Israel anxious after Islamist wins Egypt presidency
JERUSALEM - Agence France-Presse
In this image taken from Egypt State TV, newly-elect President Mohammed Morsi delivers a speech in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, June 24, 2012. AP photo
Israel expressed anxiety on Monday after Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected Egypt's next president, with the media and officials warning of a difficult new reality.
Near unanimous concern in the media appeared to mirror an official uncertainty about what the election of an Islamist president for Israel's most important Arab ally will mean.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a careful statement on Sunday evening, after Morsi was declared Egypt's first democratically elected leader.
"Israel values the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential election," his office said in a statement.
"Israel hopes to continue cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty" signed by the two former enemies in 1979.
A senior official, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity on Monday, said Morsi's win was not encouraging for Israel.
"The victory of Islamists is not likely to reassure Israel... We hope for a pragmatic attitude on their part," he said.
"Israel and Egypt have the same imperatives, the security of their 240-kilometre (150-mile) border, the negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and economic interests," he added.
Former defence minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who was close to Egypt's ousted president Hosni Mubarak, told Israeli public radio that Egypt would now be led "by a man who has never hidden his hostility towards Israel." "We must seek dialogue with the Islamists, and at the same time be prepared for war," he said.
Morsi has said he would like to reconsider Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, but made no suggestion that it would be cancelled altogether. However his election still cast a shadow over the Israeli media.
"Darkness in Egypt," read the headline of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily, with commentator Smadar Peri writing inside the newspaper that Morsi's victory was a dangerous development for Israel.
"From our standpoint, when the presidential palace in Cairo is painted for the first time in Islamic colours, this is a black and dark day," she wrote.
Elsewhere in the same newspaper, analyst Alex Fishman wrote that Morsi's victory meant "everything is open, and the future is unclear." "Israel should be prepared for every eventuality," he wrote, evoking the possibility of "an Islamist intelligence minister, a re-examination of the peace accords, a collapse of the economic agreements and lack of security coordination." "The new Middle East. The fear has become reality, the Muslim Brotherhood are in power in Egypt," lamented the Maariv daily.
"The peace treaty has been put in doubt," the paper wrote, adding that "there is very serious concern in the political and military class in Israel." Yaakov Katz, writing in the English-language Jerusalem Post, took a more pragmatic view, offering the "good news (that) in the short term nothing is expected to change." "Egypt's president-elect will have far greater challenges to deal with than to pick a fight with the Jewish state," Katz wrote, pointing to the Egypt's dire economic predicament in the post-uprising period.
But he said Morsi's election had altered Israel's defence realities, and could "affect the growing terror threat in Sinai," as well as "hinder Israel's operational freedom the next time there is a flare-up... in Gaza."