Washington: Israel's ties with Cairo are safe and sound, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in comments aired on Sunday, adding that Egypt's uprising shares little with the 1979 Iranian revolution.
"I don't think that the relationship between Israel and Egypt is under any risk, or that any kind of operational risk is waiting for us just behind the corner," Barak told ABC's "This Week" program.
But he did warn of the potential for an unsettling political shift in Egypt if authorities there rush too quickly to elections, a move he said would be "catastrophic" for the region if it allowed extremists to snatch power.
Egypt has maintained a historic peace accord with the neighbouring Jewish state for more than 30 years -- only one of two Arab countries to do so.
With the ouster this past week of Egypt's long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak, a committed shepherd of the agreement and a Washington ally in the global fight against extremists, concern has surged over the potential for radical elements to take power in Egypt and eventually annul the peace pact.
While Barak -- who spoke to ABC Friday hours after Mubarak stepped down -- was optimistic about keeping strong ties with Cairo, he expressed concern over the political potential of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's major opposition group, especially if elections take place too soon.
"The real winners of any short-term election, let's say within 90 days, will be the Muslim Brotherhood, because they are already ready to jump.”
"Usually in revolutions, if they are violent, there's an eruption of idealist sentiments at the first moment, and later on, sooner than later, the only group which is coherent, focused, ready to kill and be killed if necessary, takes power," he added.
"That should be avoided in Egypt, because that would be a catastrophe for the whole region."
Some people aligned with the Egyptian opposition have expressed a desire for elections to be held sooner than those already scheduled for September.
In an opinion piece in Friday's New York Times, a member of the Brotherhood's guidance council, Essam El-Errian, wrote that "we do not intend to take a dominant role in the forthcoming political transition," and that the group was not putting forward a candidate for the elections.
Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, said there was little if any connection between the 18-day uprising in Egypt and the revolution in Iran that overthrew the US-backed shah and ushered in an era of Islamic leadership.
"I don't believe that something similar to the Iranian events of years ago is happening now," Barak said.
He called Egypt's revolution a "spontaneous" show of people power that was not orchestrated by "extremist groups of Muslim radical origins”.
"I think the Egyptians have their own way," he added. "I think that the direction is something which emerged very genuinely in a spontaneous manner."
First Published: Monday, February 14, 2011, 13:44