Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he feared Egypt could end up with a radical Islamic regime as in Iran.
Speaking at a news conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Netanyahu said he hoped Israel's three-decade-old peace treaty with Egypt would survive any changes that were taking place in Cairo.
Netanyahu's comments were his sharpest since the start last week of a wave of unrest against Israel's most significant and long-standing ally in the Arab world, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.
Asked about the situation, he replied: "We are all following with vigilance, with worry and hope that indeed the peace and stability will be preserved," alluding to the treaty Israel signed with Egypt in 1979, its first of two with an Arab nation.
"Our real fear is of a situation that could develop ... and which has already developed in several countries including Iran itself, repressive regimes of radical Islam."
Although the protests may not be motivated by religious extremism "in a situation of chaos, an organised Islamist body can seize control of a country. It happened in Iran. It happened in other instances," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu had earlier urged his cabinet to refrain from commenting on the unrest in Egypt, as Israel watched on the sidelines to see whether Mubarak would survive or a similar-minded democratic government took his place.
He said on Sunday that Israel had to exercise "responsibility and restraint," suggesting he wanted to avoid any appearance of involvement in the Egyptian dispute. (Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.