Following the massive protests in Egypt and his television address to the nation last night, it looks as though Hosni Mubarak is about to relinquish his post as president after thirty years in power. It is a position that he has held ever since Anwar Sadat was gunned down by Muslim fundamentalists at an annual victory parade in Cairo in October 1981.
While there were fears that the fragile peace agreement with Egypt following the Camp David Accords of just three years earlier would fall apart, President Mubarak chose, to his credit, to honour them. As a result, Israel has not had to face the Arab world’s largest army on the battlefield for over thirty years.
Although the peace with Egypt is a cold one – Mubarak never visited Israel, except to attend Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral, in spite of repeated invitations to do so – economic and strategic co-operation between the two countries, and particularly with Egypt’s security chief Omar Suleiman, has enabled them to act jointly in a variety of fields, including curbing the shipment of armaments to the Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
That having been said, the Egyptian people as a whole are less sympathetic towards Israel. Professional, cultural and academic bodies have shunned their Israeli counterparts and only last year Egyptian national television broadcast a 41-part series based upon the infamous, anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Political commentators over here are agreed that the removal of Mubarak will lead to the formation of a government that will be more antagonistic towards Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood always saw the Camp David accords as a sell-out, and sympathy among secular Egyptians, including intellectuals, for the Palestinian cause is likely to lead to a strengthening of ties with Hamas.
While we may not be on the brink of another war, Israel will no longer be able to take it for granted that she has a peace partner on her southern border.