Officials at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusaelm have been keeping mum about the recent turmoil emanating from Egypt's Tahrir Square. Seeking to steer clear of Egyptian internal affairs and regime changes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked his cabinet ministers, the Foreign Ministry and all official spokespeople to refrain from commenting on the topic. But obviously, Jerusalem is monitoring the events unfolding in Cairo very closely and waiting for further developments.
"The government is closely monitoring the situation in Egypt but is not making any predictions because things are still developing," an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP.
"It is important that the Egyptian people can enjoy a new level of freedom and self-determination ... but the current situation has sent shock waves throughout the Arab world and it is causing some concern in Israel," he said.
"There is great uncertainty over Egypt's future and it is very difficult for Egypt, which is caught up with internal issues, to deal with security problems, notably from terror groups in Sinai," an Israeli official told army radio, speaking on condition of anonymity.
As far as Israel was concerned, the shockwaves in Egypt ever since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from the Egyptian presidency in 2011 passed with relatively little damage. After all, Egypt's peace agreement with Israel was preserved, and for Israel that was the true test. But it was clear that the rules of the game had changed and that the Egyptian street once again viewed Israel as a legitimate enemy. So much so that an angry mob attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, and, since it was evacuated, it has not yet found a new home.
That is when the U.S. issued its first warning to Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood recognized the enormous significance of U.S. aid money and accurately gauged Washington's sincerity in insisting that the peace accords with Israel remain intact.
The U.S. aid is designated for the Egyptian military, and it is the military officials who value the relationship with Washington and cultivate the relationship with Israel. The Israeli-Egyptian connection is kept mainly at a level of security coordination. Therefore, for Israel, a leadership made up of military generals is perhaps more approachable than a government led by a party with religious leanings.
The test of Israel-Egypt relations ultimately boils down to Sinai. The Muslim Brotherhood's efforts to breach the peace deal with Israel were met with Israeli and American refusal, and were stopped. Previously, the Egyptians managed to stabilize the volatile Sinai region despite the familial-political links to Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, and were even permitted by Israel to deploy emergency forces in the demilitarized zone. As a new regime is established, Israel will gauge its power not only in terms of its ability to maintain order in Cairo, but also in terms of its ability to maintain order in Sinai.
Meanwhile, Avi Dichter, a former Israeli public security minister and a former head of the Shin Bet security agency, said on Thursday that the events in Egypt were "clearly a planned military coup."
"The army started seeing that it was losing its power and financial interests, and when Morsi started going after the judiciary, the army understood the picture," Dichter told Israel Radio.
"This is what happened in Algeria: The army didn't like the results of the elections and annulled it, which led to a bloodbath. I sincerely hope the same doesn't happen in Egypt.
"We live in a neighborhood that when things happen they usually reach us too. I don't see the Muslim Brotherhood taking the arrest of its leadership quietly for very long. They have a long history of producing terrorism to get their points across. Sinai always pays the price, we saw it after Mubarak's ouster, and we're likely to see it after Morsi's ouster. Sinai is a no-man's land, and Israel will pay the price for Sinai's situation," Dichter said.