Who is Israel's Best Bet for Egypt?
An Israeli military radio station has aired the Minister of Defense, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, remarking that “Suleiman is good for Israel”. Combined with other commentary from the Israeli establishment, this indicates that Israel is throwing its weight behind Omar Suleiman, the ex-VP of ousted President Mubarak, for Egypt's presidential elections.
The military radio show that aired on the 9th April highlighted its vote of confidence in Ben-Eliezer's words that “Omar Suleiman would be the most capable of preserving the stability of Egypt, as well as rekindling its unique relationship with Israel”.
On the same day Israeli rag Yedioth Ahronoth pointed out that General Suleiman was a trusted man of the former regime, making him a dependable guy from Israel's point of view, “one of the most loyal followers of Hosni Mubarak. He was his right hand”. During his time as Chief of Intelligence he was known in Israel as “An officer and a Gentleman”.
The Israeli newspaper also predicts that such explicit support for Suleiman from Israeli quarters could prove detrimental to his campaign in Egypt. A ringing endorsement from Israel would be taken in Egypt as tantamount to Israel sponsoring him and his cause.
The newspaper also beefs up the case for Israeli favorite Suleiman, citing diplomats and officials in Tel Aviv re-affirming Israel's appreciation of this man. They value him for being one of few candidates who respects the peace treaty with Egypt signed in Tel Aviv. Moreover they see in him the potential to restore security in Egypt's borders with Israeli especially in Sinai, after the lack of security that erupted on the heels of the revolution in January. Israeli figures have highlighted his intimate knowledge of the weapon smuggling issue between Sinai to Israel. As Chief of the Egyptian Intelligence Service, he proved that he could block the flow of weapons from Sinai into Israel, much to the Arab street's consternation.
The Israeli website, “Israel Online” stated the same day that Israel's security concerns leave them pegging their hopes on Suleiman whose security record they admire in concert with his close relationship with Israel, especially with Ehud Barak, Minister of Defence and his muscle, Amos Gilad. The report also mentioned that Suleiman had a strong relationship with Amir Eshel, assigned to shortly assume the position of Head of the Israeli Air Force.
Suleiman's outsider chance is Israel's inside hope
The Israeli press is by no means ignorant of their best bet's slim chances. An Israeli commentator for Haaretz cast doubt to their backed racer's bid, asking whether Suleiman would even be able to compete in the presidential elections in the face of all the criticism levelled at him, and a fierce Islamic lobby and 'revolution' opposition. Still, their hopes rest on the fact that he at least has the military backing (from both sides of the Sinai fence) as SCAF would have him win rather than see an Islamist reign. He has however since been disqualified from the competition.
Israeli approval of this choice candidate's annoucement of running, left a palpaple buoyant mood in the halls of power and an air of optimism on the streets following his comittment to run, and even now to appeal to the electoral commission. For security-haunted neighbor Israel, compared to some of his competition, you can see why this former regime darling might be a savory choice, given with the alternatives.