Israel’s Egyptian Dilemma

JERUSALEM – The Arab revolt against inertia, despair, and decline has rightly inspired the admiration of civilized people everywhere – everywhere, that is, except in Israel. The fall of corrupt Arab dictatorships is being met in Israel with profound skepticism, even hostility.

For years, the Israeli discourse has been that a true peace with the Arab world would be possible only when the region embraced democracy. But the prospect of Arab democracy has now become a nightmare for Israeli leaders. They are used to dealing with autocrats in Cairo, Damascus, and Amman, and now fear the consequences of an Arab foreign policy that genuinely responds to the voice of the people.

Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak’s regime was Israel’s closest ally in the war against Hamas in Gaza and in curtailing Iran’s drive for regional hegemony, is of special concern. Mubarak’s ineffectiveness as broker of an Israel-Palestinian peace was not truly inconvenient for some of Israel’s leaders.

All this is now bound to change. It is inconceivable, for example, that an Egyptian democracy, in which the Muslim Brotherhood would be a legitimate political force, would persist in Mubarak’s complicity with Israel’s siege of Hamas-controlled Gaza.