Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do Israelis Support the Mubarak Regime?

The Arabist has brought to my attention that there is a widespread perception among Egyptians that Israel and Israelis actively support the Mubarak regime. This reenforced by statements of people such as Ben-Eliezer:

Israeli parliamentarian Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, a member of Israel’s Knesset, expressed support on Wednesday for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, according to Israel's daily The Jerusalem Post.
"I don't think it is possible [for there to be a revolution in Egypt]," Ben-Eliezer was reported as telling Army Radio. "I see things calming down soon. Israel cannot do anything about what is happening there. All we can do is express our support for Mubarak and hope the riots pass quietly."
The paper also reported that Ben-Eliezer, a member of Israel’s Labor party, met  with senior Egyptian officials on Tuesday.
At times like these, I think it's important to emphasize that Ben-Eliezer does not  represent the average Israeli. In fact, he is widely unpopular at the moment, has been recently relegated back to the opposition and his political party is on the verge of disappearance. He was able to formant his position atop the security establishment by developing close, warm relationship with key figures in the Muslim/Arab world. Unfortunately, he also has the tendency to insist on pampering his 'connections' even when it is at odds with his country's strategic interests. One instance, that has cost him dearly in popularity, is his insistence to continue selling the Turkish military high tech weaponry, despite of the many signs that indicated that the two states are at odds.

One may say: OK, but collaboration between Israel and Mubarak has been increasing! 

This is correct, but one must also remember that Israel, as a lone Jewish state in this rather difficult neighborhood, is not in a position to pick and choose their friends. Nor are they in a position to pass judgment on the leader of the epicenter of the Arab world. As the only legitimate leader of Egypt, Israel has no choice but to collaborate with Hosni Mubarak. The fondness and respect with which he is treated stems out of Israel's desire to have close and respectful relationship with its neighbour to the south.

The situation is even further complicated by the fact that Hosni Mubarak has actively requested the support of Israel in securing the nomination of his son. In turn General Omar Suleiman has also requested support. If there is one thing that Israel cannot afford is to support the losing side.

While the state treats Mubarak with respect, the people generally see him as just another Arab autocrat. If having our Prime Minister fly down to Sharm every few months to kiss his ass is what it takes to have Egypt on our good side, well so be it. However, privately, Israelis are not at all fond of him. This will be highlighted when he passes criticism on Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, which is perceived as hypocritical due to his treatment of his own people.

There is another reason why Israelis would be afraid of change: The Islamic Brotherhood.

The only option right now is for Israel to sit nervously on the fence and hope for the best. Regardless of the outcome, both people have to recognize that they are neighbours and their destinies are not entirely separate, despite of the occasional disagreements.

With that being said, I send my sincere wishes for Egyptians to establish a consensual government on democratic values!


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