Wednesday, February 28, 2024

One Decision from Cairo Could Turn Egypt into Israel’s Greatest Threat, Retired IDF General Cautions

HomeWAROne Decision from Cairo Could Turn Egypt into Israel's Greatest Threat, Retired...

TEL AVIV – As clashes rage in Gaza, a retired IDF commander has issued a grave warning: Egypt may be on the verge of emerging as an unstoppable adversary against Israel. This prospect was raised by Major-General Yitzhak Brik (ret.) during a radio interview on 103FM this week.

Brik joined host Arel Segal to discuss potential responses to mediation proposals for ending the Gaza crisis. With Hamas defiant and violence ongoing, Brik argued that Israel’s military leverage is eroding.

“The IDF’s ability to tail Hamas is diminishing, as is the level of operational mistakes,” he noted. There was a dream here from the perspective of those who managed the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, [but] the pressure on the government did not work.”

In Brik’s view, Hamas remains confident despite heavy losses. “It is willing to sacrifice homes and lives, but feels we cannot topple it,” he said. “Hamas uses cynical rhetoric, stonewalls on hostages, and believes time is on its side. We seem unable to diminish its capabilities. Hamas will endure.”

The discussion turned to Egypt’s role securing the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza border to prevent arms smuggling. Israel had hoped Egypt would control this sensitive area.

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However, Brik warned that Egypt may no longer be a reliable partner. “The IDF did not want to keep forces there long-term due to expected casualties,” he explained. “We hoped Egypt would secure Philadelphi instead. But Cairo balks at this role.”

According to Brik, “Egypt also forbids Israel from controlling the corridor. They threaten to cancel the peace treaty if we cause masses to flee into Sinai. There is a very big problem with Egypt now.”

Highlighting Egypt’s growing military power, Brik sounded the alarm over a potential mortal threat on Israel’s border.

“Although poor, Egypt has the region’s strongest military today – 4,000 tanks, hundreds of advanced jets, and a formidable navy,” he asserted. “For years, Egypt has built Sinai highways aimed at Israel, not neighboring states.”

In Brik’s view, “One decision by Cairo could turn them into an enemy and leave Israel with almost no forces to counter a strike. The target of Egypt’s buildup is clear.”

Brik’s grim warning comes as Israel-Egypt ties worsen despite their 1979 peace deal. Experts warn the accord could unravel amid regional instability.

“Egypt sees Hamas as an extension of its strategic goals,” said analyst Daniel Nisman. While it cooperates with Israel on security, having Hamas control Gaza counters Israeli power. Diverging interests could push Egypt away from peace as conflicts persist.”

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So far, Egypt has balanced moderating Gaza conflicts with appeasing domestic anti-Israel views. But increased violence could force President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to harden Egypt’s stance despite the risks, experts say.

For now, Egypt has avoided direct belligerence, instead positioning itself as a mediator. Yet long-term trends point to steady military expansion.

Since 2014, Sisi has acquired advanced French, German, Russian and Chinese weapons. He also ramped up domestic manufacturing capabilities. Billions in Gulf aid bankrolled these efforts.

Decades of U.S. assistance have additionally equipped Egypt with the Mideast’s largest arsenal of Abrams tanks and second biggest F-16 contingent outside Israel. The country now boasts over 950,000 active and reserve troops, dwarfing Israel’s 630,000.

Experts agree this firepower aims squarely at potential conflict with Israel. As Jeremy Binnie, editor for Jane’s defense publications notes, “Egypt’s main worry remains war with Israel, not secondary threats.

Israeli officials publicly downplay Egyptian military growth. But critics argue Egypt’s swelling force could overwhelm Israel in a surprise attack.

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Israeli historians caution against seeing Egypt as weaker than in 1967 when hubris led to disaster. Instead of re-fighting 1973, Egypt might now leverage its modernized forces for lightning strikes.

For now, shared antipathy for Islamic extremism and economic ties dissuade Egypt from abandoning peace. But some officials point to Turkey’s regional resurgence as a warning.

“We once cooperated closely with Turkey like we do with Egypt today,” said former ambassador Itamar Rabinovich. “But relations decayed despite alignment on interests. Gradual hostilities can reach sudden boiling points.”

With Gaza clashes inflaming the region, Israeli officials insist relations remain functional for now. Yet scenes of civilian casualties risk provoking Egyptian public opinion.

Meanwhile, years of uninterrupted military expansion have positioned Egypt to achieve outright superiority. Israeli planners now face a dilemma between trusting fragile peace accords and preparing for the worst.

One key decision in Cairo could convert a cautious partner into Israel’s greatest threat seemingly overnight, Brik warns. For Israeli security officials, hoping for peace may soon give way to fears of another formidable enemy arising in the south.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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