ISRAEL IS WATCHING THE TURMOIL ENGULFING THE ARAB world with alarm and trepidation, fearing in particular the possible disintegration of its historic peace treaty with Egypt, which most Egyptians have abhorred since it was signed on 26 March 1979.
If that US-brokered pact collapses following the 11 February downfall of Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power, it could have a ripple effect in other Arab states ringing the Jewish state.
"The fading power of ... Mubarak's government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress," said veteran commentator Aluf Benn.
The end of the peace deal with Egypt, the cornerstone of Israel's regional and economic policies for three decades, could have grave ramifications for regional stability and the balance of power, most immediately by possibly threatening the troubled Palestinian Authority (PA), which, with Mubarak's encouragement, has promoted a settlement with Israel.
The PA is already on shaky ground. It's increasingly unpopular in the West Bank. The downfall of President Mahmoud Abbas would undoubtedly doom the so-called peace process, and possibly open the door to large-scale infiltration by Islamic militants into the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip from a more hostile Egypt.
During the 18 days of rage that led to Mubarak's ousting, there was little evidence of strong anti-Israeli sentiment. Despite great popular
antipathy to the peace treaty among Egypt's 80 million people, the protests focused almost entirely on political and economic reform.
With Mubarak gone, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over the reins of power, declared: "Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties."
Two likely contenders in a new presidential election, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed El Baradei, say they would uphold the treaty despite their often sharp criticism of Israel.
But veteran democratic reformer Ayman Nour, another likely contender, has called for the renegotiation of the 1978 Camp David Accords, the basis for the 1979 treaty, declaring they are "finished".
And several leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the most popular and best organised of Egypt's opposition parties, have demanded the outright abrogation of the treaty. Others call for a national referendum on the issue.
Egypt's new foreign minister, career diplomat Essam Sharaf, appointed on 6 March...