Israel reveals its unlikely allies

By Anshel Pfeffer, May 12, 2009

Israel has identified new allies in its emerging diplomatic dispute with the new administration in Washington over Iran 's nuclear programme – the Arab states.

"In the past, the Arab leaders would complain about the Americans being too pro-Israel," says a senior Israeli diplomat in Jerusalem.

"The situation in the region has fundamentally shifted." The two main changes explains the diplomat are the apparent willingness of the Obama White House to negotiate with Iran while applying pressure on Israel and the threat that a belligerent Iran poses to many of the Arab states, especially Egypt.

"The new policy in Washington has made things more difficult for the Israeli government," says the diplomat, "but at the same time, it also poses a challenge to the Arab leadership. They don't have any excuses anymore and are running out of time."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's visit to Egypt yesterday was the best example of this new situation. President Hosni Mubarak has been adept in the past at humiliating visiting Israeli leaders with lengthy delays on the tarmac and wounding remarks at press conferences, but this time he was all smiles.

Iran wasn't mentioned in the statements to the media, but in private, the two leaders spoke for 90 minutes (three times the allotted time), mainly on the Iranian issue. "Mubarak is just as worried about Iran as we are," said a Netanyahu aide.

The concern of the Mubarak regime is slightly different to that of the Israelis. While Israel 's fear of a nuclear armed Iran is an existential one, Egypt and its Saudi allies do not believe that Tehran would ever use the bomb against a Muslim nation. They are aware though, that Iranian success in achieving nuclear capability will signal the end of their joint hegemony in the region.

Full story in the JC on Friday

Last updated: 12:15pm, May 12 2009