Thursday, January 27, 2011

Democracy in the Middle East: a Double Edged Sword

In order to follow events in the Middle East, one must have a great stomach for irony...

One of the more disturbing developments around the recent uprisings in the Arab world, Egypt in particular, is the somewhat frequent regurgitation that Israel supports/pampers/operate Arab dictators and their apparatus of oppression.

The great irony is that Arab dictators establish Israel Bashing an virulent antisemitism as their raison  d'etre. Conspiracy theories blaming the 'Zionists' for every imaginable malady of living in a poor oppressive state are constantly pandered by official state media.

Meanwhile the hypocrite dictators are more than happy to collaborate with Israel behind closed doors. After all, Israel is a fairly wealthy country, with great trade connections, which is good for business. Israel is happy because finally they are getting some positive response from neighboring countries, so they play a long with Arab dictatorial regimes. Let's be honest for a minute, it's not that there are any perfectly democratic/liberal regimes for Israel to deal with, so hey! we take what we get.

Now that Egypt is under crisis, I have heard the claim that Israel desperately prefers Mubarak to stick around rather than see a democratic, consensual government form. This is not the case. Interestingly enough it's a popular rallying cry!

Israel would love to see democratic neighbours. Really, it would. But unfortunately, we have seen multitude of popular revolts against relatively mild autocrats that resulted in a brutal theocratic dictatorship being established. This article from JPost highlights the Israeli fear:
While no analysts here predict any immediate ramifications for Israel’s national security, some said mass protest movements that begin as pro-democracy uprisings could easily be hijacked by Islamists.
“We need to understand that we are living on a volcano,” said Maj.- Gen. (res.) Ya’acov Amidror, former head of the IDF’s Research and Assessment Directorate.
“Conditions can change from today until tomorrow. We must ask ourselves, what is the worst case scenario,” he said. “We are on thick ice, but even that melts eventually."
“Advice we have heard from certain countries inWestern Europe [suggesting that the uprisings could lead to a wave of democratic revolutions] should not be followed,” he said. “There’s no immediate fear of any security escalation. The main question is: In the long term, will we be ready for all scenarios?” Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser, and a senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said, “There’s a reasonable chance that if a revolution takes place in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would rise to power. That would be bad not just for Israel but for all democracies.
While one would hope for a true bloodless democratic revolution to take place in Egypt, one has to be a realist. Israel merely operates under the notion of "better the devil we know".


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