and terrorists are winning in a landslide.” –Jay Leno

I hope we do not repeat this mistake in Egypt.

I’ve said that least 645358 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean

I have looked at several sites and not come across such a website as yours that tells everyone everything they need to know.

I really like your writing style, wonderful info, thank you for putting up :D.

Good post! I think I have to think over it when I reach home! Haha.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

The View From Israel

Officials enter radio silence, watch events to the south anxiously

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree