The terrorist attack on Monday morning near Be’er Milka and the firing of Grad rockets toward Ovda and Mitzpeh Ramon over the weekend, alongside numerous reports in Egyptian media of increased activity among Palestinian terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula over the two-day voting period, make it clear that certain sources in Egypt have a clear interest in heating up the Israeli border.
Regardless of who wins Egypt’s run-off presidential elections – Mohammed Morsi or Ahmed Shafiq – it is clear that Israel can expect to see further incidents of this sort. The chaos in Sinai is not expected to disappear any time soon, and the Egyptian security forces will be busy with repeated attempts to stabilize the security situation in the country’s large cities.
With every day that passes since the Egyptian uprising, the peninsula becomes even more appealing to Palestinian, Islamist and other terrorist groups.
One of the central problems that Israel will be forced to deal with in future events or attacks, is the lack of address: the identities of the terrorists who carried out Monday morning’s attack, along with the launchers of the Grad rockets over the weekend, are unclear.
The Israeli government, which finds itself more isolated than ever in a hostile Middle East, especially in the case of an election win by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi, is not interested in another escalation with Cairo and will therefore avoid carrying out any action on Egyptian soil.
Even in Gaza, Hamas denies that it was involved in launching the rockets, despite claims by Israeli security officials that the organization is connected to a Bedouin cell that launched the rockets.
Israel’s hands are tied, and therefore its great effort to complete the fence on the Egyptian border is understandable. While it will not prevent a future terrorist attack, the fence will at least make it harder for an attack to be carried out.
The Muslim Brotherhood already declared victory in the presidential elections during the early hours of Monday morning. But the results are not yet final, and, according to local media, the outcome is too close for a clear winner to be announced as of yet.
No matter, it would not be a wild bet to guess the Israeli-Egyptian relationship would not improve if Morsi did indeed win. On the other hand, one can assume that if the outcome suddenly flips on its head, and Shafiq is announced the winner, we will witness mass protests in the coming days claiming the ballots were rigged.
In Egypt’s political reality, even a Morsi win will lead to instability, especially with the presence of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ announcement Monday morning of the newest amendment to the constitution that dictates presidential authorities. Mass protests are already expected to take place Tuesday in light of Monday’s announcement that due to the dissolution of the lower house of Egypt’s parliament, the ruling military council will from now on be the legislating authority and the country’s budgeting authority.
The amendment to the constitution also rules that elections to the “People’s Council” (the lower house) will not be held before a new constitution is formed, even though at this stage it is unclear as to who will formulate it. The military council has already made it clear that the legislative committee, which was established by the parliament shortly before its dispersion, will not continue to operate. The military council has said that the authorities of the president, any president, are reasonably limited and will include managing Egypt’s foreign affairs, or being the chief of the armed forces.
As such, a confrontation between a Muslim Brotherhood president and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is likely to shake up the relationship between the two sides, paralyze the political system and perhaps even lead to the president’s resignation (if, of course, that president is Morsi). Not to mention renewed protests.
In the meantime, it appears that the military council does not intend on moving aside, out of concern that the Muslim Brotherhood would bring the state to devastation and, of course, weaken its armed forces.
Even so, it seems the two sides’ common interest in calm and stability will lead to cooperation between them. The military council will attempt to embrace Morsi and include him in decision making, while the Muslim Brotherhood will maintain the status quo. It is hard to say just yet where the winds will blow. For now, we will need to wait patiently for at least a few hours in order to find out who won the elections.