I’ve asked this question before back when the Egyptian revolution was getting underway in late January 2011. An Israeli invasion then was thwarted when the interim government that followed the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak gave assurances to Israel that they would be honouring the peace agreements made between the two countries in 1979. After the elections of June 2012 that saw President Mohamed Morsi come to power, the Israelis were again quickly reassured by letters from the new president that he too would be honouring the 1979 peace agreements. However, despite the assurances, Morsi did little to stop the growing relationship that was developing between militants in the Sinai and fighters in the Gaza Strip. As a result it’s now fairly clear that the US and Israel had collaborated with the Egyptian military to overthrow the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi in order to quell the growing resurgence of co-operation between Arab fighters in the Egyptian Sinai and Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip.
Hand in hand with the developments in the Sinai there was also a growing enthusiasm among Islamic activists anxious to fight in a pan-Islamic regional jihad triggered by events in Syria that had the potential to engulf Israel in the north from Syria via the Golan Heights and the Sinai in the south.
However, it seems the Egyptian army have misread the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. While the demonstrations against Morsi prior to the coup against him were large, the demonstrations protesting his overthrow have been even larger – and the reaction to them by the interim government has been brutal.
Meanwhile, the first signs of civil strife between militants and the interim government have emerged in the Sinai. One of the first actions taken by the interim government after the coup in an effort to placate and reassure the Israelis was to close off the tunnels between the Sinai and the Gaza Strip and to send in troops against the jihadists in the Sinai. This resulted in a number of collaborative operations against jihadists in the Sinai where Israeli drones attacked a jihadist group and Egyptian helicopters attacked other jihadist fighters.
This, coupled with yesterday’s brutal crackdown on pro-Morsi protestors across Egypt which has seen scores if not hundreds killed and many more likely as the government declares a state of emergency, will likely enrage jihadi activists which could trigger massive civil unrest that in turn could lead to all-out civil war exactly as it did in Syria.
A civil war on the African side of the Suez is bad enough for the Israelis, but the risk of it spilling over into the Sinai east across the Suez would be intolerable for the Israelis who may feel compelled to invade the Sinai, or at least eastern Sinai, in order to secure its borders and isolate Gaza Strip fighters from enjoining the unrest by taking over full control of the tunnels on the Sinai side. The Israelis may even consider launching a full invasion of the Gaza Strip – especially if Gaza fighters begin to launch rockets against Israel.
With the events in Egypt pointing toward civil unrest at best and civil war at worst together with the civil war in Syria and talks between Israel and the Palestinians looking like they are doomed before they even get underway, the situation generally throughout the region and with Netanyahu saying that Iran is his top priority, the future is looking worse for the entire Middle East than it has been for a very long time.