Israel watches as Muslim Brotherhood plan for power in Egypt

Israeli politicians have remained tight-lipped on what it would mean for the country if Egypt were to have a leader from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite earlier pledges not to field a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, the Islamist party – banned under the leadership of Hosni Mubarak – has announced that its deputy leader will be seeking the role.

Khayrat el-Shater is now the front-runner for the election, with the first round of voting taking place on May 23 and 24.

Mr el-Shater, a businessman who was in prison for 12 years, has espoused moderate views but is understood to be sympathetic to a conservative Islamist state.

The Brotherhood said it had reversed on its earlier promise and chosen "the path of the presidency not because we are greedy for power".

"We have a majority in parliament which is unable to fulfill its duties," said Mohamed Morsy, head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.

The party won nearly half the seats in the recent parliamentary elections, but remain in power struggle with Egypt's ruling military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

After he was named as the candidate, Mr el-Shater said he "never thought of occupying any executive position in the state or running for it, I can't help but comply with the decision of the group".

Israel has enjoyed a fragile peace with Egypt since a treaty was signed during the presidency of Anwar Sadat in 1979. Mr Sadat was assassinated by Islamist extremists at a military parade two years later.

Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, one of the few Israeli officials to comment so far, told Israel Radio that it would be in any Egyptian leader's interests to maintain the peace deal.

"As long as...the Muslim Brotherhood president understands Egypt's commitments and its interests, that will preserve the peace deal," he said.

Last updated: 4:26pm, April 2 2012