Israel has kept mum over how it will respond to Egypt’s upheaval, but Jerusalem has been active behind the scenes, holding talks with US and Egyptian officials to coordinate policies on diplomatic and security fronts.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Thursday night on the phone with US Secretary of State John Kerry about policies going forward on Egypt, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
According to the paper, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon also spoke with his American counterpart Chuck Hagel, and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch held a phone conference with US National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
On Wednesday, the Egyptian military removed president Mohammed Morsi from power, dissolving the constitution and parliament and saying it would call new elections, in what many have described as a coup. The move followed several days of large protests by opposition groups.
The American officials also held talks with counterparts in Egypt and other regional allies.
The calls conveyed “the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council.
Israel has kept from commenting publicly on its neighbor’s turmoil, but early Thursday dispatched an unnamed official to Cairo to make contact with senior intelligence officials, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.
While relations with Egypt were officially icy while Morsi was in power, behind the scenes, officials say security coordination between the countries was good.
Israel is reportedly coordinating an Egyptian security buildup in the Sinai, designed to keep Gazan and Bedouin militants from exploiting the chaos of the political transition to smuggle arms into Gaza or carry out attacks against Israeli or Egyptian targets.
Early Friday, armed terrorists attacked an Egyptian police station near Rafah, along the border with Gaza, and shot grenades at an airport in el-Arish, in the northern Sinai.
In talks with Egypt, the US officials also pushed for what Meehan called “a transparent political process that is inclusive of all parties and groups” and urged that those in charge of Egypt’s government avoid any arbitrary arrests of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi and his supporters. Avoiding violence by any group or party was also part of their message, she said in an emailed statement.
Behind the scenes, the US was signaling to Egypt and its allies that it accepts the military’s decision to depose Morsi, and was hoping that what fills the vacuum of power would be more favorable to US interests and values than Morsi’s Islamist government. But those hopes were tempered by very real concerns that a newly emboldened military would deal violently with the Muslim Brotherhood, sending Egyptian society further into chaos and making reconciliation more difficult.