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The Arab uprising

The Arab uprising

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Published by Open Briefing
Research paper for MPs from the British House of Commons Library.
Research paper for MPs from the British House of Commons Library.

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Published by: Open Briefing on Nov 17, 2011
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The clearest danger to Israel is the potential abrogation of the only two peace treaties signed
between Arab countries and the Jewish state. As long as the rule of King Abdullah in Jordan
remains secure, the Jordanian treaty will probably survive, but the situation in Egypt is less
clear. Governing Egypt without the consent of Egyptians became a lot more difficult with the
fall of Hosni Mubarak. Most Egyptians favour the Palestinian cause and are generally hostile
to Israel. Whether and how that current of opinion will be expressed by future governments is
difficult to predict. The Muslim Brotherhood has been ambiguous about the peace treaty but
the Egyptian military has close contacts with Israeli and US officials and still receives the
$1.3 billion military assistance every year from the United States.217

One leader of the
Brotherhood said early in the process, ‘‘after President Mubarak steps down and a
provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.’’218
Other leaders of the organisation have suggested that, though they do not agree with it, they
will not do anything to change it. It seems likely that the Egyptian military would veto any
move to undo the treaty with Israel, and that this may be the biggest ‘red line’ for Egypt’s
move towards democracy. An attempt to cross that line could well provoke a crackdown by
the military.

Perhaps a more immediate concern for Israel is the day-to-day security relationship with both
Egypt and Jordan. Israel depends on Jordanian cooperation to stop infiltration into the West
Bank, and on Egypt to patrol the Sinai and its long border with Israel (although the Sinai is
partially demilitarised in line with the provisions of the 1979 peace treaty).

King Abdullah seems a more genuine friend of Israel than was Mubarak, for example, and
Israelis have warmed to him. But a slight majority of the Jordanian population is of
Palestinian origin, and the monarchy’s pro-Israel policy is not popular. A more
democratically-based government in Jordan might not cooperate so enthusiastically with
Israel on border security.

The situation along the Egyptian border, which includes the southern border with the Gaza
Strip, is even more sensitive. After the fall of Mubarak, there were serious incidents along the
Sinai border, leading to a crisis in relations. On 18 August gunmen crossed the Sinai border
into southern Israel and killed seven Israelis. Israeli security forces then gave chase and
killed some of the gunmen but also, according to Egyptian accounts, five Egyptian security
officers. Israel initially blamed Egypt for failing to control the Sinai, but the furious reaction
from Cairo led Israeli officials to pursue a more conciliatory line, expressing regret for the
incident and promising an investigation into the incident.

The episode not only showed the potential for an increased security threat from Egypt, where
the police are demoralised and crime in general has increased. It also showed that officials in
Israel are increasingly aware of the need to take Egyptian public opinion into account.

216

‘‘Israel wary of transition in Egypt, concerned about regional stability,’’ Washington Post, 2 February, 2011

217

US Department of State, Background Note: Egypt

218

Quoted in Daniel Byman, “Israel’s Pessimistic View of the Arab Spring”, Washington Quarterly, Summer 2011,
p125

62

RESEARCH PAPER 11/73

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