When the troubles come, they come in battalions….

The world is simply unconcerned about the tremors of change and the after-shocks. Everyone seems to be happy that this crisis is in the faraway lands and will end there. They do not realize that the change taking place in the Middle East will not spare the rich of the world who are living in the safety and comfort of their lands. If nothing else, this change will change their economies for the worst. There is only one country which is genuinely worried about the changes and that is Israel. For Israel, removal of Hosni Mubarak means coming of the Brotherhood and a situation of its encirclement by not-too-friendly Muslim neighbors. And there are certain other developments at the international scene which Israel does not perceive to be good omen for its peaceful existence. When the troubles come, they come in battalions.

The Egyptians are rejoicing the ouster of their most hated patriarch, Hosni Mubarak but for serious analysts, this rejoicing is misplaced, at least for the present. They have got military rule in place of Mubarak dictatorship. What happens to the cherished political reforms in Egypt is yet to be seen and as the events unfold, future direction of Egypt will be in sight. However, the Egyptian “revolution” looks like a replay of the events of Pakistan of 1977. People were angered by wide-scale election rigging engineered by the dictatorial regime of Bhutto. Country was partially handed over to army and at certain places army officers refused to open fire on protestors. Eventually, the armed forces had to intervene with a 90-days agenda of political reforms which extended to 11 years resulting in religious strife and intolerance leading to terrorism of today.

But it seems that Egyptians are not worried about their future as long as Mubarak is not at the helm. Amidst their misplaced optimism, there is someone who has lost his sleep over the latest turn of events in Egypt. According to a report in The Economist, prime minister of Israel’s hawkish coalition government makes no secret of his queasiness about Egypt’s upheaval and his fear that the peace treaty (see picture) with Israel’s giant Arab neighbor could unravel after 32 years. The prospect of an Egyptian government that included the Muslim Brotherhood, let alone one that were led by it, plainly gives him the creeps. For one thing, it might open the Egyptian border with Gaza so strengthening the Brothers’ Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, whose charter calls for the Jewish state’s destruction. People close to Mr. Netanyahu mutter darkly about the “Hamas-isation” of Egypt, a possibility that fills most Israelis, not just on the right, with dread. “Half of the Palestinian people have already been taken over by Iran,” says Israel’s prime minister, with barely a hint of conscious hyperbole.

According to the report, the Egyptian upset is heightening a sense of encirclement that has not been felt so acutely by Israelis in decades. In Lebanon to the north, a pro-Western prime minister has recently been displaced by one backed by Hezbollah, the Shia party-cum-militia that is armed and sponsored by Iran. To the north-east, Syria, also on friendly terms with Iran, seems resolute in its support for Hamas. Meanwhile Iran itself, Israel’s biggest bugbear in the wider region and governed by a mercurial president fired with righteous anger towards Israel, moves steadily towards getting a nuclear weapon.

Perhaps even more worrying for Israel is a rising fear that on its eastern flank the ruling monarchy in Jordan, the only Arab country bar Egypt that has a formal treaty with the Jewish state, is being shaken by an assortment of Islamists, tribal leaders, Palestinians (who make up a good half of Jordan’s people), disgruntled former security men and a middle class irritated by the royal family’s perceived extravagance. In the past year relations with Turkey, once a rare friend of Israel in the Muslim world, have gone from cool to icy. In the words of one of Mr. Netanyahu’s colleagues, Israel is surrounded by a “poisonous crescent”. Meanwhile, peace talks with the Palestinians have broken down, apparently irretrievably.

As if the perceived encirclement was not enough, there are reports that a resolution may soon be aired in the UN Security Council condemning Israel’s refusal to freeze the West Bank settlements. A year ago America would have been sure to veto it. It will probably do so again. But such acts of support can no longer be guaranteed, filling Israelis with foreboding. In the end, doubts about America, let alone Europe, may be more menacing than Islamist governments in Egypt. Indeed, some mediators think a rougher environment, both in the region and overseas, is the only way that Israel will be pressed towards giving Palestinians a proper state.

Related links:

HAARETZ.com: Without Egypt, Israel will be left with no friends in the Mideast

The Economist: Encircled by enemies again?

 

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