Israeli Army Will Cash in on Egypt’s Upheavals

Israel has been indulging in a sustained bout of fear-mongering since the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled earlier this month. The ostensible aim has been to warn the international community that the lengthy “cold peace” between the two countries is on the verge of collapse.

In reality, the peace treaty signed three decades ago is in no danger for the foreseeable future. The Egyptian and Israeli armies have too much of a vested interest in its continuation, whatever political reforms occur in Egypt.

And if the Egyptian political system really does open up, which is still far from sure, the Israeli military may actually be a beneficiary — if for all the wrong reasons.

The main value of the 1979 Camp David treaty to the Israeli leadership has been three decades of calm on Israel’s south-western flank. That, in turn, has freed the army to concentrate on more pressing goals, such as its intermittent forays north to sow sectarian discord in Lebanon, its belligerent posturing towards first Iraq and now Iran in the east, and its campaign to contain and dispossess the Palestinians under its rule.

But since Mubarak’s ousting on February 11, Israeli politicians and generals have warned that democracy for Egypt is bound to empower the country’s Islamists, supposedly bent on Israel’s destruction.

Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, compared a post-Mubarak Egypt with Iran, saying Israel was “preparing for the worst”. Likewise, Gabi Ashkenazi, the departing chief of staff, stated that Israel was braced for the peace treaty’s cancellation as the “moderate camp” weakened.

Officially, Tel Aviv’s concern is that, should the treaty be revoked, Israel will have to redirect much of its martial energy to preparing for potential hostilities with its neighbour, the most populous Arab state. Israel’s anxious declarations about the peace treaty, however, are largely self-serving.

Peace has reigned between Israel and Egypt because it is so strongly in the interests of both militaries. That is not about to change while the Egyptian and Israeli general staffs maintain their pre-eminent roles as the praetorian guards of their countries’ respective political systems.

Today’s close ties between the Israeli and Egyptian armies are a far cry from the earlier era of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who galvanised Arab nationalism in an attempt to defeat Israel, or his successor, Anwar Sadat, who almost led the Arab world to victory against the Israeli army in 1973.

Since the signing of the 1979 agreement, Washington has bought off the hawks on each side with massive military subsidies underwritten by the American taxpayer. The US has been happy to bankroll an accord that strengthens Israel, its useful Middle Eastern ally, and buys the acquiescence of Egypt, the Arab state best placed to resist the current regional order.

The Egyptian army receives $1.3 billion in annual military aid, making it the second largest recipient after Israel, which gets more than twice as much. In addition, military hardware has been lavished on the Israeli army, making it possibly the fourth strongest in the world — an astonishing situation for a country of only seven million.

The munificence has continued despite the US financial crisis, and includes Washington’s effective donation last year to Israel of two dozen of the next-generation F-35 stealth fighter jet as part of its pledge to maintain Israel’s “technological edge” over its rivals in the region.

Three decades of American money thrown at the two armies have made each a key player in their respective economies — as well as encouraging a culture of corruption in the senior ranks.

In Egypt’s case, large sections of the economy are controlled by retired generals, from electrical goods and construction companies to the production of olive oil and medicines. The army is reported to own about a third of the country’s assets.

The Israeli army’s economic stake is less ostentatious but no less significant. Its officers retire in their early forties on full pensions, and then cash in on their “security know-how”. Second careers in arms dealing, military consultancies or sinecures in Israel’s booming homeland security exports are all but guaranteed. Ehud Barak, a former chief of staff and the current defence minister, made millions of dollars from his security consultancy in a few years out of politics, for example.

Corruption, endemic in Israel’s political culture, has rapidly seeped into the military. Some of it is visible, as demonstrated this month with the passing over of a series of candidates for the vacant post of chief of staff because of the skeletons in their closets. Some is not: current investigations into dubious activities by Mr Ashkenazi and his family are subject to heavy reporting restrictions.

Nonetheless, both armies are revered by their countrymen. Even should that change in Egypt over coming months, the army is too strong — thanks to the US — to be effectively challenged by the protesters.

Israeli hawks, however, are right to be concerned — on other grounds — about the “threat” of political reform in Egypt. Although greater democracy will not undermine the peace agreement, it may liberate Egyptians to press for a proper regional peace deal, one that takes account of Palestinian interests as the Camp David accord was supposed to do.

