Note: This was originally posted at The Third Way: Finding Balance in Mideast Analysis
Israel has apparently begun working to press Europe and the United States to try to save the embattled regime of Hosni Mubarak. Ha’aretz reports that Netanyahu asked other countries to tone down criticism of Mubarak. However, while the headline says this came from Netanyahu, the article only mentions the foreign ministry, and, as we have seen many times, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman writes his own foreign policy and sometimes acts without necessarily coordinating with the Prime Minister’s office.
In either case, Israel is once again showing itself to be horribly out of touch with the realities of the world they live in. There is only one, very slim, possibility for Mubarak’s survival and that is massive violence. This would probably fail as well, and if it succeeded, it probably would not succeed for long. And in the aftermath, Israel, the US and Europe would be facing a much angrier country that would be far less concerned about maintaining good relations outside the Arab world.
In any case, it doesn’t seem that anyone in Europe, nor the Obama administration, is interested in interfering with Egypt directly, though one suspects they’d all prefer to see Mubarak remain long enough to pass the mantle off to someone who would maintain Egypt’s current stances in foreign policy. The fact that they all were happy to work with Mubarak for thirty years despite his awful human rights record and refusal to democratize the country indicates that these are not the concerns of the foreigners.
Israel’s urging for other countries to prioritize Egyptian “stability” is simply code for maintaining the status quo, at least as far as Egypt’s real positions and actions in regard to the Palestinians, to Israel, to Iran and the Middle East in general. They seem to have completely missed the fact that the status quo has already crumbled in Egypt. Things are changing, and Israel’s desperation for holding the status quo is not only foolhardy, it reflects an inability to deal with changes that are already happening (increasing public pressure in Turkey, Europe, the US and elsewhere to free the Palestinians from occupation) and an even greater inability to deal with even more changes that are coming.
Israel simply can’t afford to be this ignorant. If it does not move immediately to change the status quo itself and start finding a way to seriously move toward a Palestinian state that is viable and includes Jerusalem and some accommodation of the refugee issue, history is going to overtake the country. And everyone interested in peace and in Israel’s future should be pounding away at this message.
Instead, we have Malcolm Hoenlein articulating not only the fact that the organization he heads, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPJ) works against Israel’s interests as well as those of the Palestinians and the USA, but also illustrates just why so many of us call the coalition of his group, AIPAC, ADL, AJC and other groups the “status quo lobby.” In one of the most absurd remarks even Hoenlein has ever made, he called Mohammed ElBaradei, the man who appears to be the favorite to take over for Mubarak, a “stooge for Iran.” Which mnade me laugh when I thought of all the people who had called ElBaradei a stooge for the US and Israel because he publicly chastised Iran for not granting his International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) full access for their inspections.
Israel is staring at a very dangerous future. The current government is steering it toward disaster, and the supporters of that government in Washington and Europe are literally killing Israel. If the occupation doesn’t end, Israel will find that it will have to face Arab anger over the issue of Palestine without dictators like Mubarak to keep the locals in line. And at that point, this ugly and unnecessary conflict will get a lot uglier.