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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.

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Israelis know Mubarak as the leader who moved into the vacuum following the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who signed on the peace treaty with Israel.

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Israel's nightmare scenario

Despite reports that the anti-Mubarak protests are being led by secular young Egyptians, Israel is worried that the power vacuum will enable the Muslim Brotherhood – a popular Islamist group – to seize power.

"A Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – which presumably will not be committed to the peace treaty with Israel, or will be confrontational – is the nightmare scenario,'' sys Bruce Maddy Weizmann, a senior fellow at Tel Aviv University's Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. "That would be a major strategic shift in orientation."

Concerns about weapons flow to Gaza

Mubarak and Israel have cooperated in enforcing a blockade and shutting weapons tunnels into the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas since 2007. However, reports that Egyptian security forces in Sinai are buckling amid the chaos, has stirred concern about an increased flow of weapons into Gaza. Egypt announced on Sunday that it decided to close the border with Gaza.

Israel's long frontier with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has remained a point of instabilty. Sinai has been targeted by militant groups to launch rockets into Israel and Jordan, and Israel is currently building a fence to plug up an open border that is easily infiltrated by Bedouin groups smuggling drugs and migrants.

Israeli analysts have also questioned President Obama's messages to Egypt in recent days, suggesting that he has weakened Mubarak while emboldening demonstrators. It is unclear whether the government shares that assessment.

"What was said in Washington was giving legimitacy to the rioters to kick Mubarak out," said Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt.


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