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Voices from a different generation
Wave of demonstrations throughout Israel's southern neighbour raised speculation about whether Mubarak forced from office, how protest movement affect ties with Cairo.

Israel expects the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will survive democracy protests that have shaken the country over the past three days, government officials and analysts said.

The wave of demonstrations throughout Israel's southern neighbour have raised speculation about whether Mubarak will be forced from office, and how the protest movement will affect ties with Cairo.

Egypt is one of only two Arab nations, along with Jordan, to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, and is considered a key strategic partner for the Jewish state in the Middle East.

But Israeli officials and analysts said they did not foresee the downfall of the Egyptian regime, and were confident that even regime change would not result in the breakdown of ties with Cairo.

"We have an earthquake in the Middle East... but we believe the Egyptian regime is strong enough and that Egypt is going to overcome the current wave of demonstrations," an Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told journalists on Thursday.

The Egyptian demonstrations, now in their third day, have been inspired by those who overthrew Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali this month, but the official said Israel saw limited parallels between the countries.

"Mubarak is not Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. There is a huge difference. The Egyptian regime is well rooted, including the defence establishment. Their regime is strong enough to overcome the situation," he said.

A second government Israeli official echoed that view.

"The regime may be shaken by the troubles, and anything is possible, but it doesn't have a serious air to it," he said, adding that Israel's peace treaty with Egypt was not in danger.

"It is in the fundamental interests of Egypt to maintain its privileged ties with the West, and maintaining peace with Israel is part of that," he added.

Israel has so far been silent on the eruption of large-scale anti-government demonstrations in Egypt, the biggest the country has seen in at least three decades, for fear of being accused of interfering in Egyptian domestic affairs.

"We are closely following the situation with great interest," said Israel's foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

On Wednesday, vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom expressed hope that the Egyptian authorities would "give their citizens freedom and rights while continuing on the good path of good relations with Israel established over 30 years ago."

Israeli analysts also said they thought it unlikely the regime in Cairo would fall, and said that even a regime change would not necessarily jeopardise the peace treaty Israel signed with Egypt in 1979.

"Even if the Muslim Brotherhood, who have criticised 'illegal ties with Israel,' came to power, the army and the Egyptian security services would oppose it with all their might," said Yoram Meital, a researcher at Beersheva University in southern Israel.

"Even if the opposition is very hostile to Israel, if they refuse any form of normalisation (with Israel), it is not ready to renounce the 'cold peace' between the two countries and take the risk of a new war," Meital, a Middle East specialist, said.

He pointed out that the demonstrations "are to do with social and democratic demands, they are focused on the president himself and do not have anything to do with, or very little to do with, relations with Israel."

Uri Ben-Joseph, a professor of international relations at Haifa University in the north of Israel, agreed.

"Egypt is not Iran. Even within the Muslim Brotherhood, there is a moderate current that will not take the risk of rejecting the peace agreement," he said.

Ben-Joseph, an intelligence specialist, said it remained possible that Mubarak and his family would be sidelined inside Egypt.

But, even in that case, "all the cards would be in the hands of the army, which will continue its security cooperation with Israel against Islamic terrorist groups and against Iran."