Opinion

The Great Debate

Egypt’s turmoil leaves Israel silent and worried

By Guest Contributor
January 31, 2011

EGYPT/

By Alan Elsner, who is the communications director for The Israel Project. The opinions expressed are his own.

The uprising in Egypt that looks like it may sweep away President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old regime threatens to deprive Israel of its most important strategic ally in the region.

Israeli leaders have been silent about the events in Egypt and are powerless to affect the outcome. But they and the entire Israeli population are gravely concerned that the turmoil will ultimately bring to power a new government hostile to the Jewish state.

At a time when Israel’s relations with Turkey, its other traditional regional ally, have deteriorated sharply, and when Hezbollah is strengthening its grip in Lebanon, the developments in Egypt will likely deepen a sense of vulnerability in the Israeli public and strengthen the government’s determination to keep security its number one priority.

There is also the danger of a domino effect. Challenges have been sparked to the monarchy in Jordan — the only other Arab country to have made peace with Israel — as well as governments throughout the Arabian Peninsula which control most of the world’s oil supplies.

Israel and Egypt fought four wars between 1948 and 1973 but signed a peace treaty in 1979. True, it was a “cold peace.” Mubarak refused to allow cultural or people-to-people relations to flourish and kept military ties between the Israel Defense Forces and the Egyptian military on a low level with no joint exercises. He also tolerated a media that has spewed offensive anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli rhetoric for years, ensuring that Egyptian public opinion remained hostile to Israel and Jews in general.

Still, this “cold peace” has been a tremendous strategic asset for both countries and a bulwark of stability in the region. Israel no longer had to plan for a two or three-front war and was able to cut military spending, with a consequent boost to its economy. In the past year, the Egyptian military has made some efforts to disrupt weapons smuggling to Iranian-backed Hamas across its border with Gaza.

Of course, Israelis recognize that Mubarak has been running a corrupt, authoritarian regime that has held back progress in his country. On a strictly human level, Israelis understand that Egyptians should enjoy the same democratic rights as they do and deserve the chance to build a better future. But the danger exists that what comes next will be infinitely worse, not only for Israel but for the Egyptian people themselves.

The nightmare scenario, of course, is a repeat of the Iranian revolution of 1979 when the pro-western Shah, an Israeli ally and oil supplier, was replaced by an Islamic regime that openly calls for Israel’s destruction, denies the Holocaust and is engaged in an all-out attempt to build nuclear weapons.

The Shah’s government, no doubt, was a cruel human rights abuser — but the Islamic fundamentalism of the Ayatollahs which replaced him has been a thousand times worse and now threatens the peace of the world.

In Egypt, the best opposition organization is the Muslim Brotherhood which has close links to Hamas and is ideologically very hostile to Israel. Its leaders probably understand that abandoning the peace treaty with Israel would endanger the $2 billion in aid Egypt receives each year from the United States as well as critically damaging Egypt’s important tourist trade. But their rank-and-file supporters are not as sophisticated and would no doubt place immense pressure on the leadership to change the country’s pro-western orientation.

Still, Egypt is no Iran. Strategically and historically, the two are competitors and not allies. Iran is at the center of a growing “Shi’ite crescent” which is steadily bringing Lebanon into its orbit.

Probably the best solution for Egypt would be a peaceful and orderly transition to free and fair elections. But this too is no panacea. Local elections were held in Gaza in January 2005 which brought the Iranian-backed Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement to power.

That was six years ago, and Hamas seems determined never to hold another election ever again. In 2007, it brutally crushed the opposition Fatah organization and expelled its members. Last October, a poll by The Israel Project in Gaza found Hamas with only a 40 percent approval rating, trailing considerably behind Fatah — but of course Gazans have no opportunity to express their will at the ballot box.

Egyptians deserve a chance to build democracy and move their country forward. Israelis hope they get the chance to do so, knowing that peace and friendship works best between fellow democracies.

Photo: An Egyptian anti-government protester prays at Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo January 31, 2011. Protesters intensified their campaign on Monday to force Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to quit as world leaders struggled to find a solution to a crisis that has torn up the Middle East political map. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

Comments
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The article was written with facts intended to project Israel as a neutral observer that played no role concerning the on going happenings in Egypt.
It is unfortunate that there is also no mention of the audacious comment made against the US President ventilating Israel’s indignation over OBAMA Administration and expressing that countries under the dictators in Mid- East were helpful, congenial to work with person like Mubarak. Well it is fine but ignoring the population all together probably was very wrong for Israel to prefer to go along with the entire country Egypt. Israel definitely knew that one day Mubarak will go. Why then it did not mend its plans and program accordingly? The author of the article kept complete silent on the matter.
In addition, the Israelis wanted US to help Mubarak in his trouble time and rehabilitate him as he was.
The author of the article may come up with many pleas and excuses but hiding those facts already known to people all around the world will probably not go in his favor nor speak of him positively of his impartial writing.

May I have the privilege to pen down few facts? Israel’s governments until lately used US friendship in its entire wrongful doings get rid unquestioned including misbehaving with super powers. In addition Israel flouted UN Resolution one after the other and violated international laws including committal of genocide.

Political Analysts were shocked so also the entire world community. I will not go into the details as to how dare it could do such audacious acts.

However, cutting long story short all along until now they used causes of unknown fear of their security. Now that unknown fear has caught up with its fake notion.

May be with the change in Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood will come in to play its role in the parliament of Egypt. Until they play their role good or bad, we should refrain from commenting on its role on basis of supposition for equity of justice..

However, everyone would expect the articles to be impartially written. But it is alright what suited the thinking of the writer he wrote and I do appreciate.

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