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.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

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


While Pursuing a Thaw with Israel, Saudi Arabia Foments Anti-Semitism at Home

July 18 2018

For the better part of this century, Jerusalem and Riyadh have cooperated clandestinely to contain Iran’s growing power. The kingdom has also increasingly aimed its diplomatic and propaganda efforts against Qatar, whose funding of Islamist groups—including Hamas—has damaged both Saudi Arabia and Israel. But, writes Edy Cohen, there’s a dark side to Riyadh’s efforts against the enemies of the Jewish state:

The [Saudi cyberwarfare agency’s] Twitter account tweets daily, mostly against Qatar and Iran. It uses anti-Semitic terminology, referring to Qatar as “Qatariel,” a portmanteau of Qatar and Israel, and claiming the [Qatar-sponsored] Al Jazeera network “belongs to the Israeli Mossad.”

“‘The deal of the century’ is a Qatari scheme to sell Palestine to the Zionist entity,’” one tweet reads, while another alleges that the “Zionist” Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the father of [Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is scheming to divide the Arab states to fulfill the dreams of the “Zionist entity” and Iran. Yet another tweet alleges that Qatar is “trying to destroy the Arab world to serve the enemies of the Muslim world: Israel and Iran.” These statements penetrate deep into the Arab consciousness and increase existing hatred toward Jews and Israel.

The Saudis, then, are playing a double game. Behind the scenes, they send the Israelis the message that Iran is a common enemy and goad them to fight Iran and Hizballah. At home, however, they say the enemy is first and foremost the state of Israel, followed by Iran. Their formula is clear: covert ties with Israel coupled with overt hostility to the Jewish state to satisfy the people, a majority of whom hate Israel.

The Saudi double game is reminiscent of the Egyptian model under President Gamal Abdel Nasser in that dozens of anti-Semitic articles are published daily, while the Israeli populace is not exposed to the phenomenon and the politicians close their ears. Following the signing of the 1994 Oslo Accords, the Palestinians asked Israel for permission to incite “moderately” against the Jewish state for “domestic needs.” This incitement turned deadly and was used as live ammunition for the boycott, sanctions, and divestment movement (BDS). We must not give in and accept the incitement against us, and that is also true when Saudi Arabia is concerned. Incitement translates into action, and that action comes at a price.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israel & Zionism, Qatar, Saudi Arabia