Israel Keeps Eye on Rising Egyptian Threat

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JERUSALEM, Israel - With the recent regime change in Egypt, Israel's newly released five-year military plan includes preparation for war on multiple fronts.

Jerusalem Post military correspondent Yaakov Katz said the changing situation on Israel's southern border may precipitate a massive military buildup.

"There's great uncertainty and that's because of the changing faces of the Middle East, particularly the concern in Israel has to do with its southern border and what's happening in Egypt," Katz told CBN News in a recent interview.

For decades, Israel faced enemies on the Palestinian front and Syria and Hezbollah on its northern border. The threat of Iran loomed in the distance.

Now, for the first time in 30 years, Israel could also be facing war on its southern border.

"They (the Israel Defense Forces) did not have to build up a capability to counter the military in Egypt," Katz said. "That's no longer the case."

After four wars, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. But since the fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February, the Muslim Brotherhood is calling for an end to the treaty.

A recent opinion poll showed a majority of Egyptians favor such a move, which means Israel may have to build defensive or even offensive capabilities in the south.

"That means increasing defense budget, adding new fighter jet squadrons, new unmanned aerial vehicles, more tanks, more armored personnel carriers, new divisions," Katz said.

"So it's a complete new change and possible revolution for the military," he said.

Egypt has one of the strongest militaries in the Middle East, outnumbering Israeli tanks and soldiers. It also has the fifth largest squadron of F-16s in the world, plus the Abrams tank, Harpoon missiles, Apache helicopters and the largest navy.

"It's a massive conventional military, and I would not want to see what would happen in a war between Israel and Egypt," Katz said. "I hope it doesn't happen."

For the time being, Israel is waiting to see how things develop. But Katz said Egypt is already headed toward the extremists.

"Egypt is strengthening its ties with Hamas, strengthening its ties with Iran. It seems to be on a course of a more radical nature," Katz said.

Israel understands upcoming wars will not look like wars of the past.

"What we're looking at as a future conflict is a combination of guerrilla warfare in a civilian population, also combined with immense rocket fire like we've never seen before," he said.

"I think that what Israel understands though is that all of these different players are all working together, lead by Iran," Katz continued.

"There's Iran. It has its proxies: Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip -- so the future war will be fought on multiple fronts," he said.

In the meantime, Katz believes the Middle East is becoming increasingly radical.

"Look, my gut feeling -- and just based on experience and just watching the Middle East over the past bunch of years -- is that these vacuums are never filled by moderate elements," Katz said.

"Unfortunately...they're always filled by radical elements," he said. "And I think that's what we're looking at in Egypt, unfortunately."

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CBN News
Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl

CBN News Mideast Correspondent

CBN News is a national/international, nonprofit news organization that provides programming by cable, satellite, and the Internet, 24-hours a day. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.