The uprising in Egypt obviously has earned the avid attention of many governments in the region. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas have both shut down rallies meant to support the Egyptian people, Syria (kind of) experienced similar protests; Jordan dismissed the unpopular PM; Algeria, Yemen and Sudan are experiencing popular unrest; and Tunisia’s Ben Ali is already vacationing in Saudi Arabia. Of course, Israel and its backers in the United States have paid particular attention to Cairo over the last 11 days, as Mubarak was the guarantor of the peace deal that was signed between the two countries in 1979. I have already spoken about how the uprising in Egypt could change the regional balance of power away from Israel dominance. Understandably, many in Tel Aviv (and Washington) are worried about what the future holds.
Despite these fears, it seems quite unlikely that Israel is in danger of losing its peace treaty with Egypt. The worst outcome, for Israel, would be some sort of Islamic government that would abrogate the peace treaty. Yet with the Muslim Brotherhood likely to win only about 20% of the vote in elections (not to mention the existence of a strong moderating group within the Brotherhood), the most likely governing coalition to take hold post-Mubarak will probably not threaten Israel in anyway. Likely, though, it will not be as pliable as Mubarak, reflecting, rather, the wishes of the Egyptian people.
Israel has, though, has made a considerable effort to support the beleaguered Mubarak regime. In addition to dispatching Israeli ambassadors across the world to advocate for ‘stability’ in Egypt, Israel sent a plane full of crowd dispersal weapons to Cairo in an attempt to help Mubarak undermine the popular protests. Obviously, there are benefits for Israel to a maintenance of the status quo in Egypt, but (and the choice is similar for the US) standing in the way of a democratic transitional has collateral moral consequences that accompany the minimal rise in security (note: larger psychological security). While the uprise in Egypt may not be ideal for Israel, one must look at these moral consequences.
More to the point, I’ll use the more eloquent Jerry Haber at the Magnes Zionist:
From a moral perspective, however – and, fortunately, that’s the dominant perspective among the e-crowd, Jewish and non-Jewish, with whom I associate – supporting the Egyptian revolution is a no-brainer. On the one hand we have a regime that has only become more authoritarian in recent years, and, on the other, non-violent protesters from all walks of life who are struggling to be free. How can any decent human being not be thrilled by the prospect of this liberation? And how can Jews, who themselves came into being as nation in the furnace of Egyptian bondage, not identify with the Egyptian struggle for freedom?
In fact, I would argue that the ambivalence that some Jews are feeling can itself be turned into an argument against a Jewish state. For if the price to pay for a Jewish state is acquiescing in tyranny and injustice for reasons of realpolitik– as Israel did with apartheid South Africa – then arguably that price is too high, especially if you feel, as I do, that there are alternatives to a Jewish state for the survival and thriving of the Jewish people and its heritage.
Photo from Breaking News