Netanyahu: We look forward to working with new Egyptian government

Foreign Ministry remains tight-lipped over Brotherhood win in Cairo

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Sunday night that Israel would respect the democratic process and the results of the vote in Egypt.

Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was declared a winner of a run-off vote for president of the country Sunday, the first civilian and democratically elected person to hold the title.

Israel had expressed fears that an Egypt ruled by the hard-line Islamist Brotherhood would undo the peace treaty between the countries and lead to frostier relations with Cairo.

Netanyahu’s statement seemed designed to iterate the importance of keeping to the three-decade old peace agreement.

“Israel looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability,” the statement read.

Sources told Ynet that the Prime Minister’s Office is prepared to send a congratulatory message to Morsi, although exactly if and when a missive will be released has yet to be decided. Netanyahu’s office had ordered Israel’s ministers to remain tight-lipped about the situation in Egypt, the website reported.

Foreign ministry officials said that although the outcome of the election was expected, they intend to wait and see how things develop, and what steps the new leadership takes under president-elect Mohammed Morsi, Ynet news reported..

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller called on Israelis to refrain from premature expressions of condemnation and instead congratulate the Egyptian people for completing the democratic process, “even if the results are not to the liking of some of us.”

“The first reactions should take into consideration the future relations with Israel’s southern neighbor,” Schneller said. “The Egyptian people made their choice, now honor it.

Opposition head Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) said that Israel must have dialogue with Egypt’s chosen leader, Maariv reported on Sunday.

“Despite the complexities involved we must have a dialogue with whoever is chosen to lead Egypt,” Yachimovich said, adding that since the peace treaty is of the highest strategic importance Israel must do everything it can to maintain normal ties with Egypt.

The Israel Defense Forces said the changing of the guard in Egypt to a more hard-line government would not lead to any operational shifts.

With the Egyptian military still the ultimate power in Egypt, senior Israeli defense officials who maintain contacts with Egypt said Sunday that they do not expect any immediate changes in relations. Over the long term, they warned, the Brotherhood may seek to cancel the peace agreement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a sensitive security assessment.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, is a pan-Arabic movement that favors creation of a Muslim state that encompasses the entire Middle East. It has never given up that goal, but as it gains official power inEgypt, winning parliamentary elections and now the presidency, it has indicated pragmatic willingness to accept the existence of Israel.

Although some Brotherhood leaders have said they will never meet with an Israeli official, they have been careful to say they would not cancel the treaty. Like many other Egyptians, they favor amendments — primarily to allow more Egyptian troops into the Sinai. Israel has already permitted an increase of troops there, demanding that Egypt bring violent extremists under control.

Since longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year, Israel has watched the security situation in the Sinai deteriorate into lawlessness. Armed gangs are believed to control wide swaths of territory, smugglers have helped thousands of African migrant workers sneak into Israel and various Arab militant groups, some believed to have ties to al-Qaida, operate freely.

Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, said the Egyptians would “have a lot to lose” if they canceled the peace, including Western investment and billions of dollars in U.S. aid. Even so, he warned, the treaty was not safe.

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