Not least, in a freer Egypt, the army will no longer be in a position to play Robin to Israel’s Batman in Gaza. Its continuing role in the strangulation of the tiny enclave would likely come to an end.

But in such a climate, the Israeli military still has much to gain. As Israeli analyst Aluf Benn has observed, Israel will use the Middle East’s upheavals to highlight to the US that it is Washington’s only reliable ally — the so-called “villa in the jungle”. Its show of anxiety is also designed to remind the US that a jittery Israel is more likely to engage in unpredictable military adventures.

The remedy, of course, is even greater American largesse. And for that reason, if no other, the fear-mongering from Tel Aviv is not about to end.

Jonathan Cook, based in Nazareth, Israel is a winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). Read other articles by Jonathan, or visit Jonathan's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on February 22nd, 2011 at 10:28am #

    as an aside, i recall that egyptians have said ca.’78 that they are not arabs!

    it goes w.o. saying that the world personal, religious, and some ethnic supremacists wld not stop at anything in order to utterly destroy an emerging pantisocracy and timocracy anywhere and not just egypt.

    as i have noted, many protests– especially in u.s.–results in a worsening for most people.
    egypt protest may benefit israel and u.s. [or u.s. rulers] in many ways!

    lesson: don’t beat ur chest like an ape; act like a dog or hyena; both of which doggedly pursue their end solution: survive and live like a dog or hyena shld live.
    how about it? are we gonna live like humans?
    in case we do want to live like nature-god made us, stop fuming and begin working for change! tnx

  2. Ismail Zayid said on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:35am #

    As Jonathan Cook states, Israeli fears, about the threat of war between Israel and Egypt, resulting from the current upheavals in Egypt, are manufactured fears in the service of Israel’s aggressive stance. The real hope, one may entertain, from the new anticipated democratic change in Egypt, is the end of the shameful collaboration with Israel that the Mubarak regime practiced aginst the besieged people in the Gaza Strip.

    Similarly, the anticipated political reform in Egypt, bringing about some listening to the feelings of the Egyptian people, is the real threat to Israeli ability to use the Arab rulers as its subservient agents.

  3. jay08701 said on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:54am #

    This article naively assumes that all Muslims are motivated by mercenary motives, and that religious beliefs alone will not compel people to act against their own monetary interests. I find this uniquely American belief to be an interesting by-product of Capitalism.

  4. hayate said on February 22nd, 2011 at 12:26pm #

    “But in such a climate, the Israeli military still has much to gain. As Israeli analyst Aluf Benn has observed, Israel will use the Middle East’s upheavals to highlight to the US that it is Washington’s only reliable ally — the so-called “villa in the jungle”. Its show of anxiety is also designed to remind the US that a jittery Israel is more likely to engage in unpredictable military adventures.

    The remedy, of course, is even greater American largesse. And for that reason, if no other, the fear-mongering from Tel Aviv is not about to end.”

    Well, using fear mongering on the its goy saps is about israeli as human organ trafficking.

    The above quote gets the relationship backwards, though, and how the fear mongering works on the zionist colonies. The fear monering is not to induce israel’s colonies to give it more, it is for the people of those colonies (usa especially, who are the largest suckers of this propaganda) to not object to their guv’s subservience to israel. The quiling guvs themselves know their place and simply follow their orders, like the good little zionist quisling they are. No need to fear monger them, just issue the orders and it is done.

  5. Deadbeat said on February 22nd, 2011 at 1:57pm #

    Jonathan Cook writes …

    Since the signing of the 1979 agreement, Washington has bought off the hawks on each side with massive military subsidies underwritten by the American taxpayer. The US has been happy to bankroll an accord that strengthens Israel, its useful Middle Eastern ally, and buys the acquiescence of Egypt, the Arab state best placed to resist the current regional order.

    It is clear that Mr. Cook has no understanding of American Zionism. This is the Chomskyite perspective that “poor little” Israel is being “used” by “U.S. Imperialism ™”. Not so. American foreign policy (as well as her political economy) is dominated by Zionism in whose interest U.S. policy is conducted.

  6. Deadbeat said on February 22nd, 2011 at 2:16pm #

    commoner3 writes …

    Israel and its “allies” will see to it that Egypt is delivered to the Muslim Brotherhood in a silver platter, and when that happen they will turn hostile to Egypt and strike at it because it is governed by Muslim Radicals. …
    Egypt does not need theocratic reactionary government of the Muslim Brotherhood, but it needs a progressive modern enlightened government.

