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Israel Should Be Concerned, but Not Alarmed, by Egypt’s Military Buildup

Jan. 12 2018

Since taking power, Egypt’s President Sisi has invested heavily in acquiring a variety of advanced materiel for his country’s armed forces, in addition to embarking on major infrastructure projects that cannot be justified in civilian terms alone. Cairo’s purchases, writes Yagil Henkin, do not suggest a military equipping itself to fight irregular forces—such as the Islamic State insurgents Egypt currently faces in the Sinai, or the insurgent groups it might have to fight in Libya. Furthermore, the infrastructure buildup is overwhelmingly in the east, in and near Sinai, rather than near the borders with Libya or Sudan. Henkin seeks to explain what might motivate Sisi, and how Jerusalem should react:

It’s hard to tell what’s driving the Egyptian military buildup. There are many possible reasons for a military buildup . . . : preserving [Egypt’s] status in the Arab world, . . . creating an infrastructure for future Russian deployment [in Egypt’s borders], preparation for a conflict with Israel or for the re-militarization of the Sinai, [and] strengthening the internal status of the government and the ruling class, in a country in which the army is, in many ways, the state itself. . . .

President Sisi has stated that he is not afraid of an invasion because no organized army is threatening Egypt, but that Egypt needs a big army due to the unstable situation and the “vacuum” in the Middle East. According to his statements, the Egyptian buildup partially can be interpreted as [preparation] for the rapid deployment of troops throughout the Middle East. Sisi has indeed declared his support of a united Arab force to deal with problems in the Middle East, and said that Egypt will play a part in this force. . . . However, the bulk of the Egyptian army is built as a heavy mechanized and armored force, and will not be able quickly to reach other countries, from Libya to Saudi Arabia. . . .

[T]he upshot is that Israel must maintain a basic capacity for mechanized warfare against modern armies. It must not assume that the present situation, in which Israel has had a crushing material military advantage versus its enemies (as in the Second Lebanon War and in recent wars against Hamas), will remain the same against other possible adversaries. . . . If the Muslim Brotherhood had remained in power in Egypt and had succeeded in carrying out an Erdogan-like revolution (that is, the purging of the army and bringing it under Brotherhood control), Israel would have found itself much more concerned [than it is now]. . . .

Israel must keep a careful eye on the changes in Egypt and their implications; and, at the same time, increase cooperation with Egypt as much as possible. Cooperation does not necessarily prevent future conflict, but it reduces misunderstandings and creates de-facto alliances. Such alliances reduce the chances of unintentional escalation. In other words, Israel’s great challenge is to maintain and improve relations with Egypt, and at the same time be prepared, without causing unintended escalation, for a situation in which the optimistic scenarios do not materialize.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Sinai Peninsula

 

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