Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu watching unrest with 'vigilance and worry'

January 31, 2011 |  9:38 am

Israel Breaking official silence over the escalating unrest in neighboring Egypt, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he was monitoring events with "vigilance and worry" and feared radical Islamists could take advantage of any leadership vacuum.

Netanyahu told a news conference in Jerusalem that he was concerned about the fate of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt should President Hosni Mubarak be forced out of power and replaced by someone more belligerent toward Israel.

The comments made at a press event with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel were the first substantive admissions by Netanyahu of concern over potential consequences for Israel from the weeklong protests demanding Mubarak's ouster.

Netanyahu said the demonstrations paralyzing Cairo and other major Egyptian cities weren't instigated by the Muslim Brotherhood movement but that, as one of the few organized opposition groups in the Arab country, the movement could "take advantage" of the situation to enhance its power.

Mubarak's predecessor as head of state, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated in 1981 by Islamic radicals angered by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel signed at Camp David. Egypt was the first country in the region to make peace with Israel, and Mubarak, who came to power after Sadat's death, has maintained a stable relationship with Israel throughout his nearly 30-year rule.

Foreign telecommunications companies stepping in to connect protesters to Internet

Egypt's police return; foreigners try to evacuate

Photos: Unrest in Egypt

-- Carol J. Williams

Photo: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference in Jerusalem. Credit: Oliver Weiken / EPA.