Why Are Israeli Spies Defending An Arab President?

Egyptian security forces have launched a series of raids against Lebanese Hezbollah militants operating in Egypt. The Hezbollah agents were attempting to destabilize the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. The action by Mubarak's forces has been swift and lethal, with crucial information about the terrorist cells relayed to Egyptian security officials by the Mossad. Once again, the Jewish intelligence agency has used its spies to help defend a Muslim president.

The plot against President Mubarak was hatched by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in coordination with Hamas, their fellow Islamic militants in Gaza, aided by funds and training supplied by the extremist mullahs in Iran. Nasrallah's ostensible purpose was to arm Hamas fighters in their battle against Israel, yet Egyptian officials reveal that Hezbollah's main target was the Suez Canal.

An attack on the canal would be a devastating blow to the Egyptian regime, damaging its reputation in the Islamic world and striking a blow against its fragile economy. Nearly 16,000 ships sail through the canal, generating more than $2.5 billion a year for the Egyptian regime, its number one source of foreign revenue.

When Arab terrorists hatched a plot to overthrow the regime of President Anwar Sadat decades ago, Israel's Mossad likewise came to the defense of the Egyptian regime. Like today, a hardline leader had just taken office as Israel's prime minister. In an unlikely gesture, the newly elected Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the Mossad to turn over details of the plot to Egypt's intelligence chief.

Mossad officials were stunned by Begin's orders. Like Israel's current prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, many observers considered Begin an unrepentant hawk, someone who would not yield to advocates of what he believed would be a risky withdrawal from Arab lands in exchange for a tentative peace agreement with the Palestinians. Yet Begin wanted to send a signal to Egypt and the rest of the Arab world that even he was ready to negotiate.

The plot against Sadat had been orchestrated by Muammar Qaddafi of Libya. Acting on the Mossad report that Prime Minister Begin turned over to Sadat, Egypt's security officials were able to quickly seize Qaddafi's agents. Five days later, President Sadat launched an attack against Libya. The Egyptian government explained that the raid was "in retaliation for Libyan aggression," and it accused Qaddafi of trying to overthrow Sadat by engaging in a "large-scale terrorist plot" in alliance with members of an Islamic extremist group.

When the Egyptian retaliatory strike against Qaddafi was completed, Sadat vowed, "We are ready to repeat this lesson unless this maniac stops playing with fire." The warning against Qaddafi echoes Mubarak's recent denunciations of Nasrallah. In an editorial published in a state-controlled Egyptian newspaper, Nasrallah was branded a "monkey sheik," charging him with being "a bandit and veteran criminal who killed your countrymen," pledging that "we will not allow you to threaten the security and safety of Egypt." Similar to the threats against Qaddafi for his plot against Sadat, Nasrallah has also been put on notice: "If you threaten its sovereignty, you will burn!"

President Mubarak's rage has roots: As vice president, he came to office after Muslim extremists assassinated President Sadat. The assassins were the forerunners of al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden's mentor, Ayman al-Zawahri, was a member of Egypt's Islamic Jihad, the group responsible for Sadat's murder. He spent three years in prison for his involvement in the assassination.

The same extremist ideology that fueled the Islamic militants who killed Sadat also propels bin Laden's al-Qaeda, Lebanon's Hezbollah, Palestine's Hamas, and the mullahs in Iran. As with Sadat, they are likewise targeting secular Arab regimes. And when it comes to the Arab moderates fighting against them, regardless of who is prime minister, whether it be Begin or Netanyahu, Israel's Mossad is still Egypt's natural ally. Why? As a Middle East proverb explains, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Steve Posner is the author of "Israel Undercover: Secret Warfare and Hidden Diplomacy in the Middle East." His latest book is "Spiritual Delights and Delusions: How to Bridge the Gap between Spiritual Fulfillment and Emotional Realities." Visit his website at steveposner.com