Israeli Official: Egypt Likely to Preserve Peace Treaty With Israel

Defense official tells Haaretz that Gaza and Hamas will continue to be a 'shared headache' for both countries, and that Iran and terror will remain shared enemies, as well.

Newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is not likely to disavow the peace treaty between the two countries, a senior Israeli defense official said on Tuesday.

The official told Haaretz he believed that the ties between the Israeli and Egyptian defense establishments will remain intact. Iran and terror will remain the enemies of both countries, while Gaza and Hamas will continue to be a "shared headache." Relations between Israel and Egypt will continue to be based on mutual interests.

"The talks Morsi held with the American government show this," the official said. "We do not believe that this approach will change any time soon."

He said that when Egypt's supreme military council took on more powers, it returned Egypt to a point before the revolution. Egyptian defense officials want to hold on to foreign affairs as well and leave the management of the Egpytian economy, which is believed doomed to fail, to the president.

"I doubt that Morsi will come to Jerusalem, but we have to remember that Mubarak didn't either, except for Yitzhak Rabin's funeral," he said. "We may get the cold shoulder from parliament and the president's office, but ties with the defense establishment will remain strong."

The official, however, was not as optimistic about developments in the Gaza Strip. "Weapons are flowing into Gaza in any case," he said. "We certainly don't expect a conventional threat from the Egyptian army in the foreseeable future."

Israel isn't worried at the moment that Egypt will allow more people and merchandise into the Gaza Strip from Egypt via the Rafah crossing than it normally does, the official said.

"The potential is there for a strengthening of ties between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and that's certainly an opportunity for Israel," he added. "If they want to get their goods from the port of Alexandria and not from Ashdod, let them do so."

The official said the trend revealed by the victory of a Muslim Brotherhood candidate was not a positive trend for Israel. But neither is it "an Egyptian plague."

Israel confirmed that Egypt had sent a number of calming messages to Israel about the maintenance of security ties.

Israeli security sources say the main worry now is not the regime change in Egypt but the situation in the Sinai Peninsula. The sources say Egypt's supreme military council has failed to take control of the situation in the Sinai, and Morsi's election is not expected to change this.

The danger, Israeli sources say, involves increased tensions with Egypt. The lack of Egyptian control over the Sinai could allow complete freedom of movement to extremist Islamic terror cells, assisted by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

In the long term, attacks from Sinai could lead to an escalation of tensions between Israel and Egypt.

Another concern involves Egyptian demands to revisit the security addendum to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which was signed in 1979. The Egyptian pretext is the need to stabilize the situation in the Sinai, but Israel views this as a dangerous precedent. Israel might give an unofficial nod for Egypt to beef up its forces in the Sinai without changing the agreement.

Meanwhile, Morsi continues to issue calming statements to the West; on Tuesday his policy adviser, Ahmed Deif, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Morsi intends to appoint a Coptic Christian as his vice president.

Egypt's new president Mohammed Morsi - Reuters - June 16, 2012