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Thursday Feb. 17, 2011 11:00 AM (EST+7)

JERUSALEM, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that while he hoped Egypt's efforts to achieve democracy succeeded, he had to prepare for the worst as well.

Netanyahu reiterated hopes that that Egypt would stick by a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, as the new military rulers in Cairo said they would in a statement issued on Saturday.

No one knows what the future in Egypt will bring, he told American Jewish leaders in speech in Jerusalem.

In an apparent reference to critics charging that Israel has shown too much fear yet too little enthusiasm for the changes taking place in Egypt, Netanyahu said that if there's a difference between Israel and others ... ( it's that) I cannot simply hope for the best, I must also prepare for the worst.

He said that part of that preparation is to alert the leaders and policymakers around the world of possible dangers that may lie ahead, not because I want those dangers to materialize. I don't.

I have no doubt that maintaining the peace, deepening the peace is an interest of Egypt. And I hope that this will accompany the Egyptian effort to achieve a free and democratic society as they pursue their reform, the Israeli leader added.

Ultimately the people of Egypt are those who will decide their own fate, but Israel cannot profess a neutrality as to the outcome, he said.

Every single Egyptian should know the people of Israel is committed to peace both with them and with all our other neighbors, he went on, alluding to peace deals Israel seeks with other Arab nations, including the Palestinians with whom US-brokered peace talks have stagnated since September.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, followed by Jordan in 1994. An interim accord was reached with Palestinians in 1993.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Jon Hemming)






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