Adam Gonn
February 8, 2011 - 1:00am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday expressed concern that the demonstrations in Egypt may lead to Islamist groups taking over if President Hosni Mubarak were to step down.

Netanyahu outlined three possible scenarios for the future of Egypt, ranging from a secular democracy to an Iranian-style theocracy.

There is also another possibility: that the Islamists will exploit the situation to gain power over the country and lead it backwards, Netanyahu added.

One of the main concerns in Israel at the moment is that the Muslim Brotherhood would rise to power and abolish the peace treaty signed between Israel and Egypt in 1979. The deal was the first peace agreement between Israel and its neighboring countries.

The agreement allowed Israel to reduce its military presence along the border with Egypt, since the treaty stipulated that the Sinai Peninsula be designated a demilitarized zone. As well, Israel views Egypt under Mubarak as a partner against Hamas, and as a counterweight to Iranian influence in the region.

Analysts said that while it was difficult to predict what will eventually happen in Egypt and what kind of influence the Muslim Brotherhood would get, it could potentially have negative implications for Israel. They also pointed out that even if some close associates of Mubarak were to remain in power, the relationship would not be the same as it was.


Since its establishment in 1928 the Brotherhood has grown from a charity organization to become one of the largest movements in Egypt. As the party grew in strength its relationship with the rulers of Egypt became strained, and members have routinely been jailed and banned from running for parliament.

Prof. Hillel Frisch from the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University said that the risk of the Brotherhood replacing Mubarak is "very real," and if that were to happen Israel would return to the pre-peace agreement situation when the Jewish state was surrounded by hostile nations along all its borders.

When one looks at the Iranian, Russians and French revolutions, Frisch argues, it is always the most fundamental group that ends up being in control after the revolution, despite not always being the largest or most popular.

Some pundits have claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood is not organized enough to take over, but Frisch differs and points to the party's showing in past elections when its candidates ran as independents, since the party is banned from taking part in elections.

"In the 2005 elections, which were relatively free compared to the latest ones, the Muslim Brotherhood got 88 seats compared to seven for the other opposition parties," Frisch said. The lower level of parliament has 454 seats.


While Frisch was quite sure of what the outcome would be, others were not equally convinced. Prof. Uri M. Kupferschmidt of Haifa University told Xinhua that it was very hard to tell what would happen in Egypt, and noted several possible scenarios.

"It depends very much on where we go from here, but let's assume the following: that there will be free elections in Egypt within a very short time," Kupferschmidt said, adding,"Then there is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood will come out as one of the largest components, maybe with a large majority."

"If there will be more time for the other groups in Egypt to get organized then I'm not sure the Muslim Brotherhood will get a majority and that there will be some sort of coalition," Kupferschmidt added.

But there is no doubt that the Brotherhood represents a major force on the political scene, and in public opinion, so their influence will be felt whether they are in or outside a future government, he said.

Kupferschmidt said that it was very hard to predict what kind of policy the Muslim Brotherhood would pursue if they were to become part of a new government, because even if some members of the organization have been members of parliament previously and some of its leaders are known, "there is a lot that we don't know. "

"There is the possibility that there will be some kind of continuation of the current regime with the army, and then the peace treaty will be kept and there will not be a major shock in the strategy system," Kupferschmidt said.


He believes that the young people demonstrating in Cairo view the peace treaty as secondary, and that for them the main focus is on the domestic economic and political arena.

Prof. Galia Golan, of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Inter-Disciplinary Center in Herzliya, believes that the protest is focused on domestic grievances.

"The revolution in Egypt is a domestic affair and it has been caused by domestic policies," Golan said.

In addition to calling for Mubarak to step down, the protesters have been critical of the way in which the Egyptian economy is run, including high inflation and drastically rising prices for bread and other basic foodstuffs.

Golan added that it was very hard to tell what might happen in Egypt, and that, "the Muslim Brotherhood may come to power and they may become radical - but we don't know."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017