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11 février 2011 5 11 /02 /février /2011 15:25


One of the often heard responses in Israel to the Egyptian popular
rebellion has been the consideration of the Muburak regime as a
necessary “lesser evil” to any form of democratic rule that would lead
inevitably to an unstable and dangerous radical Islamic alternative.
Obamaś support for “a democratic transition” and “free elections” in
Egypt is considered by many Israeli leaders and some right wing leaders
in the US as “throwing Egypt to the dogs.” Even some see “the fall
of Egypt” as creating a dire situation for Israel because “Israel can
only make peace with dictators” due to the endemic hate for Israel and
Jews among the Arab population.

These double-standard arguments that base “stability” on oppression are
at once incoherent, simplistic and, ultimately, dangerous
self-fulfilling prophecies  for the future and viability of Israel. Can
Israel"s security and certain supposed “western interests” justify
supporting the endless subjugation and hopelessness of tens of millions
of Egyptians and other Arab citizens? Can a combination of fear and
racist condescension justify saying “democracy is not for Arabs”? Can
Israel ever accept that it is a part of the Middle East and that it
cannot ignore the language, culture and public opinion of  neigbouring
arab countries?

It is true that the arduous and long task of creating democratic
institutions and a tolerant culture of political pluralism goes far
beyond the fall of a dictatorship and the organization of free
elections. This is especially true in a big country like Egypt where
tremendous poverty and illiteracy are very fertile ground for religious
extremism. But the greatest danger of extremism is precisely the lack of
hope for a better and freer society among millions of young people.

Nevertheless, many fallacies are being repeated. The Muslim Brotherhood,
while not a liberal party, is clearly not a copy of the Iranian
Ayatollahs or other fundamentalists. Many of them even say they want to
follow the example the moderate Turkish islamic leaders while others
insist that they will respect a pluralistic civil state and do not wish
to impose the Sharia or other radical measures. One must also keep in
mind the moderating influence of many smaller secular opposition groups
and the influence of the westerned trained Egyptian army that will
surely not favour the formation of a radical government that breaks with
the West. In fact, in the daily protests when some islamists shouted the
slogan “Islam is the answer”, the majority of the crowd drowned them out
with chants of “Moslems and Christians together for Egypt”. While most
Egyptians are deeply religious the present wave of protests across the
arab world has very little to do with an “Islamic revolution.”

Israel"s strategic position over the last 30 years has been based on a
close security relationship with Egypt. Needless to say, the changes
taking place in Egypt, will have a profound effect on the future
security and political possibilities of Israel. Since any future
Egyptian Government will be much more sensitive to the the pressure of
public opinion, there will obviously be more problems for close
Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation with regards to Gaza, the
Palestinians in general and the Sinai peninsula.

Even a slow transition toward democracy will create much greater
pressure in favour of a political solution to the Palestinian problem
and make the present Israeli entrenchment untenable.

While peace between Egypt and Israel will surely not be in danger,
there will be more turbulences in the up until now smooth workings of the
1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement. From now on Israel will not be able
to almost ignore its southern security flank. Also placed in jeopardy is
the blockade of Gaza that requires Egyptian cooperation. Any
democratically elected Egyptian Government will have a hard time
accepting the present policy of intimate military cooperation
based on the status quo of the Palestinian-Israeli crisis.

A new regional order possibly is in the making in which Israel cannot
continue acting as if what is happening on the other side of the walls
and fences does not concern them. Israel and the Zionist movement has
always had a clear preference for the top-down approach of palace
politics or super-power protection.

As political thinker Hannah Arendt wrote in 1944: “Nationalism is bad
enough when it trusts in nothing but the rude force of the nation. A
nationalism that necessarily and admittedly depends upon the force of a
foreign power is certainly worse . . . the Zionists, if they continue to
ignore the Mediterranean peoples and watch out only for the big faraway
powers, will appear only as their tools, the agents of foreign and
hostile interests.”

Now, in the context of historic changes in the Arab world it is
essential for Israel to heed the writing on the wall, to open up to a
broader concept of politics, to quickly accept the challenge of a just
peace with the Palestinians by withdrawing from the West Bank and East
Jerusalem, to end the blockade of Gaza and to allow Palestinians to
breathe, to accept international security arrangements on the ground, to
look at the big picture of the Mid-East and to start ignoring the
smaller pictures of extremist settler groups and other narrow minded

The events in Egypt are a serious wake up call for Israel. The Tel Aviv
“bubble” has burst.

David Hammerstein

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Published by Europa en Verde - dans Internacional
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