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Israel sees prospect of more reliable Egypt, weaker Hamas

JERUSALEM — After Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, was elected president of Egypt a year ago, he refused any contact with Israelis, raising deep anxiety here and concern about the future of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

But with Morsi’s ouster and the crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt this week, Israelis see the prospect of a return to what they view as a more reliable status quo, as well as a weakening of Hamas, the militant Islamic group that runs the Gaza Strip.

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And yet, the good news for Israel remains tempered by the danger of chronic instability next door.

“What is important for Israel is a stable Egypt,” said Shaul Shay, a former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council. “I don’t see the Muslim Brotherhood there swallowing the blow and waiting another 80 years to try to return to power. The story is not over.’’

While Morsi served as head of state, Israel’s only line of communication with Cairo was through the Egyptian military and security establishment, which is now controlling Egypt’s political process. Perhaps more reassuring to Israel is the role of General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the top commander who led the move to depose Morsi.

Sissi is well known in Israel’s defense establishment. An Israeli expert said that even after Morsi appointed Sissi as his defense minister, the general’s office continued to communicate and coordinate directly with Israel.

Israeli officials have maintained a diplomatic silence since Morsi’s overthrow, refusing to comment publicly on what they say is an internal Egyptian affair.

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“We are observing very closely,” one official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “This is a matter of highest importance for us. We really hope the Egyptians manage to put together a functioning democracy, slowly but surely, but there is still a very high level of uncertainty.”

He added, “What’s next is anybody’s guess.”

Still, for some Israelis, the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood was reason enough to celebrate.

“It’s good that the Muslim Brotherhood has gone,” said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt.

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