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Egypt Is Expanding Its Military Capabilities. Should Israel Be Worried?

Dec. 30 2016

Shortly after being appointed defense minister by Egypt’s then-president Mohammed Morsi, Mohammed Abdel Fattah el-Sisi launched a large-scale rearmament program, which included the purchase of submarines from Germany and the implementation of previous arms deals with the U.S. After overthrowing Morsi in a coup, Sisi has continued to rearm, striking deals to procure helicopters, ships, aircraft, and more from France and Russia with the financial assistance of the Gulf states. Yet, note Yiftah S. Shapir and Kashish Parpiani, Egypt hardly needs such arms. It is already well-supplied by the U.S., and its major threats come from insurgents in the Sinai and guerrillas in Libya and Sudan, all of whom can be combatted without so extensive an arsenal. Shapir and Parpiani suggest an alternative explanation:

[T]he large arms acquisitions should be seen in the broader context of Sisi’s doctrine and vision for Egypt, in place from the moment he assumed power. This vision sees Egypt resuming its former position as a regional power in the Middle East, with the capacity to project its power throughout the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa. . . .

The mere possibility of sending a landing force armed with battle tanks and accompanied by attack helicopters to [Yemen] or even as far away as Iran should give Egypt a strong say in the region. Egypt achieved this capability [through its recent purchases], with a great deal of financial aid from the Gulf states—Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait. Thus this process should be seen in part in the context of the Saudi-led coalition against Iran. . . .

In turn, there are major implications for Israel. For decades Egypt has maintained its obligations under the peace agreement with Israel. Furthermore, since Sisi took power in Egypt, the bilateral relations as well as the level of cooperation have improved considerably. Egypt’s current rearmament, then, should not worry Israel in the near term.

However, Egypt’s rearmament and its drive to become a regional power once again should be viewed by Jerusalem with caution. After all, the IDF is the only major military on Egypt’s borders, and Israel cannot avoid seeing any such rearmament as a potential threat. The acquisition of modern aircraft such as the Rafale and the MiG-29M will erode Israel’s qualitative edge in the air. . . . Of particular military concern for Israel are the [Russian-made] Antey-2500 surface-to-air missiles, which could affect the Israeli air force’s freedom of action even over Israeli air space, and the Moskit missiles on board the Molniya corvettes, which could affect the freedom of action of Israel’s navy.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Israeli Security, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs

Putting Aside the Pious Lies about the Israel-Palestinian Conflict

Jan. 23 2018

In light of recent developments, including Mahmoud Abbas’s unusually frank speech to the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s leadership, Moshe Arens advocates jettisoning some frequently mouthed but clearly false assumptions about Israel’s situation, beginning with the idea that the U.S. should act as a neutral party in negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah. (Free registration may be required.)

The United States cannot be, and has never been, neutral in mediating the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is the leader of the world’s democratic community of nations and cannot assume a neutral position between democratic Israel and the Palestinians, whether represented by an autocratic leadership that glorifies acts of terror or by Islamic fundamentalists who carry out acts of terror. . . .

In recent years the tectonic shifts in the Arab world, the lower price of oil, and the decreased importance attached to the Palestinian issue in much of the region, have essentially removed the main incentive the United States had in past years to stay involved in the conflict. . . .

Despite the conventional wisdom that the core issues—such as Jerusalem or the fate of Israeli settlements beyond the 1949 armistice lines—are the major stumbling blocks to an agreement, the issue for which there seems to be no solution in sight at the moment is making sure that any Israeli military withdrawal will not result in rockets being launched against Israel’s population centers from areas that are turned over to the Palestinians. . . .

Does that mean that Israel is left with a choice between a state with a Palestinian majority or an apartheid state, as claimed by Israel’s left? This imaginary dilemma is based on a deterministic theory of history, which disregards all other possible alternatives in the years to come, and on questionable demographic predictions. What the left is really saying is this: better rockets on Tel Aviv than a continuation of Israeli military control over Judea and Samaria. There is little support in Israel for that view.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, US-Israel relations