Middle East News
Israel in initial contact with Egypt military leadership (Roundup)
Feb 13, 2011, 13:58 GMT
Jerusalem - Israeli and Egyptian defence leaders have made their first contacts since the Egypt's military assumed power in Cairo, as meanwhile Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday welcomed the Egyptian military's pledge to honour the 1979 peace treaty.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak spoke on the telephone late Saturday with Egyptian Defence Minister Field Marshal Muhammad Hossein Tantawi, who heads the Armed Forces Supreme Council of top generals now running the country.
A Defence Ministry spokeswoman in Tel Aviv confirmed the conversation, but would give no details.
After Egyptian president Hosny Mubarak stepped down on Friday following 18 days of nationwide protests, the military had announced that the Armed Forces Supreme Council was 'committed to all Egypt's international treaties.'
Reacting Sunday, Netanyahu told his cabinet: 'The Government of Israel welcomes the Egyptian military statement that Egypt will continue to honour its peace agreement with Israel.'
The premier called the agreement 'the cornerstone of peace and stability,' not only for two neighbours, but for the entire Middle East.
Mubarak's resignation featured high in Sunday's Israeli newspapers, the first published since Friday, because Saturday is the country's day of rest.
'The Hope and the Fear,' said a headline in Israel Hayom, the largest circulation daily, reflecting the ambivalence among Israelis, many of whom identify with the calls for democracy, but are first and foremost anxious about the consequences of a regime change for their country.
Yediot Ahronot's front-page was covered by one large photograph of Egypt's youngest generation participating in the celebrations and waving flags. 'A new Egypt,' said the headline.
Israel had watched the 18 days of anti-government protests in the regional superpower closely, fearing a sudden change of government could upset regional stability and jeopardize the peace with Egypt, after three-decades of cooperative relations with Mubarak.
Netanyahu had repeatedly drawn parallels with the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, and warned of the danger of Islamist extremists filling a vacuum or winning elections in Egypts.
But some commentators Sunday criticized Israel's initial reactions, saying that as a democracy, it should have from the outset issued not only warnings, but also expressed greater understanding for the Egyptian people's thirst for democratic reform.
'The Israeli government is quickly adjusting to the day after Mubarak - The transition from panic to resignation, from doomsday prophecies to a sober effort to get along with things as they actually are,' wrote Nahum Barnea, a leading Yediot commentator.
'Nothing good is going to come of a frightened, desperate, anti-democratic Israeli reaction,' he said. He added:
'The Israeli government has had a hard time understanding that in the first days of the Tahrir uprising, but now it understands.'
Ben Caspit, a leading commentator in the rival Ma'ariv, said that although Mubarak had been a 'rock' of stability for Israel for 30 years:
'Yesterday, finally the correct response was issued from Jerusalem: wishes of success to the Egyptian people on their new and exciting path.'
It was 'difficult not to be awed' by the hope and optimism gushing forth from Egypt, Craspit said. Noting it was still unclear what new regime would emerge in Egypt, he added:
'The sky didn't fall on anyone except on Mubarak on Friday. There is no reason for panic. There is cause for concern and for tense monitoring of events.'
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