Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guest Post: How Israel Views the Demonstrations for Democracy in Egypt

Demonstrators gather in Cairo on Tuesday.

Robin writes: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and Egypt, under Anwar Sadat, was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Sadat gave his life for his efforts, but the treaty held. Now, with demonstrators protesting the autocratic rule of Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak, Israelis wonder what the future will bring. A Florida mental health professional who is teaching in Israel, gives us an American perspective on how Israelis view the turmoil in Egypt. Having seen what happened in Iran in 1979, they know that a "democratic revolution" does not always bring about positive change. For his own safety, we identify our guest writer as Dr. K.

Guest Post from Israel
Dr. K

“Military, pro-Mubarak groups driven off overpass; Egyptian army uses tanks to separate rival camps; at least 6 demonstrators shot dead, over 600 injured since riots broke out.” These were the headlines on the front page of the Jerusalem Post a couple of days ago.

Keeping abreast of the news in the United States, I listen closely on my laptop to the words of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and even Senator John McCain expressing a need for the birth of democracy in Egypt, and an immediate need for open, transparent elections. These are the ideals that the United States of America, a country that I dearly love, was founded on. Here in Israel, the people that I ask have different opinions about the whole ordeal; the general concern here in Israel is to keep the State of Israel safe and secure.

Americans abroad can keep abreast of the news in English, by streaming CNN on their laptop computers.

Today’s front page reads: “Israel says no to more Egyptian troops in Sinai,” and a senior military source is quoted as saying: "We don’t want it to seem as if the peace treaty is meaningless, particularly when there could be a regime change in Cairo.” At this moment, there are approximately 800 Egyptian troops on the Sinai Peninsula. In 1979, Israel agreed to give this territory back to Egypt on the condition that it would remain demilitarized.

Now there is great concern that the Muslim Brotherhood will become the ruling party in Egypt. Democracy and fair elections are well and good; however, the Muslim Brotherhood has openly called for the destruction of Israel. This is the Muslim Brotherhood that believes that women who commit adultery should be stoned to death, and people who are caught stealing should have their hands cut off.

It really doesn’t matter who in Israel I ask about this: ultra orthodox and secular, taxi driver and physician, soldier and yeshiva student; all have the same concern, a concern that is not necessarily based on any understanding of how these events in Egypt came about. In fact I’m not sure myself why this great revolt over the autocratic government of Hosni Mubarak did not happen long ago.

Israelis know only that for the past 30 years, there has been a tangible peace treaty. For 30 years, the two governments have shared information and intelligence, and a mutual understanding. And yes, Egypt has always been a great deterrent to any of Israel’s enemies. And frankly, with real missiles fired by Palestinian groups hitting the southern part of Israel from Gaza on almost a daily basis, continual threats from Iran and Lebanon, and now, Egyptian tanks on the Sinai for the first time in 30 years, Israelis don’t seem to give a hoot about Egyptian “democracy"--seen here, cynically, as the right to choose the next Egyptian dictatorship.

Israelis don’t care about President Mubarak’s personal attributes. Nor do they care how he runs his country. They just want the present security relationship with Egypt to stay the same. And the status quo appears to be as fragile as the chance for a real democracy in Egypt.

Dr. K. is an American citizen who is currently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.

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