A senior Israeli official has described Egypt's new
government as a "shocking dictatorial force" and predicted
there would be no high-level contacts between the two
countries, but the Israeli government distanced itself from
The remarks by Amos Gilad, a top aide to Defence Minister
Ehud Barak, were some of the harshest yet about the rise to
prominence of Egypt's new Islamist president Mohamed Mursi,
who was elected in June.
Speaking at a security conference, Gilad said the liberal
forces behind the uprising which ousted former president
Hosni Mubarak in 2011 had evaporated.
"From this democracy what has sprung is a shocking
dictatorial force," he said in comments broadcast on Israel
Radio. "Where are all the young people who were demonstrating
in Tahir Square? They have vanished."
Barak's office later put out a statement saying that the
comments picked up by the media did not reflect the position
of the defence establishment nor Gilad himself.
"At the focus of what was said, (Gilad) emphasized the
strategic importance of the peace agreement with Egypt and
the importance of working relations with Egypt," the
statement said. "The defence establishment and (Gilad) do not
intend to interfere in Egypt's internal issues."
Mursi has faced some criticism at home from non-Islamists
concerned about other voices being marginalised in Egypt.
On the whole, however, Egyptians acknowledge he is a
democratically elected leader and any disagreements should be
resolved in the political arena or at the ballot box.
Despite a peace treaty signed by the two countries in 1979,
relations between Israel and Egypt have never been warm and
Israelis watched with consternation as the once-banned Muslim
Brotherhood rose to prominence.
Mursi resigned from the Brotherhood - which describes Israel
as a racist and expansionist state - on taking power and has
avoided inflammatory language.
He has said Egypt would continue to abide by international
treaties, including the 33-year-old peace deal.
Gilad, however, said at the conference that he saw little
prospect of talks.
"The President of Egypt, Mursi, cannot utter the words 'the
State of Israel'," he said. Mursi has tended to avoid direct
references to Israel in his speeches or public comments.
"There is no dialogue between our high-ranking political
echelon and this president, and I don't think that there will
be," Gilad said.