Friday, June 29, 2012

MIDDLE EAST WRAP: WATCHING EGYPT

A round-up of the Hebrew newspapers in Israel; covering the major events happening in Israel and the Middle East. Haaretz-Maariv-Yedioth Ahronoth-Israel Hayom-The Jerusalem Post-Ynet-Arutz 7 News-Army Radio-Israel Radio-and Makor Rishon 

The election of the Moslem Brotherhood candidate as Egypt’s first post-Mubarak president dominates all the Israeli newspapers on Monday, June 25, 2012. The official Israeli response to the election of an Islamist was muted, but the newspapers appear to have already made up their minds about what it means for Israel, for the Israel-Egypt peace accord and for the security of southern Israel……done

Yedioth Ahronoth had a five-page coverage with a reference to the biblical plagues, calling Mursi’s election the ‘plague of darkness.’

Maariv’s headline….‘A new Middle East’ is more neutral, but it goes on to say that ‘Israel’s greatest fear has been realized.’

Israel Hayom says that the Egyptian people ‘voted for Islam’ and that Israel must ready itself for Egyptian demands to renegotiate the terms of the peace treaty.
Officially, Israel sounded a cautious note on the announcement of the election results. A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that ‘Israel appreciates the democratic process in Egypt and respects its outcome. Israel expects continued cooperation with the Egyptian administration on the basis of the peace accord between the two countries, which is in the interest of the two peoples and contributes to regional stability,’ the statement continued.

Nevertheless, an unnamed Israeli official told the Associated Press that ‘it looks like we were right when we said the Arab Spring would become an 'Islamic Winter,' even though Western nations laughed us off at the time.’ The official added that he hoped the Egyptian government would ‘try to be more statesmanlike, by working in the interests of the country.’ Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, told Israel's Army Radio that Mursi's authority would likely be diluted by the powerful Egyptian army, which relies on Washington's defense grants.

Channel 2's veteran Arab affairs expert, Ehud Yaari said that armed with untiring patience, the Muslim Brotherhood “will try to stabilize a monopoly on power – not hurriedly, not through confrontations, but through a gradual building of force, just as Khomeini did in Iran”. Mursi is not looking for war with Israel, Yaari adds, and he will let the military manage relations with Israel. ‘But it is nearly certain that, at a moment not too far off from now, he will insist that Israel 'reassess' the 1979 peace treaty and demand that the military protocol limiting the Egyptian army's deployment in Sinai be amended”.

All the papers also report that, in his first address to the nation just hours after being declared Egypt's new president, Mursi vowed to “preserve international accords and obligations”. In what was seen as an indirect reference to the peace treaty with Israel, Mursi said he had a “message of peace” and would “respect all international agreements”. He also proclaimed himself the “leader of all Egyptians”.

On the other hand, in a message that would have sent chills down Israeli leaders’ spines, he said in an interview on Monday that he wants closer ties with Tehran to create a “balance” in the Middle East. Mursi told the Iranian Fars News Agency that closer relations with Iran “will create a balance of pressure in the region, and this is part of my program”..

In other news, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives on Monday, June 25th on a state visit to Israel. He is heading a 300-strong delegation comprising government ministers, advisers and journalists that is arriving in four planes. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman greeted the Russian entourage at Ben-Gurion Airport. The delegation traveled to Netanya, where Putin, alongside President Shimon Peres, dedicated a monument to the Red Army's triumph over Nazi Germany. From Netanya, the Russian leader headed to Jerusalem, for talks with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and cabinet ministers Lieberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz. He dined with his Israeli counterpart Peres that evening. Putin is scheduled to visit Bethlehem and Jordan on Tuesday, June 26, 2010.

Putin last visited Israel in 2005, during his first term as president and in what was the first Russian presidential visit to Israel.

Finally, Maariv reported that Israel and the U.S. will hold their largest ever joint military exercise in October, featuring thousands of soldiers and advanced anti-missile defense systems, simulating simultaneous fire from Iran and Syria.

On a recent visit to Israel commander of the 3rd Air Force Lt.-Gen. Craig A. Franklin established a planning committee with representatives of the IDF to coordinate the details of the large exercise that was set to include some 3,000 U.S. soldiers alongside thousands of Israeli troops. The exercise is scheduled to take place in October. The drill will simulate missiles being fired at Israel from Iran and Syria at the same time, with potentially tens, if not hundreds, of rockets mid-air at the same time. Israel will feature its upgraded Arrow 2 defense system, while the U.S. will deploy the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System and PAC-3 Patriot air defense platforms. According to Maariv, some military analysts have nicknamed the exercise a “dress rehearsal”, noting that it sends a clear message to Iran at a time during which results of international sanctions will start to take effect and be seen.

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