When Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, one of the big dividends for Israel was the removal of a major military threat on their doorstep. Egypt had participated in wars against Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. But since the Camp David peace treaty, Israel has been able to wage war on the Palestinians and other Arab states like Lebanon without having to worry about Egypt’s military stepping in.
That may change once again if a democratic Egypt emerges from the uprising shaking the Mubarak regime. Israel has been watching the unrest in Egypt closely and has begun to publicly air their support for the Mubarak dictatatorship.
The potential for a radical change in the regional status quo–one where Israel has shored up peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, making it the preeminent military power in the region with no contest–has Israel’s military worried. Ethan Bronner’s latest report in the New York Times quotes Giora Eiland, “a former national security adviser and a senior fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University,” as saying:
During the last 30 years, when we had any military confrontation, whether in the first or second Lebanon wars, the intifadas, in all those events we could be confident that Egypt would not try to intervene militarily
A democratic Egypt may make Israel more reticent about waging a reprise of the devastating assaults on Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008-09, which has been openly talked about in the Israeli press and among Israeli officials. A democratic Egypt that would reflect popular opinion in the country would also strike a blow against the Israeli/Egyptian siege of Gaza, as Eli Lake points out.
And the importance of this, measured in human lives, cannot be underestimated: An Israel that is afraid of an Egyptian response to their assaults could save Palestinian and Lebanese lives.