(Reuters) – Far apart on so many issues, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas almost certainly see eye to eye on the Egyptian presidential election.
Both would like Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force chief who served as Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, beat the Muslim Brotherhood’s anointed candidate, Mohamed Mursi, in the June 16-17 ballot.
For Israel, a Shafiq victory would provide a modicum of reassurance after months of anxiety triggered by the ousting of Mubarak — a period of uncertainty that has raised doubt about the viability of Israel’s historic 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
For Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank, success for the bluff, secular Shafiq would bolster them in their interminable struggle with Hamas, an Islamist group born from the Muslim Brotherhood and which controls the Gaza Strip.
But with the Islamists already dominant in the new-look Egyptian parliament, both Netanyahu and Abbas know that there will be no simple return to the status quo that Mubarak offered, which provided them both with sturdy cover at home and abroad.
“The Muslim Brotherhood has become a strong part of the Egyptian political formula and no one can ignore them, not even a president of a different color,” said Talal Okal, a Palestinian political analyst based in the Gaza Strip.
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Islamist gains in Egypt have strengthened the sense of encirclement in the militarily powerful Jewish state, already preoccupied with the nuclear ambitions of Iran.
Israel’s regional strategy was underpinned by its peace deal with Egypt, enabling the country to scale back dramatically its military budget and helping it contain its troubled relations with the Palestinians.
Mubarak’s Egypt also supplied Israel with 40 percent of its gas needs. This deal has now gone up in smoke.
Few expect that a victorious Mursi would trash the peace accord — too much foreign aid depends on it. By the same token, nobody here expects anything more than frigid relations from a man who is quoted as calling Israelis “vampires”.
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