Israel has been carrying out air strikes in Egypt with Cairo's permission

The NewYork Times is reporting that the Israeli air force has been carrying out strikes in Egypt's northern Sinai desert for the last 2 years with Cairo's consent. The unusual alliance is targeting the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai who have been carrying out devastating terrorist attacks, including an attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 civilians and the downing of a Russian passenger jet in 2015.

For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.

El-Sisi has shown himself to be an unusual leader in the Arab world. He has harshly criticized radical Islam, cracked down heavily on the Muslim Brotherhood, refused to assist Hamas in Gaza, and been generally friendly toward the west. His secret alliance with Israel is a no brainer. The Egyptian military was failing to combat ISIS in the Sinai - a region of Egypt that shares a border with Israel. ISIS had been getting stronger in the Sinai as their caliphate in Syria and Iraq began to disappear. It seems logical that the two former enemies would unite to combat a common foe.

Their collaboration in the North Sinai is the most dramatic evidence yet of a quiet reconfiguration of the politics of the region. Shared enemies like ISIS, Iran and political Islam have quietly brought the leaders of several Arab states into growing alignment with Israel — even as their officials and news media continue to vilify the Jewish state in public.

American officials say Israel’s air campaign has played a decisive role in enabling the Egyptian armed forces to gain an upper hand against the militants. But the Israeli role is having some unexpected consequences for the region, including on Middle East peace negotiations, in part by convincing senior Israeli officials that Egypt is now dependent on them even to control its own territory.

Seven current or former British and American officials involved in Middle East policy described the Israeli attacks inside Egypt, all speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

That this information has remained essentially secret for two years is remarkable, although there had been rumors of such an alliance during that time. Obviously, el-Sisi didn't want the alliance to become public given the anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel in the general public and especially among the clergy. The Israelis are a far more practical people and the news of the alliance won't raise much of a stir. But it is a testament to Israel's growing closeness with Sunni Arab states in the Middle East, that they tried so hard to keep this secret for so long.

The big danger with this alliance is that the Egytpian military will become too dependent on Israeli air power to stand up to the terrorists on the ground. According to the Times, Israeli officials wish that the Egyptian military would become more active in the Sinai and coordinate attacks on the ground with the air strikes. 

Why is this information coming out now? Clearly, publicizing the alliance does el-Sisi no good. He is in the midst of a re-election campaign and will be an almost certain winner after he manipulated the system to get rid of his major opposition. 

As for the New York Times revealing the alliance, they have made it absolutely clear that they do not like President Sisi very much at all, considering his abysmal human rights record. They have also demonstrated a growing anti-Israel bias in recent years. But there is no doubt that this alliance is "news," and that once they had the story nailed down they were obligated to their reporters and readers to run it.

The rise of Iran as a potentially hegemonistic power, throwing their weight around the Middle East using proxies like Hezb'allah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has scared the Sunni Arab states into seeing Israel in an entirely different light. As a counterweight to the Iranians, Israel can prove to be very useful to much weaker and smaller Arab states who fear Iran's growing strength and it's nuclear program.

It's probably too early to talk of a dramatic realignment. But that's the direction things are moving and the US should do all it can to encourage it.

The NewYork Times is reporting that the Israeli air force has been carrying out strikes in Egypt's northern Sinai desert for the last 2 years with Cairo's consent. The unusual alliance is targeting the ISIS affiliate in the Sinai who have been carrying out devastating terrorist attacks, including an attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 civilians and the downing of a Russian passenger jet in 2015.

For more than two years, unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week — and all with the approval of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

The remarkable cooperation marks a new stage in the evolution of their singularly fraught relationship. Once enemies in three wars, then antagonists in an uneasy peace, Egypt and Israel are now secret allies in a covert war against a common foe.

El-Sisi has shown himself to be an unusual leader in the Arab world. He has harshly criticized radical Islam, cracked down heavily on the Muslim Brotherhood, refused to assist Hamas in Gaza, and been generally friendly toward the west. His secret alliance with Israel is a no brainer. The Egyptian military was failing to combat ISIS in the Sinai - a region of Egypt that shares a border with Israel. ISIS had been getting stronger in the Sinai as their caliphate in Syria and Iraq began to disappear. It seems logical that the two former enemies would unite to combat a common foe.

Their collaboration in the North Sinai is the most dramatic evidence yet of a quiet reconfiguration of the politics of the region. Shared enemies like ISIS, Iran and political Islam have quietly brought the leaders of several Arab states into growing alignment with Israel — even as their officials and news media continue to vilify the Jewish state in public.

American officials say Israel’s air campaign has played a decisive role in enabling the Egyptian armed forces to gain an upper hand against the militants. But the Israeli role is having some unexpected consequences for the region, including on Middle East peace negotiations, in part by convincing senior Israeli officials that Egypt is now dependent on them even to control its own territory.

Seven current or former British and American officials involved in Middle East policy described the Israeli attacks inside Egypt, all speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

That this information has remained essentially secret for two years is remarkable, although there had been rumors of such an alliance during that time. Obviously, el-Sisi didn't want the alliance to become public given the anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel in the general public and especially among the clergy. The Israelis are a far more practical people and the news of the alliance won't raise much of a stir. But it is a testament to Israel's growing closeness with Sunni Arab states in the Middle East, that they tried so hard to keep this secret for so long.

The big danger with this alliance is that the Egytpian military will become too dependent on Israeli air power to stand up to the terrorists on the ground. According to the Times, Israeli officials wish that the Egyptian military would become more active in the Sinai and coordinate attacks on the ground with the air strikes. 

Why is this information coming out now? Clearly, publicizing the alliance does el-Sisi no good. He is in the midst of a re-election campaign and will be an almost certain winner after he manipulated the system to get rid of his major opposition. 

As for the New York Times revealing the alliance, they have made it absolutely clear that they do not like President Sisi very much at all, considering his abysmal human rights record. They have also demonstrated a growing anti-Israel bias in recent years. But there is no doubt that this alliance is "news," and that once they had the story nailed down they were obligated to their reporters and readers to run it.

The rise of Iran as a potentially hegemonistic power, throwing their weight around the Middle East using proxies like Hezb'allah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has scared the Sunni Arab states into seeing Israel in an entirely different light. As a counterweight to the Iranians, Israel can prove to be very useful to much weaker and smaller Arab states who fear Iran's growing strength and it's nuclear program.

It's probably too early to talk of a dramatic realignment. But that's the direction things are moving and the US should do all it can to encourage it.