Israel's Precarious Position Beyond Mubarak

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The possibility that President Hosni Mubarak could be deposed in Egypt is being hailed by the Islamist regime in Iran and studied with solemnity in Washington and Jerusalem.

Seemingly overnight, the prospects for a destabilized Middle East and increased bloodshed are more real. Mubarak has managed to hold on to power for nearly thirty years. He was installed as Egypt's leader after the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Anwar Sadat because of his overtures to Israel.

Although Mubarak has said he is not leaving, the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition party and godfather to Hamas and Al Qaeda, may be best positioned to fill the power vacuum left if Mubarak, who is now 82 years old, were to depart. Even if the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't gain control, the United States is likely to have diminished influence in Cairo, and consequently, in the Middle East.

Calls by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Egyptian security forces not to use violence against protestors came far too late in the game. Jailed dissidents, including Christians, are not pleased with America's decades-long commitment of foreign aid money and military equipment to Mubarak, even as he stifled dissent and held sham elections.

The questions for Washington are perplexing, but for Israel, they must be pondered with urgency. Although Mubarak held Israel at arm's length, he has had common cause with Jerusalem when it comes to reining in Hamas in Gaza.

Israel shares a desert border with Egypt of more than 100 miles. Tunnels from Egypt to Gaza have supplied Hamas and other groups with weapons and even trained terrorists, but Mubarak took some serious steps to thwart Hamas.

Egypt's next leader might be inclined to embrace Hamas and press harder for an end to Israel's naval embargo of the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian populace is solidly anti-American and anti-Israel. One political party wants to abrogate Egypt's 1977 peace treaty with Israel. The next leader may need to play to those sentiments to solidify power.

Also, if freer and fairer elections take place there, they could well produce a similar result as the Palestinian elections in 2006, when the citizens handily elected Hamas.

Israel may soon face an Egypt stocked with modern American jets, ships and other weapons, and a leader who has no qualms about stating that the enemy is in Jerusalem, not elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the mullahs in Iran have to be pleased as they tighten their grip on Lebanon and look with hope to the chaos in Egypt and the possible destabilization of Jordan.

In the theology of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, more chaos is better. It's part of his road map to Israel's destruction and it will take much vigilance from the strategists in Jerusalem to steer their nation through the challenges fomenting in the Arab street.

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John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.