It is clear that Israel and the US are desperately doing all they can behind the scenes to ensure that the Mubarak camp of Egyptian politics remains in power. It is also clear that they have all but given up on Mubarak being able to maintain power.
Mubarak’s decision to appoint Omar Suleiman, for years Egypt’s top intelligence man and confidante to Mubarak, to be vice-President underscores two important factors. First, Mubarak has abandoned the plan to groom his son, Gemal, to succeed him, which, in turn, indicates that he himself may step down – probably sooner rather than later – to clear the way for Suleiman to succeed, and secondly, since Suleiman has very close connections with the CIA, MI6 and Mossad, he clearly would have the support of the US, the UK and Israel.
The uprising in Egypt has also exposed West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas for the turncoat that he is. The Jerusalem Post reports that Abbas has phoned Mubarak to offer his support. Hamas, on the other hand, are supporting Mubarak’s ousting since it has been Mubarak’s government that has supported Israel’s efforts to completely isolate the Gaza Strip which borders the Egyptian Sinai.
The myriad of tunnels that are Gaza’s lifeline for everyday supplies as well as arms for defence against Israeli oppression, are only possible due to sympathetic, as well as generally corrupt, Egyptian officials turning a blind eye to the tunnel networks. However, the Egyptian government’s decision to build an underground barrier to put a halt to tunnelling would squeeze the already well-squeezed Palestinian population in the Gaza even further. The prospect of a complete change of government in Egypt that is likely to be far more sympathetic to the Gazan peoples cause, therefore, is very much welcomed by Hamas and consequently dreaded by both Israel and Abbas. It is even conceivable that, if the Mubarak regime falls and if it seems likely that it is replaced by an Islamist government that expresses support for Hamas, Israel could decide to fully invade the Gaza Strip and occupy it permanently.
It is doubtful that the appointment of Suleiman will placate the Egyptian opposition, as the US and Israel seems to hope, even if Mubarak steps down. For the opposition, Suleiman is simply more of the same and is unlikely to usher in the kind of changes the opposition are demanding which is to immediately vote in a President and parliament of their choice in free and democratic elections.
Egypt is Israel and America’s most important ally being geographically placed connecting the Middle East to North Africa and bordering Israel. If Egypt falls to Islamic control the only thing that will be certain is that the future of the Middle East will remain uncertain as it waits for Israel and the US to respond.