The rise of the Islamic fundamentalist movement as a social and political force is the most important development in the modern Arab world. Beginning in the late 1970s, radical Islam directly affected Egypt and Jordan, neighbours and co-signatories of peace treaties with Israel. The radical Islamic movement in both these countries assumed two forms -- non-violent, represented mainly by the Muslim Brotherhood, and violent, represented by various terrorist groups. Both groups shared the objective of replacing the existing regimes with Islamic theocracies. Egypt and Jordan responded firmly to the growth of radical Islam, quashing terrorist activity. Successive Egyptian regimes attempted unsuccessfully to arrive at a compromise for coexistence with the Muslim Brotherhood, and resorted to firm countermeasures to strip the movement of its social and political power. In Jordan, where the Muslim Brotherhood enjoyed legal status, the regime kept a strict hold on the movement so that its influence would not exceed government-imposed limits.
By the end of the 1990s, the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist groups no longer posed an existential threat to the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes, since there was little chance of their seizing the government in the foreseeable future. Although they might succeed in toppling a head of state, it is unlikely that they would be able to establish an Islamic regime. At the same time, both regimes acknowledged that it was beyond their power to eradicate Islamic radicalism, and recognised that they would have to face its challenge for many years to come.
Dr Tal was a senior official of Israel's General Security Service (GSS), head of the GSS Arab section and GSS commander of the Gaza Strip and Sinai district. He was a member of the Israeli delegation to the 1991 Madrid Conference, and a member of the Israeli delegation to the peace talks with the Jordanians, which led to the peace agreement that was signed in October 1994. He is currently a researcher at the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies and teaches in the security studies program Tel Aviv University.