    It seems like you are engaging in your own variety of fear mongering. My reading of the Muslim Brotherhood is that they have changed over the years and are more progressive today then they were decades before and that is a reflecting of social change. More women are involved in the movement inside and outside of the Brotherhood. But in the end this is a question for the Egyptian people to decide.

    IMO the real fear from a racist country, Israel, is economic rivalry and economic isolation not Muslim extremism. That will used as an excuse. Again this isn’t the 1970’s where the world was divided into two orbits — U.S. vs USSR. The world today is more pluralistic and Egypt will have a number of trading partners — China, Brazil, Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, etc. Egypt doesn’t have to remain reliant on western money that retarded its economy and Arab aspirations. Egypt, once free of the west and due to her large population, will be able to build up her economy to rival that of Israel that is totally depended on extorting U.S. welfare via her Zionist 5th column.

    What should be coming from the Left is full support for the Egyptian revolutionaries making a complete break from Western and Zionist influence. Once that happens it will give the Egyptian people space and her best chance to work out their own domestic struggles.

  7. commoner3 said on February 22nd, 2011 at 3:23pm #

    Re: Deadbeat said on February 22nd, 2011 at 2:16pm #

    Deadbeat,

    Here we go again with your big words, and hot air without any relation to reality.
    Why do you believe each word from the Muslim Brotherhood??!! Of course now they are all smiles and playing very nice until they get power. In their charter they declare that Egypt is an Islamic country and it should be governed according to the Islamic Shari’a where there no mention of Democracy or elections and the ruler or “Chalifa” is elected by the council of elders from the elites and the status of women and non-Muslim is not equal to Muslim men. For example, an inheritance is divided such that the shares of males is double the shares of females and the testimonies of non-Muslims in the court is irrelevants. Men can marry four wives and divorce any one of them by just uttering “I divorce you”! etc etc etc…..
    Add to that the oppressive theorcratic atmosphere of imposing on people all kinds of restrictions of what is forbidden to eat and drink, dress code and behaviour in public etc etc etc….
    You wrote:
    “IMO the real fear from a racist country, Israel, is economic rivalry and economic isolation not Muslim extremism. That will used as an excuse.”
    ——–
    I am not sure I understand what exactly you are saying herer
    The basic fear from Israel is not economic rivalry but territorial expansion in the Sinai Penninsula of Egypt. So, as I stated in my post they will use the Muslim Brotherhood, with its image of radicalism, whether it is deseved or not, to start war with Egypt, exactly as they used Hamas to divide the Palestinian people and to destroy Gaza.

    You wrote:
    “Again this isn’t the 1970′s where the world was divided into two orbits — U.S. vs USSR. The world today is more pluralistic and Egypt will have a number of trading partners — China, Brazil, Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, etc. Egypt doesn’t have to remain reliant on western money.”
    ————————————————————————-
    Really!! That is complete and utter nonsense. Yes, the world now is not divided into two orbits, but it is divided into a SINGLE ORBIT where the US with its lietinant the EU is the only military and economic super-power in the world. All the countries you mentioned includig the Russians and the Chinese are aware of that fact and are behaving accordingly. No one will antagonise the US for the sake of little poor helpless Egypt!!.
    Come down from your ivory tower high in the sky and leave your big vacuous words and hot air behind.

  8. Deadbeat said on February 23rd, 2011 at 1:44am #

    commoner3 retorts…

    Really!! That is complete and utter nonsense. Yes, the world now is not divided into two orbits, but it is divided into a SINGLE ORBIT where the US with its lietinant the EU is the only military and economic super-power in the world. All the countries you mentioned includig the Russians and the Chinese are aware of that fact and are behaving accordingly. No one will antagonise the US for the sake of little poor helpless Egypt!!. Come down from your ivory tower high in the sky and leave your big vacuous words and hot air behind.

    I was hoping for an insightful rebuttal but the one coming off as johnny-one-note is you, commoner. There is no single “orbit” and the U.S. cannot continue to threatening the rest of the world with its military because the global economy is too integrated. The 1970’s was a bipolar world of Capitalism vs State-Capitalism (USSR); Western Imperialism vs. nations seeing to break from the west. The USSR filled that role of helping nations break from the West. The world doesn’t operate that way any more. Today it’s all about MONEY. The only policy that is not about money is Zionism. The U.S. military pretty much operates to serve and protect Zionism. The U.S. military doesn’t even function to protect U.S. market interests.

