‘Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation not at risk’ following forced resignation of top brass

President Morsi’s ouster of familiar military figures heightens uncertainty over relations with Cairo

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, meets with the leader of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in Cairo last year. (photo credit: Win McNamee/AP)
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, meets with the leader of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in Cairo last year. (photo credit: Win McNamee/AP)

President Mohammed Morsi’s sudden deposition of Cairo’s military elite on Sunday will not harm security collaboration between the Israeli and Egyptian armed forces, a senior official in Jerusalem told Maariv on Monday.

Assuaging fears that unfamiliar military leaders in Cairo might not cooperate with Israel, the official said that Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi’s replacement, Abdul Fatah Khalil Al-Sisi, “is well acquainted with Israel’s security elites — from Defense Ministry Policy Director Amos Gilad, to the prime minister’s special envoy Yitzhak Molcho, and of course Defense Minister Ehud Barak.”

Gilad and Molcho met with Al-Sisi during recent visits to Cairo, and Al-Sisi also met IDF Planning Directorate chief Maj. Gen. Nimrod Shefer during his two visits to Egypt this summer, Maariv reported.

Israel was surprised Sunday by Morsi’s ouster of military strongman Tantawi, Chief of Staff Sami Anan and other security chiefs, and is wary of the consequences of the power play, other Israeli security sources said following Sunday’s “civilian coup.”

The move cemented Morsi’s authority over the armed forces in what was seen as a move similar to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ouster of dozens of his generals. However, Erdogan achieved control over the army in a gradual process; Morsi has done so in a matter of days.

An unnamed Israeli official was quoted on the Walla news site as saying that the immediate consequence of the shake-up was that no one in senior Egyptian military positions would now dare take any steps that they feared would not find favor with the Muslim Brotherhood president. Such a shift would inevitably adversely affect Israel, given that Tantawi and Anan were in close ongoing contact with their Israeli counterparts. The two also had long-term relations with senior American officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Morsi, by contrast, has acknowledged no direct contact with Israel since his election two months. He sent a brief letter of thanks to President Shimon Peres last month, in response to two missives from Peres. But when the President’s Office publicized the letter, Morsi’s spokesman denied ever sending it.

Israel’s leading Arab affairs analyst Ehud Yaari described Morsi’s move Sunday as a “civilian coup” against the army. The move underlined that the president and the army are no longer running Egypt together, but rather that the army is subject to the orders of the presidency, Yaari said.

Morsi was said Sunday to be about to launch an intensified crackdown on terrorist cells in the Sinai, a week after Islamist terrorists killed 16 Egyptian security forces at their base near the Israel border, commandeered an armored vehicle and smashed across the border into Israel, where they were blown up by the Israel Air Force.

Israel last week gave Egypt permission to deploy forces in excess of limitations set out in the Israel-Egypt peace treaty in order to carry out the crack down. “The question is, after the military operation, will Morsi take the troops back out again,” said Yaari.

Political sources in Jerusalem said that if Morsi’s new appointees do not cooperate with Israel, then Israel will start to take independent action to thwart terrorist attacks from Sinai, Channel 10 reported.


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