Despite Strategic Convergence, Israel-Egypt Ties Face Tactical Strains

Despite Strategic Convergence, Israel-Egypt Ties Face Tactical Strains

Egypt’s Tahrir Square uprising in January 2011 sent waves of anxiety coursing through the Israeli establishment. By mid-February, a close partner had been deposed in Cairo, and popular Egyptian sentiment demanded a tough, polemical line against Israel: no more gas deals, no security cooperation, no political collaboration. The strategic relationship reached its nadir that fall, when a crowd in September stormed the Israeli Embassy while the Egyptian military stood by. A phone call from Washington was required to resolve that crisis, prompting the Egyptians to intervene before any Israelis were injured.

Fast-forward to today, and the Israel-Egypt strategic relationship appears to be back on the same consistent if occasionally bumpy track it followed for most of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s three decades in power.

Egypt is poised for another round of outright military rule, this time by retired Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, a strongman who for now can ignore public opinion along with complicating factors like political parties and open dissent. Moreover, el-Sisi, expected to sweep to the presidency in elections May 26-27, appears to hate Islamists as much as Israel does; under his management, Egypt has pursued the Muslim Brotherhood perhaps more intensively than Israel has gone after Hamas.

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