Egypt turmoil may prompt Israel to strike Gaza

...Israel's leadership talks about the inevitability of another operation in Gaza, and even warns, as Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz put it this week, of this being a "painful" action. (Painful to whom? Gantz is likely to regret this phraseology should Israeli civilian areas be shelled in some standoff with Hamas.) As it turns out, a decision about the date of this operation (since it appears a decision in favor of the operation has already been reached ), depends on a number of factors - intelligence assessment of likely targets, the weather, the readiness levels of regular and reserve troops and, last but not least, the situation in Egypt. In a nutshell, here's what they're equivocating about: Should Israel make haste, and take action while Tantawi and his officers remain in power? On one side of the equation, the next regime in Egypt is liable to be extremely anti-Israel; whatever happens, it will be less tolerant and sensitive toward Israel than the current military government. The participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in a new government would create an ideological, and even geographic, affinity between it and the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.

A strong IDF action in Gaza, one that would exact a toll on Gaza's population and infrastructure equivalent to that caused by Operation Cast Lead, would provoke a new regime in Egypt, and possibly cause it to send troops to Gaza as symbolic assistance or as a human shield. Such a deployment of Egyptian troops would not necessarily infringe the security appendix to the peace agreement. They could reach Gaza after a short trip from Rafah, or via air or sea. Under such a scenario, Israel would have to choose between continuing its operation and risking a confrontation with Egyptian soldiers, or curtailing the operation in the hopes of forestalling a process whereby the new Egypt would become Hamas' patron.

These issues urge Israel to consider taking quick action, before June-July 2012. On the other side of the equation, immediate action would possibly bring the current military regime to an end: Egypt's public would denounce the military government were it to exercise restraint in the event of an Israeli operation. Such a dynamic would promote election results distinctly unpalatable to Israel. The final result could be a tactical success (for instance, the decapitation of Hamas' radical-military leadership in Gaza, and serious damage to Hamas' rocket network ) but a strategic failure....

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