JERUSALEM – Israel's prime minister said Monday his country's primary concern in Egypt is that the current crisis could create a void in which Islamic militants step in and endanger decades of peaceful relations between the two countries.
Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting German chancellor Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu gave his most detailed assessment yet of the Egyptian unrest that threatens to topple President Hosni Mubarak, Israel's strongest ally in the Arab world.
"In a state of chaos, an organized Islamic group can take over a country. It has happened. It happened in Iran," Netanyahu said. "A takeover of oppressive regimes of extreme Islam violates human rights, grinds them to dust ... and in parallel also pose a terrible danger to peace and stability."
It was Netanyahu's most direct comment about the crisis in Egypt, which has triggered concerns about stability there and elsewhere in the region. Before, Netanyahu said only that he is "anxiously following" the situation, while stressing Israel's commitment to peace with Cairo.
Egypt became the first Arab nation to sign a peace accord with Israel in 1979 and has strictly honored it. Mubarak has close ties to Israeli leaders and has acted as a bridge between Israel and the Palestinians to the broader Arab world.