CAIRO – While bringing joy into the besieged Gaza Strip, the election of Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate Mohamed Mursi as Egypt’s new president has sparked deep worries in Israel.
“We are waking up to the dawn of a different Middle East: more religious, more Islamic, and to my regret, more Israel hating,” Labor member of Knesset Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told the Times of Israel.
“Israel must wait for the official election results, but has no choice but to sit down opposite whoever wins,” added the former defense minister and a longtime friend of ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
The Muslim Brotherhood has defeated his rival former premier Ahmed Shafiq to become Egypt’s new president.
|Mohamed Morsi (Profile)|
But the declaration is contested by Shafiq’s campaign, insisting that the former premier leads by two to four points.
“We have no choice but to find a way to start a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Ben-Eliezer.
“We need to help Mursi understand that it is in Egypt’s interest to maintain peace with us no less than Israelis realize that it is in our interest to maintain peace with them.”
Israel and Egypt signed a US-sponsored peace treaty in 1979, under which Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, which was occupied in the 1967 war.
Since Mubarak’s downfall following a popular revolt last year, Israel has been worried with the potential scenarios that could take place in Egypt.
The change of power in Egypt might also alter Israel’s entire strategic outlook, given the fact that thanks to the peace treaty, the Israeli military kept minimal presence on its southern border, freeing it up for actions to the east and north.
“Once he (Mursi) understands that he has no quick solution to cope with the social and economic problems, he’ll start talking about the problem of Egypt’s relations with Israel,” said Eli Shaked, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Egypt from 2004 to 2005.
“It’s the easiest way to get populist support.”
Unlike the situation in Israel, the electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate has sparked celebrations in besieged Gaza.
“We, the Palestinian people, follow the political scene in Egypt,” Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh was quoted as saying by Al-Arabiya television.
“We pin great hopes upon the Egyptian leadership, revolution, army, people and presidency to bolster the resistance of the Palestinian people, which has looked to Egypt throughout history.
“We hope that Egypt enjoys stability, security and safety and we are still waiting for the official results of the presidential election.”
Egypt’s election commission is expected to announce the official vote results on Thursday.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zohri described the vote results as a victory for the Egyptian people, its martyrs and the uprising.
More significantly for Hamas, Abu Zohri said, that Mursi’s win will help break the siege on Gaza and support the Palestinian cause, especially on the issue of Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).
Israel has clamped a severe blockade on Gaza since Hamas was voted to power in Gaza in 2006 and the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas in a cross-border raid.
The siege was further tightened after Hamas assumed full control of the strip in 2007.
The crippling siege has badly worsened livelihood in the impoverished seaside strip, home to 1.6 million Palestinians.
The situation further deteriorated after Israel launched a three-week deadly offensive in 2009, killing more than 1,400 people and injured thousands and left the strip in tatters.The siege leaves most of Gazans cut off from the outside world and struggling with desperate poverty.
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