Israel fears the force of Arab Spring power shift

Rise of Islamists in Egypt and beyond confronts Barak with daunting new set of region faultlines

Jerusalem

With Islamists poised to take power in Egypt, Israel is watching its neighbour with trepidation, fearful of the consequences for a three-decades-old peace accord. Preliminary results put the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist parties ahead of their liberal and secular rivals, radically altering the political landscape in the most populous Arab nation and prompting fears of an Islamist revival on Israel's border.

The Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, described initial polling as "very, very disturbing", a view that will strike a chord with many in his country.

A senior Israeli security official told the Yedioth Ahronot newspaper the results were "even worse than we predicted". The Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, admitted: "We are worried", and hoped Egypt "won't become an extremist Islamist state, because that would put the whole region in danger".

Israel fears the Muslim Brotherhood, one of its outspoken critics, could review a 1979 peace accord deemed as vital for Middle East stability and bolster Hamas, which governs Gaza and is deemed a terrorist group by Israel.

Strides made by the Salafists – much more hardline than the Muslim Brotherhood – would put more pressure on Cairo to reconsider the peace accord. The deal forced Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula – now a demilitarised zone – and secured Egypt billions of dollars in international aid.

Speaking at the weekend, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu urged Egypt to honour the settlement. "We hope any future government in Egypt will recognise the importance of keeping the peace treaty with Israel in its own right and as a basis for regional security and economic stability," he said.

But a new government is likely to consider the increasingly hostile public mood towards Israel over its policies towards Palestinians.

Following the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, under whom public criticism of Israel was muted, Egyptians have vented their frustrations towards their neighbour and Israel's ambassador was forced to flee as rioters stormed the embassy three months ago.

Slow to welcome the Arab Spring, Israel was almost alone among Western democracies in backing Mr Mubarak amid mass protests.

Egypt's former leader had a warm relationship with Israel and shared its distrust of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter was banned in Egypt under the Mubarak regime. Mr Mubarak also willingly complied with Israel's blockade of Gaza.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links