    You are right that the BRICs won’t antagonize the U.S. However Brazil and Turkey did antagonize the U.S. by signing the nuclear deal with Iran and Pakistan largest trading partner is now China. So you seem to be missing the fact that the rest of the world is moving on their own initiatives APART from the U.S. and Israel.

    But let examine your remark by rephrasing your rhetorical question to what would the gained by antagonizing the U.S. The rest of the world clearly understands the U.S, it would seem, better than you, commoner.

    [1] They understand that these INTERNAL struggles are best fought by the people.

    [2] They understand that the U.S. is being held hostage by Zionist dominance that has such control over the U.S. that the Zionists are hurting U.S. interest — to their benefit.

    [3] So why would the BRICs want to wake up a sleeping dog.

    The U.S. is hurting its own economy by allowing the Zionists to dominate her political economy. This is also not to ignore neoliberal policies as well. Thus you have a fine cocktail for the U.S. to undo itself. Therefore there is no need for the BRIC’s to piss off the U.S. in the process.

    The revolutionary process in Egypt is a backlash to the U.S. support for the Zionist project especially the Sadat sellout of Arab aspirations in 1979. Ironically the ink wasn’t even dried on the sellout to the Zionists before President Goober was faced with the Iranian Revolution. The struggle ever since has been for the Arabs to throw off the yoke of Western Imperialism and Zionist tyranny.

    The point again is that Egypt will not be ECONOMICALLY isolated should her revolution succeed. In fact Egypt stands to gain immensely as there well be alternative non-western/non-Zionist dominated TRADING partners available to her in order to rebuild her economy and restore Arab self-determination.

    As a Leftist not living in Egypt and not on the Egyptian street the only moral position is to support the defeat of Western Imperialism and Zionist dominance of Egypt.

    Whoever the Egyptian people choose to represent them AFTER they succeed in this revolution (and by no means is this struggle over) the struggle for democracy is an internal matter for the Egyptian people and only the Egyptian people to resolve.

    Your harping about the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that hasn’t even seized power, with the Mubarak’s Army still in firm control of Egypt is the same song and dance of distraction and fear promoted by the Zionist Left.

  9. commoner3 said on February 23rd, 2011 at 5:43am #

    Re: Deadbeat said on February 23rd, 2011 at 1:44am #

    Deadbeat,

    Most of the points you mentioned in your post, have been discussed before and refuted by me.
    I told you to come down from your ivory tower high in the sky, to get in touch with realities on the ground, leaving behind your big words, hot air, false theories and wishful thinking.
    You wrote:
    “The U.S. military pretty much operates to serve and protect Zionism. The U.S. military doesn’t even function to protect U.S. market interests.”
    ——————–
    Really!. Do you really believe that nonsense of yours.???!!!
    Okay. Let us assume you are right, what difference that do? Whether the US controls Zionism or Zionism control US, the basic fact remains that the US is still the ONLY super military and economic power in the world today, and it can strike militarily or economically at any country in the world, without any serious objection or resistance from the rest of the world and recent history proves that.

    You also wrote:
    “This is also not to ignore neoliberal policies as well. Thus you have a fine cocktail for the U.S. to undo itself. Therefore there is no need for the BRIC’s to piss off the U.S. in the process.”
    —————————————-
    Another piece of nonsense and hot air from you.
    My dear Sir, the neoliberal policies are used every where in the world today.
    It is used by the BRIC and it is even used in VIETNAM today. It is used in Eastern Europe countries etc etc… Yes, those neoliberal policies are destructive especiall for the common people, but this is happening everywhere, not only in the US, and the US is in much better position, due to its strong economy and VERY SUPERIOR MILITARY POWER to withstnad these destructive effects better than any other country in the world.

    I am baffled with your infatuation with the Muslim Brotherhood. It is obvious that you are ignorant with their history and the realities of Egypt now, or are you playing dumb and having an agenda???
    You seem to believe every word the Brotherhood say, although a smart guy like you, knows that talk is cheap and in politics most people promise the moon and play nice until they get power or win elections. Obama anyone!!!
    At least you can say: there are a lot of questions and unknown factors about the behaviour of these people in the future instead of your blanket support and approval.
    Why a progressive leftist guy like you, support a right wing religious organisation that flatly declares that it wants Islamic Theocracy in Egypt where everyone will have to live and behave in certain way or ELSE???!!
    The aim of Israel and the US is to deliver Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood in a silver plater. Why ??!! Hamas any body??? Read my previous posts.!!
    I talked about the Brotherhood and their history and their plans in previous posts and I said they are the best organised and financed group in Egypt, because they stayed largley under ground, while all the other parties are in shamble due to Mubarak oppression. Sure, they are most likely will win any free election which will be the last free election in Egypt for a lvery ong time to come.
    If the Muslim Brotherhood take over in Egypt, that will be a dark day for Egypt.

