It goes without saying there are many Arab leaders right now spending sleepless nights, tossing and turning in the fear that their turn is next. The turn of events in the last few weeks has been nothing short of fascinating. I have spent hours, teary-eyed and goose-bumped, marveling at the strength, determination and sheer courage of Tunisians and Egyptians, of the images of Jordanians and Algerians as they take to the streets demanding change. Nowhere has this been more amazing than in Egypt as millions of people insist that the 30-year old autocracy of Hosni Mubarak come to an end. Most predictions give Mubarak a few weeks, if not days left in power, even though the aging president himself insists he will continue what is left of his term. As the protests grow louder and Mubarak’s inevitable downfall grows closer, Tel Aviv’s worry lines get deeper by the minute.
For Israel, when the Mubarak regime falls, it will leave a gaping hole of uncertainty in terms of the new relationship the two countries will have to forge. Mubarak –” Israel’s holy cow in the Arab world –” has been one of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest allies in the region, with the two meeting in closed quarters in Sharm Al Sheikh as recent as two weeks ago.
Amazing what a few days and a million people can change.
Today, it is not a question of whether or not Mubarak will be ousted but of when. With this in mind, Israel is scrambling to protect its own hide once this happens. The arrogance with which it does this, however, is appalling. Only Israel would have the gall to speak in such condescending tones.
According to reports circulating in the Israeli media, Netanyahu has been beseeching the United States and the international community to ensure that any new Egyptian regime will honor past peace agreements between Israel and Egypt. He has reportedly been calling European officials, telling them to support the Mubarak regime for the sake of Israel’s security. Both Europe and the US, however are not lending him a friendly ear, stressing on the right of the Egyptian people to choose their leaders.
This is classic Israel. The fear that the Muslim Brotherhood or any other opposition in Egypt will come to power and cancel out all previous agreements with Israel has brought the latter’s unabashed arrogance to the surface. Why should Israel have any say in how Egypt is ruled or by whom, post-Mubarak? And how audacious is Netanyahu that he feels he can make demands on the international community concerning another sovereign country?
I suppose Israel does this because it has learned, Pavlovian-style that it works. Puffing out its chest and turning its nose up to the world is standard behavior for Israel and frankly, for the United States as well. How many times did we hear from the US, Israel and the Europeans that Hamas could only be admitted into the special club of civilized world nations after it accepts Israel’s existence, renounces violence and respects past agreements? How many times did the US shove Israel down the throats of those less willing to accept it? We Palestinians are the best example possible. Ever since we signed our names to the fateful Oslo Accords, we became shackled hand and foot to the demands of Israel and the US: renounce violence, accept Israel as a Jewish state, relinquish the right of return, etcetera, etcetera, or you will be punished.
If the international community had slapped Israel down off its pedestal every time it dictated to others, Israel would not be so haughty. But the fact is, Israel has learned from the best –” what better teacher in arrogance and superiority than the United States? Iraq and Afghanistan are still recovering from the US’s "democratic intervention".
So, it is not very surprising for Israel to assume that the US would push the international community to accept its terms for a new Egyptian system. Israel is the US’s biggest ally in the Middle East and if its borders (at least southern) are threatened and unstable, that means the US will feel the shock waves too. Besides, the US has its own means of pressure on any Egyptian government that thinks twice about shunning US and Israeli interests, namely a check for $1.5 billion sent straight into Egypt’s military and economic coffers. The aid package has been an annual offering, each year on the mark since 1979, the year the Israeli-Egyptian peace accord was signed.
The Palestinians might dream of a new Egypt that stands up to Israel after years of government coddling (the people are an entirely different case) but the reality may look different. However, there is hope yet. For the last three decades, Egypt has played a western-tainted role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, its own strategic interests always trumping any aspirations for a free Palestine. It remains to be seen what kind of government will take shape in Egypt after the regime of Hosni Mubarak becomes a thing of past. While Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel may or may not stay intact, the Palestinians still hope the new changes in the Arab world will also bring Israel down a notch in its snobby demands on others. Without Mubarak, Netanyahu’s man in the Middle East, Israel’s haughty voice will hopefully be knocked down a few decibels.