"Israel could face new reality of extremist Egypt"

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer: Whoever takes power in Egypt, with the exception of the Muslim Brotherhood, will keep the peace agreement.

Labor party elder statesman Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told "Globes" today in a special interview that if Muslim extremists seize power in Egypt, then Israel will face a new reality. He said, "There will be a new order in the Middle East. It will become more extreme, militant and radical towards Israel from an Islamic point of view. The conclusion that we will draw is that we did not take advantage of the potential for agreements when the Middle East was more moderate."

He continued, "I spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak several days ago and he told me that he is determined to get through the crisis very quickly. It's probably no longer relevant,"

He added, "What's most important at this time is what Israel can do so that it does not get damaged by the new reality, which I have already warned about in the past, and which heralds a new order in the Middle East."

The range of key government positions that Ben-Eliezer has held such as Minister of Defense and most recently Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, and the ability of the Iraqi-born Labor leader to speak Arabic, have enabled him to establish close relations with senior figures in the Mubarak administration.

In Ben-Eliezer's opinion is that there is no reason for Israel to panic over what is happening in Egypt and the uncertainty over the country's future leadership. He said, "We must carry on monitoring the situation and see what develops. Egypt's problems are internal and come in the wake of difficult socio-economic problems, social problems and gaps, and in the short term there is nothing to fear. I believe that whoever takes power, with the exception of Islamic extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood, will strive to keep the peace agreement."

Regarding the scale of trade between Israel and Egypt, he said, "Exports and imports are negligible. We always pressured Egypt to increase the scale of trade activities and they preferred to slow them down. It probably takes time to close the gaps between the peoples. Reconciliation takes a long time."

However, he praised the qualified industrial zone (QIZ) agreement between Israel, Egypt and the US. On natural gas imports from Egypt he said, "I see the gas deal between the two countries carrying on without disruption. And if it doesn't carry on thank God who wanted us to be an independent gas power. With the second agreement, the QIZ agreement, it is Egypt that mainly benefits because it can export tariff free to the US. Any administration will want to keep that."

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