  10. mary said on February 24th, 2011 at 1:01am #

    As occupiers, murderers, warmongers, thieves and robbers, Israelis wil nowl cash in on Lebanon’s offshore gas reserves just as they have stolen those off the Gaza shore.

    Monday, February 21, 2011
    Israel Navy to take Lebanon gas resource

    The Israeli naval forces plan to enforce Tel Aviv’s claim over sea-based gas resources off Israel, including one belonging to Lebanon and another, which extends into the country’s waters.

    The resources, including Lebanon’s Tamar field, which — situated in the Mediterranean Sea — holds an estimated 8.4 trillion cubic feet (238 billion cubic meters) of natural gas. They cover an area about 1.5 times the size of Israel, AFP reported.

    Tel Aviv — which enjoys heavy material, financial and other kinds of support from the West — claims harvesting the fields would boost its energy independence.

    Lebanon also owns a major part of Leviathan — another targeted resource, which is located in the joint regional waters between Lebanon and northern Palestine in the Mediterranean. The field is thought to hold natural gas resources of around 16 trillion cubic feet (450 billion cubic meters).

    The Navy would present the plan to Tel Aviv at the end of the month.

    Last year, Israel threatened to use military force to capture Leviathan.

    The Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon, Nabih Berri reacted by saying that “Israel is racing to make the case a fait accompli and was quick to present itself as an oil emirate, ignoring the fact that, according to the maps, the deposit extends into Lebanese waters.”

    {http://jnoubiyeh.com/2011/02/israel-navy-to-take-lebanon-gas.html}

  11. mary said on February 24th, 2011 at 1:12am #

    Yesterday the Israelis attacked Gaza and killed one, injured 11 including 3 cjildren. In retaliation, one Grad rocket was sent to Beersheba. How does ZBC frame it?

    Like this, from which the reader would assume that the Israeli attack was in retaliation to the sending of the rocket. The ZBC is a disgusting arm of the Israeli propaganda machine when it comes to reporting Palestine. The Occupation is NEVER mentioned. Israelis have SOLDIERS. Palestinians are always MILITANTS. The latter word is used three times in this skimpy ‘report’.

    23 February 2011 Last updated at 23:04

    Gaza militants fire rockets at Beersheba, Israel

    A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip has hit a house in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba.

    {http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12562631}

  12. mary said on February 24th, 2011 at 1:19am #

    Their land? gas? homes? What else is there left for them to steal? The water of course.

    Israel to raze more wells in W. Bank as part of water war on Palestinians
    [ 22/02/2011 - 12:38 PM ]

    JENIN, (PIC)– Civil servants from Israel’s water authority under heavy military protection stormed at noon Monday Kafr Dan village, west of Jenin, to carry out a survey of the artesian wells as a prelude to demolishing them later.

    Local sources said Israeli soldiers aboard military vehicles escorted a car belonging to the water authority to protect surveyors as they were registering and taking pictures of about 70 wells.

    They added that the soldiers told farmers in the village that after this process, their wells would be flattened at the pretext of unlicensed construction.

    Different West Bank areas have witnessed lately the demolition of many wells in order to deprive Palestinians of their water rights and provide Israeli settlements with more water amounts.

    According to studies, Israel plunders Palestinian water resources through its control over 85 percent of the existing water in the aquifer in the West Bank, and not only that, but it also controls the amounts of water supplied to the Palestinian territories and sell them at exorbitant prices.

    Israel, the most racist country in the world, uses water as a weapon against the rightful owners of land and water resources.

    In a separate incident, the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) notified five Palestinian farmers from Beit Ula village, west of Al-Khalil, of its intentions to demolish their structures and buildings used for agricultural purposes.

    The military order received by the farmers claimed that these buildings would be demolished because they were unlicensed and near Israel’s segregation wall.

    {http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/en/Default.aspx}