Some Israelis Mourn Mubarak As Change Looms in Egypt

Article Summary
Atef al-Ghamri analyzes the Israeli-Egyptian relationship after Mubarak’s fall and the January 25 Revolution. Israel once had a “more than solid” partnership with Egypt, but the elections will most likely produce an anti-Israeli candidate. The Arab Spring might eventually lead to a unified security consensus against Israel, says al-Ghamri.

Since January 25, 2011, Israeli minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has been talking to former president Hosni Mubarak on the phone for 20 to 30 minutes every day. Eliezer said that these calls reassured him that his friend Mubarak downgraded the importance of the demonstrations which forced him to step down on February 11.

Ben-Eliezer, who speaks fluent Arabic, was born in Iraq. He studied there and was named Fouad before migrating to Israel. He says, "when I saw where things were headed in Egypt, I told Mubarak, ‘You did well to go to Sharm El Sheikh, since you will be near Eilat and we will be able to follow up on your health condition.’" Then he said that the Middle East will be different after Mubarak; that it will be worse.

What are Israel’s concerns now that things have changed?

The estimates that Israeli published clearly state the benefits they enjoyed under Mubarak and the fears they have of the future Egypt.

First: In the past, the Israeli security establishment, Israeli leaders, university researchers, journalists and Arab-affairs experts — most of whom are Mossad soldiers — have focused much of their attention on the Egyptian revolution’s impact on Israel, the balance of power between the Arabs and Israel, Israeli military development, the domestic political and economic situation and its role in the region, and the Palestinian problem should the goals of the January 25 revolution materialize.

Second: the offices of the prime minister and the secretary of state kept following the events in Egypt. For their part, State Department officials held meetings every few hours to discuss and assess the situation, especially after Mubarak’s departure.

Third: A year and a half before Mubarak's overthrow, Israeli journalist Aluf Benn published an article entitled “Pray for the President.” In his article, Benn describes Mubarak's relationship with Israel, saying that out of all of the world’s leaders, Mubarak is the only one close to Netanyahu. To prove it, he quotes a high-level source, who called the relationship between Mubarak and Netanyahu "more than solid." Benn then thanks Mubarak, who has become Israel's strategic ally and major energy supplier. Israeli leaders are probably praying for Mubarak’s immortality!

As for the expected results of the revolution, Israel's positions have begun taking shape. They express their concerns as follows:

A few days after the January 25 revolution, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent secret messages to its ambassadors in more than 10 countries, including America, Russia, China, Canada and major European countries. The heads of these countries were urged to stop criticizing Mubarak’s regime and to assure the world that instability in Egypt would affect the situation in the entire Middle East.

In the same context, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said that Israel grew quite discontent when the US and Europe welcomed the revolution against Mubarak’s regime. A senior administration official told Haaretz that abandoning Mubarak would have serious consequences.

During the past few years, Israel has sought to reduce Egypt’s standing in the region and marginalize its role in the Arab world.

In the same vein, Professor Ehtzel Duroy, an expert on strategic affairs and a professor of political science at Hebrew University, said that the Egyptian revolution and the Arab Spring would bring radical changes to the region.

At numerous conferences held across Israel, speakers have agreed that the revolutions would not simply replace tyrannical and corrupt regimes with democratic ones. This is something that Israel does not want.

In an article entitled “Democracy is not for the Arabs,” journalist Ofer Shelah said that “No sane Israeli is unafraid of the consequences of the events taking place in Egypt. I hear one thing from those who speak on behalf of Israel and from a large part of the Israeli public: democracy is not for Arabs. For example, we heard a 'general' clearly state that democracy is not for the Arabs, that they are not worthy of it and that what Israel needs are Arab political systems that are stable, not democratic. Simply put, we need Arab rulers who are dictators dependent on the West."

In the first week of the January 25 revolution, Amos Harel wrote an analysis of the revolution’s impact in Israel. “Should Mubarak be toppled, major security developments will take place, whether in the short or long term,” he said.

For his part, General Amos Yadin delivered a lecture at a conference in Herzliya saying that “Should the worst-case scenario play out and Mubarak fall, Israel would have to engage in discussions about a different type of military budget.”

This is an accurate picture of Israel’s perspective on the Egyptian revolution, and of the American attempts to keep Mubarak in power. The revolution’s success means that Israel’s strategic advantage vis-à-vis the Arab world would be broken. Israel has always believed that the Arab World is stable and unchangeable. Egypt’s revolution and its impact on the Arab Spring’s upheavals might pave the way to the establishment of an Arab national-security strategy, which has never existed before. This could swing the balance of power toward the Arabs, after having been tilted in Israel’s favor since 1948.

However, the establishment of such a strategy depends on a real consensual democracy in Egypt and a political and national consensus where no party is marginalized. Otherwise, it would be a major blow to democracy, which would play out in favor of those lurking and waiting for Egypt to fall.

Found in: arab-israeli conflict

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