JERUSALEM, Israel -- If Egyptians elect Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as their next president in April, the former military chief will undoubtedly have his hands full getting the country's faltering economy back on track and returning the nation to its former regional and world standing.
While Sisi is very well liked by his countrymen, the White House has been reluctant to support him or Egypt's interim government as it transitions away from the Muslim Brotherhood.
CBN News asked Israel's former ambassador to Egypt Zvi Mazel about the Obama administration's relationship with Sisi.
"I think there are two motives that explain the attitude of the White House toward Sisi today," Mazel said. "One is connected with [President Barack] Obama's policy. We have to understand it even if we don't like it.
"[We see it] in Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya [among others]. The U.S. is ridding itself of its responsibility in the Middle East. At the same time we know it's the most important power," he said.
He added that "a leftist way of thinking is connected to all the policy of the Middle East."
Mazel said there's been a "very intricate relationship" between the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood for 50 years that began during the Cold War with the former Soviet Union.
Since then, successive administrations have had a good relationship with the Brotherhood.
"That explains some of the attraction between the White House and the State Department," he said.
"The Muslim Brotherhood represents an important force in Islam and in Egypt," Mazel explained. "Obama thought the Muslim Brothers would represent the future of the Arab world. So when Sisi and the people of Egypt toppled Morsi, it was difficult for the Americans to accept it."
Some were surprised by the administration's lack of support for Mubarak when he was toppled in February 2011. Some didn't understand its support for Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi nor its dismay when some of the largest crowds in world history took to the streets to demand his ouster.
When the military-backed interim government took control and began to battle terror cells in the Sinai, the White House announced cutbacks in military aid.
With elections two months away, Sisi appears to be the frontrunner. Should he be elected, his government will work to bring stability and prosperity back to Egypt, rebuild the tourism sector, business, and academic communities.
It will also try to end the frequent clashes between police and Islamists and the terror activity in the Sinai, which worsened during the past few months under Sisi because Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, now designated a terror organization, doesn't give up easily.
"It's an important issue for Egypt and for Israel," Mazel said. "The Sinai is being used as a base to shoot rockets against Israel."
That may foster even closer cooperation between Israel and Egypt than under Mubarak, Mazel said, especially "the level of [military] intelligence."
That's why Israel allowed the Egyptians to deploy troops, tanks, and helicopter gunships into the Sinai, a violation of the 1979 peace treaty, because it's important to both countries.
"At a certain time, we'll have to speak together again about what will be done with the forces when they no longer need it, but for now they do," Mazel concluded.
All in all, Israelis have reason for optimism should Abdel Fattah el-Sisi become Egypt's next president. Despite appearances, there's a lot of mutual respect between them.