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An anxious Israel watches neighboring Egypt unravel

'We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and [elsewhere] in our region,' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday morning.

By Correspondent / January 30, 2011

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday. Israel's prime minister said Sunday that his country's 3-decade-old peace agreement with Egypt must be preserved, in his first public comment on the political unrest roiling Israel's neighbor and regional ally.

Tomer Appelbaum/AP

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Tel Aviv

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hopes Israel's peace treaty with Egypt endures the domestic turmoil, reflecting widespread worry that demonstrations and rioting against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak have jeopardized the Jewish state's most important regional alliance.

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"We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and [elsewhere] in our region," Mr. Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday morning. "The peace between Israel and Egypt had endured for over three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue."

Calls for Mr. Mubarak's ouster and the prospect of continued chaos in Israel's neighbor has raised fear of an erosion of a key security and diplomatic partnership in the Middle Eastern geopolitical balance. Israel is also worried about a chain reaction of domestic turmoil in states like Jordan and Syria, as well as the strengthening of Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank.

A key relationship in question

Though ties with Egypt since their 1979 peace treaty have never been warm, a faltering of relations could raise concern in Israel's military about possible war on Israel's southern front, and the collapse of an alliance among Western-backed Arab regimes who share Israel's fear about the growing power of Iran.

"In the long run, [unrest in the region] could endanger Israel's peace accords with Egypt and Jordan," military analyst Amos Harel wrote in the Haaretz paper. "[The treaties] are the biggest Israeli strategic asset, after support from the United States. It could force changes in the Israeli army and weigh down the economy.''

Israeli spokesmen have instructions not to comment on the situation in Egypt for fear of influencing turmoil that appears focused on domestic complaints rather than Egypt's alliance with Israel.

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