On Sunday, speaking to his Cabinet, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu underlined the importance of "stability and security" in the region:
We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and [elsewhere] in our region. Last night, I spoke with US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. I also held consultations with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and with Israeli intelligence officials.
Our efforts are designed to continue and maintain stability and security in our region. I remind you that the peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over three decades and our goal is to ensure that these relations continue. Of course, at this time, we must show maximum responsibility, restraint and sagacity and, to this end, I have instructed my fellow ministers to refrain from commenting on this issue. Naturally, we are also holding consultations in the appropriate government forums.
The night before, the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries in order to inform Israeli ambassadors to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt's stability (see separate updates).
Haaretz's Aluf Benn argues that Israel can benefit from this revolution by both refraining from statements of concern and by cooperating with the Obama administration, especially during the interim period which will determine whether this revolution is going to an extremist stage:
Egypt's revolution is understandably causing anxiety in Israel. The nightmare scenario of a collapse of the Mubarak regime and creation of an Islamic republic across the border has for years haunted Israel's leaders.
Israel cannot influence the upheavals in the Arab world, but it must not settle for expressions of concern voiced by anonymous security sources or by seeking refuge behind the worn barricades of "there's no partner for dialogue" and "we always said you can't trust the Arabs."
If Netanyahu plays his cards right, he could leverage the fall of neighboring regimes into a significant improvement in Israel's relations with the United States.
Obama wants to be popular among the citizens of Arab states at the expense of their leaders, as he tried to do in his Cairo speech some 18 months ago. He is betting that the new regimes will be grateful and will continue to rely on Washington for diplomatic and military support. But he is taking a risk: What if the revolution doesn't stop at the moderate interim stage and keeps going till it reaches Muslim extremism? And what will the United States do in the interim phase, when the Middle East is sunk in uncertainty?
When Obama and his advisers look at a map of the region, they see only one state they can count on: Israel. The regime is stable, and support for America is well-entrenched. Obama may dislike Netanyahu and his policy toward the Palestinians, but after losing his allies in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and with the uneasiness gripping his friends in Jordan and the Gulf, Washington can't afford to be choosy. It will have to move closer to Israel, and for another reason as well: An anxious Israel is an Israel that is prone to military adventures, and that's the last thing Obama needs right now.