Saturday, November 26, 2011

Egypt Unrest Causes Panic In Israel

Egypt unrest causes panic in Israel

Thursday, 24 November 2011 00:00

JERUSALEM/CAIRO. - Days of protest in Egypt, ahead of elections expected to produce big wins for the Moslem Brotherhood, have stirred fears in Israel about bilateral ties and the future of the countries' peace treaty.

Israel had largely avoided comment on the unrest, which has seen dozens of Egyptians killed, but with protesters showing no signs of calling off their demonstrations, officials here have started to show concern.

Yesterday, Israel's civil defence minister Matan Vilnai urged Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads Egypt's ruling military council, to bring the situation under control.

"The situation is problematic, sensitive and unclear. Tantawi is trying to avoid chaos and transfer power in the mostly orderly way possible," Vilnai told Israeli military radio.

"We hope that he will succeed . . . otherwise we will see general chaos and that will be very bad for Egypt."

Vilnai said Israeli officials were in "permanent contact" with members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), including Tantawi.

"I know him and he has no desire to stay in power," Vilnai added.

Egypt has been rocked in recent days by widespread protests, which come days before the first post-revolution elections, calling on the SCAF to guarantee a faster transition to civilian rule.

Protesters accuse the military of abusing its power and trying to write laws that would shield it from civilian oversight.

In Israel, the demonstrations and the elections have reawakened fears about the future of Egypt, bilateral relations and the country's peace treaty with the Jewish state.

Israeli officials and media commentators have made no secret of their concern about the rise of the Moslem Brotherhood, expected to perform well in the elections scheduled to begin on November 28.

"It's our main concern," Vilnai said yesterday.
The top-selling Yediot Aharonot yesterday headlined its front page "Between Cairo and Tehran" in reference to the rise of Islamist forces in Egypt.

And the Maariv newspaper reported that Israel's army chief, Benny Gantz, "has presented to the security cabinet a scenario involving the cancellation of the peace treaty" between Egypt and Israel. The report was denied by the military and Vilnai said it was premature to talk about the treaty being annulled.

"The cancellation of the treaty is not today - and I stress the word today - a reality," he said.
But he acknowledged Israel fears a serious degradation in ties with Cairo once a new government comes to power.

"But when Egyptian government stabilises after a long electoral process, we expect it will seriously undermine the accord," he said,
Nati Sharoni, a reserve general and president of a left-leaning Israeli think tank, sounded a more upbeat note, saying he expected the treaty to survive Egypt's upheaval and elections.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported the developments in Syria and Egypt formed the core of an annual presentation by all Israel's intelligence agencies to the country's security cabinet. The newspaper also said Egyptian officials, including intelligence chief Murad Muwafi, have been at pains to reassure Israel, telling their counterparts the treaty is not in danger.

Meanwhile, at the time of going to press, reports said three more people had died in Cairo as violence which has killed dozens raged into a fifth day despite promises by Egypt's military ruler to speed up the transition to democracy.

Three armoured vehicles also rumbled into a street near the Tahrir Square in Cairo to curb clashes, state TV reported yesterday. - AFP-Xinhua.

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