Israel Eyes Egypt, Warily

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The toppling of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt would open up quite a can of worms for the U.S., but perhaps no country is as concerned about the outcome there as Israel, which counts the Mubarak regime as one of its few Arab allies. Among other things, an Islamist government in Egypt that opened the now-closed (if somewhat porous) border with Gaza and assisted Hamas would scramble the Middle East peace process in very perilous ways for Israel.

For now, however, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz is reporting that the Netanyahu government expects Mubarak to survive:

Israel expects the Egyptian government to weather the protests roiling the country and to remain in power, an Israeli Cabinet minister said Thursday, providing Israel’s first official assessment of the crisis affecting its powerful southern neighbor.

The minister said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, backed by his powerful security forces, was strong enough to overcome the unrest, though he did not rule out the possibility of further violence.

“His regime is well-rooted in the military and security apparatus,” the minister said. “They will have to exercise force, power in the street and do it. But they are strong enough according to my assessment to overcome it.”

Of course, government officials often err on the side of predicting the things they want to see happen, and history is filled with successful uprisings that were at first dismissed by the powers that be.