The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The Israeli who feared Egypt

Surely after the clear demonstration of Israeli tactical and strategic superiority on the battlefield in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 and the vastly superior intelligence gathering services of the Israeli secret services (not to mention the advanced military technology and various forms of US aid), one would think Israelis don't think Egypt is much of a threat. Well, not everyone: Yuval Steinitz, a Likud member who chair the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, is afraid of Egypt. Haaretz is running a long interview with him, below is an excerpt in which discusses Egypt as the biggest threat to Israel today.
Do you really think that we have to invest billions in rebuilding the IDF on completely new foundations when in practice we are not facing any significant conventional threat?

"I see an existential conventional threat based on the formation of two military alliances directed against us: an Egyptian-Saudi alliance in the south and a Syrian-Iranian alliance in the north. I am especially concerned about Egypt. I think that there is a concrete danger that Israel fell asleep and that when it wakes up it will find itself facing a very tough Egyptian military challenge."

We have peace with Egypt, a peace that has withstood a series of tests and has given us 30 years of quiet and prosperity.

"I suggest that we not take at face value the Egyptian declarations of peace but that we look at the facts. The facts show that a vast army is being built in Egypt. Egypt faces no threats and has no active border disputes and no resources but is investing billions in creating an army that has absolute dominance in the Arab world and in Africa. Why is Egypt doing this? The numbers are simply astounding. The size of the Egyptian Air Force is about the same as that of the Israel Air Force, but the number of tanks, artillery pieces, boats and missile batteries is exponentially greater than ours. The Egyptian army is far larger than the IDF. But beyond the fact that during 25 years Egypt forged a tremendous force, an additional process has developed in the past 10 years.

"Since the mid-1990s, Egyptian doctrine, Egyptian indoctrination and Egyptian training exercises have been directed against Israel. Since the start of this century Egypt has also invested billions in relocating its military infrastructures so they are opposite Israel. Initially its surface-to-surface missiles were scattered across Egypt, whereas now they are massed against us in the Suez Canal region. The same holds for the logistics facilities and ammunition dumps. Everything is concentrated on the two sides of the Suez Canal. There are also worrisome signs in the Sinai desert itself - perhaps very worrisome, but I cannot elaborate on them. The lenient interpretation says that this gigantic enterprise is being created because the Egyptians are afraid of us. But there is also an alternative interpretation: Egypt is preparing for war. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then maybe it really is a duck. If it looks like preparations for a military confrontation and sounds like preparations for a military confrontation, then maybe it really is preparations for a military confrontation against Israel."

Do you believe that Egypt really wants to dwarf Israel and restore it to its natural dimensions?

"I have no doubt that if Egypt could make Israel disappear from the map, it would not object to that. A future military confrontation with Israel exists in the Egyptian national consciousness and in the consciousness of the Egyptian security forces, and that is what Egyptian strategic planning is leading toward. I am in favor of peace with Egypt. I welcome the partial improvement that has occurred in relations in the past year. But I think that we must not delude ourselves. A definite possibility exists that a military confrontation between us and Egypt will take place in the future. We have to deploy for that."

We haven't yet talked about Iran, which is the true existential threat to Israel.

"Israel faces two existential threats. The Iranian existential threat is the only we are permitted to talk about and even like talking about. The Egyptian existential threat is the one we are prohibited from talking about. Quite a few people are aware of it, but only a few dare to utter its name explicitly and refer to its scale. For the same reason we ignore the fact it was Egypt that caused the Camp David conference to fail. Ignore the fact that it is Egypt that built up Hamas and is continuing to do so. Ignore the fact that Egypt allows smuggling into the Gaza Strip and is effectively arming the Palestinian people against Israel. Egypt is interested in seeing Israel and the Palestinians bleed. Contrary to its rhetoric, it had no interest in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - on the contrary."
No comment for now, just wanted to flag it.