Israel has been considering boosting its military capabilities and increasing its border security as protests continue in Egypt for a second week and threaten to dramatically alter the relationship between the two allies.
Israel fears that if the protests topple President Hosni Mubarak and lead to a government run or even simply influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, its long-time peace with its neighbor will be jeopardized. Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, making it the first Arab country to do so.
"What could develop and which has developed already in several countries, including Iran — repressive regimes of radical Islam — that is the fear, of all of us," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday regarding the protests in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the world's largest and oldest opposition group, will likely play a significant role in the new Egypt, and the group does not support Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. It also has links with Hamas, the group controlling Gaza that launches rockets at Israel.
Israeli security experts now warn that Israel might have to increase its military force and budget to be prepared for a less friendly neighbor and boost its security along its border, the Washington Post reports. Israel might also have to retake control of the Philadelphia Corridor, which it withdrew from in 2005.
"For more than two decades, the structure of the Israeli forces was based on the assumption that Egypt is in no way a potential threat to Israel,'' Ephraim Sneh, a former Israeli deputy defense minister, told the Washington Post. "I don't say that today Egypt is a threat. But what's happening there may change the status of Egypt vis-a-vis Israel as far as strategic balance is concerned. And that's why Israel will have to change the structure of all of its forces."
“All of us hate Israel,” Muhammad, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and a lecture assistant at a government university in Cairo, told the Jerusalem Post. “Israel is the best friend for Mubarak, they said clearly that he’s strategic for them.”
He said that a new government in Egypt must respect the peace agreement with Israel, but it should be free to change it.
“However, if the government wanted to change that agreement, it has the right after taking the opinion of the people. No agreement is eternal.”
The protests in Egypt also complicate the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. A senior Israel politician and former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, said Thursday that the crisis is causing a new strategic reality, and that Israel must relaunch peace talks, which broke down late last year.
However, the crisis in the region is likely to make the peace process even harder to restart.
"Committed advocates of the peace process urged the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to take a significant step toward reconciliation, arguing that over time Israel could find itself more isolated and less certain of its bargaining power," reports The New York Times.
"But officials of the conservative-leaning government, who have been more reluctant and suspicious in their approach to the Palestinians, were digging in, saying that the current regional instability increased the risk inherent in making any deals."