Israel on Monday deployed tanks along the Egyptian border following a murderous terrorist attack, reported Israel's Ynet news portal, a move that many saw as portending a new hostile reality between the two countries.
While the deployment was clearly meant to protect construction crews working around the clock to put in place a new border fence, the presence of the tanks and the sudden urgency to build the fence could not be seen outside the context of the Muslim Brotherhood's announced presidential victory.
Muslim Brotherhood officials declared that their candidate, Mohammed Mursi, had won a strong majority of votes in the weekend presidential run-off election.
Israeli officials and Mursi's challenger, former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, had previously warned that if the Muslim Brotherhood took the presidency, it would use increased anarchy and terrorism emanating from the Sinai Peninsula to draw Israel into open conflict.
Israeli army officials said that for now, Egyptian forces in the Sinai are working to curb terrorist activity, and Egypt's Supreme Military Council appeared reluctant to hand over the reins of power to a Mursi-led government. But that will soon change, with international pressure building for the Egyptian army to honor the results of the election.
On Sunday, the same day that the polls closed in the presidential election, Egypt's Supreme Military Council issued a decree promising to hand over power to the new president by the end of the month, but determining that it would retain control of military affairs, including the ability to declare war.
The United States responded by threatening to withhold vital financial aid if the Egyptian army went through with what was seen as a "soft coup."
"We are particularly concerned by decisions that appear to prolong the military’s hold on power," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. Pentagon press secretary George Little insisted that the Egyptian army "relinquish power to civilian elected authorities and...respect the universal rights of the Egyptian people."
Meanwhile, Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, celebrated Mursi's reported victory as heralding a new era of Islamist resistance against Israel. Mursi's presidential win was marked with the handing out of candies in on the streets of Gaza City.
Want more news from Israel?
Click Here to sign up for our FREE daily email updates