Israel Faces a New Middle East

Manila Bulletin, August 24, 2011 | Go to article overview

Israel Faces a New Middle East


JERUSALEM, (Reuters) - Israel was expecting a diplomatic tsunami to strike in September, but the problems have come sooner than expected, leaving it ever more isolated in the Middle East.

Egypt's decision on Saturday to recall its envoy from Israel will remove the last Arab ambassador from Tel Aviv, further undermining a relationship that had started to buckle following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

Tensions flared after a cross-border attack earlier this week, with Cairo accusing Israeli forces of shooting dead three Egyptian security guards during gunbattles with Palestinian militants who had earlier ambushed and killed eight Israelis.

The row comes days after renewed verbal barbs between Israel and its one-time ally Turkey, which is still fuming over the deaths of nine Turks last year when Israeli commandos stormed a boat trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

Turkey is demanding an apology for the incident, something Israel is refusing to provide. Now Egypt wants to hear "sorry" too, but all it is getting so far are offers of "regret."

"Egypt is trying to re-educate Israel and is following the same line as the Turkish foreign policy," said Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern studies in Tel Aviv.

Israel's international standing faces a fresh assault next month as Palestinian leaders from the West Bank seek full membership of the United Nations in a General Assembly vote that will expose decades of rancour.

"Israel needs to learn that it is facing a different Middle East," Rabi told Reuters Television.

Israel's 1979 peace deal with Egypt has been the cornerstone of its Middle East policy, providing much-needed stability to its southern flanks and enabling successive leaders to maintain the status quo in the unresolved Palestinian conflict.

Egypt's new military leaders are highly unlikely to tear up the Camp David accords, which brought Cairo enhanced security stability and also gave it access to generous Western funds.

But after an uprising among a populace that is overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian, the military has already shown itself to be more open to the Islamist Hamas group that governs the Gaza enclave and more assertive when it comes to dealing with Israel. …

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