There are those out there who are afraid that the popular uprising in Egypt with the full support of the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat to turn Egypt into another Iran, a threat to turn Egypt into an anti-Western and anti-Israel theocracy that supports terrorism. Is this possible? Yes. Is it likely? No.
Egypt post Mubarak is more likely to turn into something like Turkey is today. Now, before you cite the fact that Turkey has been a great ally of the United States and a friend of Israel for decades, remember that it is hardly that at the moment. Elections in Turkey may soon remove PM Erdogan’s party from power, but under Erdogan’s leadership Turkey has acted against the United States and American interests numerous times and in significant ways. It continues to do so.
Turkey has taken sides with Iran against American and European efforts to monitor and limit its nuclear weapons development program. It not only backs Hamas against the Palestinian Authority, but supports efforts to supply Hamas in evasion of Israel’s naval blockade. Allies generally don’t give comfort or aid to the enemy of their ally as they attempt to do their ally harm. Turkey is supporting Israel’s enemy against it. But it is not only Israel that currently faces a Turkish leadership that is a questionable friend.
During its efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power, America sought to send troops and planes through Turkish territory and airspace. Turkey refused. This forced the United States to attack from the South alone and cost America both “blood and treasure.” How many American servicemen and women died or were injured because Turkey refused to allow American forces to cross through its territory in order to surround hostile forces and end hostilities more easily and rapidly?
Might Iran have made concessions regarding its nuclear program had Turkey not supported it instead of the West? We will never know the answer to this question, but we may certainly argue that Turkey’s actions did not help America accomplish its goals.
For Israel, to have Egypt become Turkey, to have it become a friend and supporter of Hamas and even Iran, will require extensive reallocation of military assets to the Egyptian border. Additionally, Israel and the Palestinian Authority will need to work together to regain control over the border crossings between Egypt and Gaza which could result in a significant military conflict. Cooperation between Egypt and Hamas against Israel and the Palestinan Authority would be expected and evidence of such cooperation could easily undermine Israeli-Egyptian peace to the point of shattering it altogether while ending any hope of the creation of a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future regardless of any concessions concerning territory that either side might make.
An additional concern in this regard is that the Muslim Brotherhood would aid Jordanian Islamists against the monarchy there, potentially overthrowing it and creating a pro-Hamas state on Israel’s eastern border. Functionally, this would also undercut any hope that the Palestinian Authority would have of defeating Hamas and would almost assure that any future Palestinian state would be one dominated by Hamas and be pledged to destroy Israel.
The primary problem in the peace process is not territory, but security.
Developments in the region today greatly amplify fears that any Palestinian state that is created will become a greater threat to Israel’s security than the occupied territories are today. Think about that for a moment. Israel’s interest in sacrificing in order to create a Palestinian state is in obtaining from its sacrifices peace and security beyond what it possesses today. If it can expect neither peace nor security, it cannot pursue peace. Those who are urging it to do so immediately are profoundly in error.
Israel must wait to see what happens in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories in the aftermath of recent events and it will need to see how the new governments function in relationship to it and to the Palestinians before it can assess its new security situation and consider the implications of possible concessions for peace.
Might Egypt’s new government be friendly to the West and willing to maintain peace with Israel? It is possible, but Israel cannot count on it being a fact and has every reason to doubt it.
Israel’s allies need to stand with it in the months ahead, not urging it to take risks, as it adapts to its new neighborhood.