Barak: Israel-Egypt Ties Not at Risk in Wake of Mubarak's Departure

Speaking with ABC, Defense Minister says Muslim Brotherhood may be 'real winners' of Egypt election; Egypt official: Peace with Israel has been beneficial to us for 30 years.

Haaretz Service
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Egypt's ties with Israel are not at risk in the wake of a revolution that overturned the country's long-time authoritarian regime, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday, adding that he felt the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group could benefit from a short-term election.

On Saturday, Egypt's ruling military reassured its international allies that there would be no break in its peace deal with Israel following the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak talking to IDF Col. Nimrod Aloni near the West Bank city of Nablus, Jan. 18, 2011. Credit: AP

The military statement, aired on state TV, was its first, cautious attempt to define the next steps after Mubarak handed over power to a council of his top generals and resigned on Friday in the face of an 18-day wave of popular protests.

Commenting on Israel's ties with Egypt following the military's announcement, Barak told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that he didnt "think the relationship between Israel and Egypt is under any risk or that there is any kind of operational risk awaiting us."

Also speaking to ABC on Sunday, Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Sameh Shoukry indicated that the Israeli peace treaty has been beneficial to his country for 30 years and he expected it to remain in place, as military leaders in Cairo have stated.

"We have derived a peace dividend from the treaty," Shoukry said. "We've been able to establish security and stability in the region. And I believe it is a main element in terms of our foreign policy."

In reference to the possible outcome of an Egyptian election in the near future, Barak indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, which Israel's fears may take power, could be the "real winners" of such a vote, since "they are already ready to jump."

"Usually [in] revolutions, if they are violent, there is an eruption of idealist sentiment at the first moment," Barak told ABC, adding that, "later on, sooner than later, the only group which is coherent, focused, ready to kill and be killed, if necessary, takes power."

"That should be avoided in Egypt. That could be a catastrophe for the whole region," he said.

Asked by "This Week" if he believed recent claims by Muslim Brotherhood leaders, according to which the group did not seek to take power in Egypt, the defense minister said that he was inclined "not to believe radical Muslim movements."

"I should admit, to the best of my understanding, they did not initiate [the revolution]." However, he said, "they are always deployed to take advantage of it."

On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in the wake of the statement made by Egypt's ruling military that the "longstanding peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has greatly contributed to both countries and is the cornerstone for peace and stability in the entire Middle East."

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also referred to the Armed Forces Supreme Council announcement, saying that Israel was not interested "in Egypt's internal affairs," adding that the only thing Israel wanted was that "regional stability be preserved and the peace treaty respected."

Israel has been deeply concerned that Egypt's turmoil could threaten the 1979 peace accord signed between the two countries.



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