On September 9, a mob of Egyptian protesters stormed the Israeli embassy here, necessitating the emergency evacuation of the ambassador, most of his staff, and their families. The attack represents a significant downturn in relations between Egypt and the Jewish state, a relationship that was bound to get more complicated when President Hosni Mubarak—steadfast American ally and mainstay of a three-decade cold peace with Israel—stepped down on February 11 in response to massive protests and pressure from the military.
The military rulers who succeeded Mubarak would not pick up the phone calls of frantic Israeli officials until President Barack Obama—at the urgent request of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu—intervened. This matters because it is the army—recipient of more than $1 billion in annual American aid, overseer of the country, upholder of the Camp David accords—whose interests, at least according to conventional wisdom, require it to prevent conflict with Israel.
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