Egypt's former foreign minister and ex-head of the Arab League who is the front-runner in the country's upcoming presidential elections, called Israel's new coalition government a "war cabinet" that could make an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities more likely.
In an interview while campaigning in the Nile delta on Tuesday night, Amr Moussa, 75, said that because Israel's new national unity Israeli coalition government would give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an overwhelming majority in Israel's parliament, it would be a government that would take "tough" positions and might shore up Israeli support for a possible strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. "It will be a rough cabinet," he said of the new coalition government that Netanyahu unveiled on Tuesday.
But Moussa said he still hoped that Israel would not resort to military action against Teheran. "No country will stand with Israel if it takes such uncouth action," he said.
Moussa spoke with this reporter about his views of Egyptian domestic and foreign policy in an interview aboard his campaign bus while speaking to rallies throughout Egypt's traditional agricultural area.
The delta is viewed as a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose nominee for president, Mohamed Morsi, is also seen as a leading candidate.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians poured into the streets of villages and towns to cheer him and shout their support for his candidacy. At some stops, supporters were so enthusiastic that they refused to permit his bus to leave until Moussa stepped down to speak to them, which he did in at least one unscheduled stop.
Moussa, who served as Egypt's foreign minister under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, was virtually the only one of Egypt's 13 candidates for the presidency to react to Prime Minister Netanyahu's surprise deal with Israel's main opposition party to form a national unity government.
Netanyahu's agreement with Shaul Mofaz, who leads the centrist Kadima party, gives the ruling coalition the support of an unprecedented 94 out of 120 members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament.
Egypt's transition government, appointed and heavily influenced by the Egyptian military, the country's de facto rulers, had no comment today on the new Israeli government. None of the other leading candidates in Israel's presidential race chose to comment either on the sudden and politically dramatic development in Israel, with whom relations have been tense for years.
Although Egypt was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, relations between Egypt and the Jewish state have been increasingly strained since the mass protests that forced President Hosni Mubarak from office in early 2011.
In April, Egypt's transitional government cancelled a deal signed in 2005 in which Cairo had agreed to supply Israel with natural gas for the next 15 years. Israel has been getting about 40 percent of its gas from Egypt, which ended the contract after 14 attacks on the pipeline linking the countries.
Last September, Israel's embassy in Cairo was also attacked, along with the Saudi embassy by the Muslim Brotherhood and young protesters from Tahrir Square, the heart of the mass uprisings that ended the Mubarak regime last February.
Israel's ambassador left the country, along with most of the embassy staff and their families. Several months later, a new Israeli ambassador took up residence in Cairo, but Jerusalem has not been able to find a new office for its embassy.
Moussa, both as foreign minister and head of the Arab League, was a frequent and vocal critic of Israel, particularly of the stalemate in the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. He has also previously criticized Israel's possession of nuclear weapons, which Israel has never officially acknowledged having.
Last week, he called the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel "dead and buried," and said that the agreement should be put "on the shelves of history." But an aide said that Moussa's statement did not mean that Egypt would not respect its peace agreement with Israel. "Egypt respects all of its international treaties and commitments," he quoted Moussa as saying.