Israel’s ambassador to Cairo, Shalom Cohen, included harsh criticisms of Egyptian policies in a speech he gave at Hebrew University’s Truman Institute Wednesday marking the 30th anniversary of the peace treaty between the two nations.
Mr. Cohen lamented that connections with Israel continue to be viewed as “shameful” in Cairo, and he expressed worry about the values being instilled into coming generations of Egyptians.
“How will it be possible to change the anti-Israeli reality on the Egyptian street into something different in the future?” Mr. Cohen asked.
“After all, a new generation is growing up in Egypt that constitutes about half the population, a large part of which does not know a thing about the State of Israel and its culture.”
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Mr. Cohen said the idea of having normal relations with the Jewish state remains a “nasty word” in Egyptian public, political and media discourse.
Israel Worries Over Islamic Takeover Of Egypt
Meanwhile, the Middle East Newsline has revealed that Israel’s military has become increasingly concerned over a possible Islamic takeover of Egypt.
Military sources say Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak faces an increasingly confident and popular Islamic opposition. The sources said the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could intensify its opposition to the Mubarak regime and seek to block the president’s attempt to transfer power to his son, Gamal.
“Mubarak has been keeping the Islamists at bay, but time is not on his side,” a source said. “Once he leaves the scene, everything will change.”
Egypt has the largest military in the Arab world. The air force and army have been built around American weapons, including the F-16, the AH-64D attack helicopter and the M1A1 main battle tank. Israel also operates many of the same weapon systems.
“Radical Islam could take over Egypt,” according to a source at the Israel’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies said. “The process could take place in wake of democratic elections, civil war or a coup, like Iran.”
Egypt, flushed with revenues from its growing natural-gas sector, has increased its defense budget by 30 percent since 2006.
They said Egypt has maintained an army of 450,000, which is far larger than Israel’s standing army.
[Res.] Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael, former head of the Defense Ministry’s research directorate, said Israel has long misunderstood Egypt.
He said Egypt was too large and powerful to be defeated by Israel.
“It (Israel) can jab Egypt, but can’t defeat Egypt,” Maj. Gen. Ben-Yisrael told a recent Tel Aviv University seminar. “We’re just beginning to learn this.”
But Maj. Gen. Ben-Yisrael has also downplayed the Egyptian threat. He said as Egyptian Air Force commander, Hosni Mubarak, today president, kept the air force out of the 1973 Egyptian-Israeli war.
This allowed Mr. Mubarak to claim a major success, which eventually led to his appointment as vice president under then-President Anwar Sadat.
Israeli military sources say Egypt has intensified exercises meant to counter any Israeli invasion of the Sinai Peninsula.
Still, they said, Egypt has retained its respect for Israel’s military, particularly in wake of the war with Hamas in January.
“Egypt knows that the technology gap with Israel, especially concerning U.S. weapons, is wide, and that has served as a deterrent,” the military source said.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org