The situation in Egypt has Israel worried, for good reason. The border has been peaceful since the 1970’s, thanks to the ‘cold peace’. It’s not ideal — believe it or not, Israel honestly yearns for true friendly relations with its Arab neighbors — but it’s better than war. And now nobody knows what kind of regime will come after Mubarak.
If a true liberal democracy were to arise, the peace would most likely continue to be ‘cold’. There’s no love for Israel among even the most liberal Egyptians, but a regime interested in economic development and freedom would not opt for war. On the other hand, a radical Islamist regime might — or might not — abrogate the Camp David treaty. Either way, Israel would have to make plans and allocate resources to deal with the possibility of hostility or even an outright attack on its southern border.
Keep in mind that the Muslim Brotherhood is the parent of Hamas. The worst-case scenario is that of Egypt becoming one big Gaza strip, except with a massive army and modern weapons.
Today Israel has concentrated its forces to respond to the very serious threat from Hizballah in the north, and the less-serious threat from Hamas in Gaza. But that will have to change. It will be expensive and difficult.
Israel has little or no influence on what will happen in Egypt (unlike the US, which has the lever of military aid). And it isn’t clear at all what the US should do, or even what it is doing. I’ve heard anti-Mubarak protesters excoriating the US for supporting Mubarak, while pro-Mubark people curse us for abandoning him.
Unsurprisingly, anti-Israel forces are trying to blame Israel for everything, including Mubarak’s brutality. Some suggest that whatever the US is doing wrong — there are different versions of this — it is doing it because the ‘Israel lobby’ is causing it to do so.
Let’s look at what one of Israel’s most vicious and dangerous enemies in the West, the billionaire currency speculator George Soros, says:
President Obama personally and the United States as a country have much to gain by moving out in front and siding with the public demand for dignity and democracy. This would help rebuild America’s leadership and remove a lingering structural weakness in our alliances that comes from being associated with unpopular and repressive regimes. Most important, doing so would open the way to peaceful progress in the region. The Muslim Brotherhood’s cooperation with Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate who is seeking to run for president, is a hopeful sign that it intends to play a constructive role in a democratic political system. As regards contagion, it is more likely to endanger the enemies of the United States – Syria and Iran – than our allies, provided that they are willing to move out ahead of the avalanche.
The main stumbling block is Israel. In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. — Washington Post
Almost every proposition in the above is false. El Baradei, who received his Nobel in 2005 for his supposed efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes, consistently said that there was no evidence that Iran was working on nuclear weapons (while technically true — there was no evidence of an actual weapon under development — clearly the Iranian program has always been intended to produce weapons).
El Baradei has no real support in Egyptian politics, but is a useful figurehead for Western consumption, to sanitize the radical Brotherhood. To support El Baradei because he is smooth, speaks good English and (like Yasser Arafat!) was given a Nobel Prize would be to fall directly into the Brotherhood’s trap.
Soros adds that an Egyptian regime with participation (which would shortly become domination) by the Brotherhood would ‘endanger…Syria and Iran’. Really? How did radical Islamist participation work out in Lebanon? Quite the opposite!
Of course, it doesn’t take him long to blame Israel. In fact, Israel’s unhappiness with the situation is not because it doesn’t “recognize its own best interests” but because it recognizes too well what is likely to happen if the pro-democratic forces are co-opted in favor of the radical Islamists, as happened in Iran in 1979 and Lebanon just recently. Indeed the history of revolutions in general, starting with the emblematic French and Russian ones, doesn’t hold out much hope for a good outcome (the American ‘revolution’ was more of a secession than a revolution).
But, says Soros, all is not lost because the Religious Right and the nefarious Israel Lobby are no longer controlling American policy. No, now we have the phony ‘pro-Israel’ J Street (a creature of Soros) speaking truth to power! In fact, J Street represents only an extreme left wing minority of American Jews, and it is rapidly losing the support of formerly naive liberals who were initially fooled into believing that it was indeed ‘pro-Israel’.
It seems to me that there are four possible outcomes in Egypt. Here they are, with the best first:
- A true democratic regime arises (probability: 0.001%).
- The existing regime continues, although without Mubarak (possible).
- A caretaker regime including the Muslim Brotherhood, takes over. Within a year or two, the Brotherhood cements its control (probable).
- An Islamist regime arises immediately (less probable).
The best policy for the US will be to walk the tightrope of supporting true pro-democracy forces while making clear that any regime that includes the Muslim Brotherhood is unacceptable. Although we may not be able to prevent this outcome, we shouldn’t act to hasten it.