Israel Update


Egypt's Revolution: Mubarak Steps Down

by Sarah Ann Haves 

President Hosni Mubarak has resigned after 30 years of dictatorial rule in Egypt. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have tasted the joy of victory in the ouster of Mubarak from power, bringing in what they perceive to be a new era of democratic freedoms. Egypt’s military will be the temporary ruling party until new elections are held, which is expected to happen during the next several months.

Israelis fear that, regardless of who is in power, what is at stake here is the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. 

U.S. President Barack Obama gave a televised speech to the world stating: “The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard, and Egypt will never be the same... This is not the end of Egypt’s transition. This is just the beginning.”  He added that the Egyptians want genuine democracy and a clear path towards elections.

Yet, the 18 days of protests in Egypt have ended with great uncertainty as to what the future make-up of the new Egyptian government will look like, and pundits continue to speculate what they think is coming next in the region.

Israelis fear that, regardless of who is in power, what is at stake here is the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. They are worried that continued instability in the Middle East could lead to terror infiltration, first and foremost, through Israel’s southwest porous border with Egypt. The vacuum of leadership in Egypt could generate terrorist attacks by a host of radical insurgents, who are now under almost no Egyptian security surveillance. These operatives could strike at Israel from the Sinai; or, join with Hamas and other terrorist groups launching attacks from Gaza. 

Israeli government officials are gravely concerned that the radical Moslem Brotherhood group will gain a foothold in the make-up of the new Egyptian government, resulting in greater influence within Egyptian society.

U.S. officials, while trying to show their support for democratic reforms in Egypt, are now wondering how things will play out in the rest of the region. American counter-terrorism experts are unsure that their efforts to crack down on Islamic militants will be effective if they can no longer rely on the same government leaders they have in the past to help them. 

Questions remain as to whether Al Qaeda and other extremists groups will take advantage of this current turbulence and try to recruit more young people into their militant “armies.”

Meanwhile, a new savvy generation of young political activists is hoping to continue to use revolutionary tactics to supplant current dictatorships in the moderate Arab world. This has already been the case in Egypt and Tunisia. There’s a current threat to Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and possibly Syria. Lebanon is facing a complete takeover by the Iranian radical terrorist group Hezbollah.  Other Arab governments in the region are preparing for change.

At the recent Herzliya Conference in Israel, experts in diplomacy, defense, economics, politics, and policy gave their opinions and their assessments in regard to current Middle East events.

Over and over again, analysts re-iterated that American influence in the region was in decline. A common concern was the waning power of the United States to impact what was happening in the halls of Arab governments or on the Arab streets.

America, a past bulwark of global certainty in the midst of world chaos, has recently taken a more passive “behind the scenes” approach to events in the Middle East. This change in U.S. policy has been evident for some time, as the Obama Administration did not come out strongly in favor of Iranian reformists last year, during the popular uprising against the tyrannical regime of that country. Obama has been criticized for not saying enough, publicly, to express U.S. solidarity with the Iranian reform movement.

Now, Obama is being criticized for quickly abandoning a 30-year relationship with Mubarak, while at the same time, encouraging Egyptian demonstrators in their quest to see him step down. Until very recently, the U.S. was a faithful friend of Mubarak, propping up his government as a reward for supporting the peace process with Israel; for Mubarak’s efforts in clamping down on radical Islamists from operating in his territory; and, for stopping arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

Suddenly, rioting on the streets over the past two weeks resulted in the Obama Administration dramatically switching its support from the Egyptian regime to the protestors, bringing confusion as to where America really stands within the complex mix of radicals and moderates in the region.

Over and over again, analysts re-iterated that American influence in the region was in decline.

In addition, with U.S. officials unwilling to state strongly their opposition to the Islamic Moslem Brotherhood group, this has resulted in even more confusing messages coming from the Obama Administration. The world community is getting mixed signals, and this has many people worried.

In Herzliya, some of the experienced global leaders in attendance, who had an opportunity to speak at the conference, expressed their frustration with the apparent “zigzagging” in American foreign policy.  Inconsistent declarations by the Obama Administration caused these policy planners to question whether U.S. officials were speaking from a clear and solidly formulated foreign policy, especially as it related to both their allies and foes in the Middle East.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and the Netanyahu government’s policy advisor Ron Dermer, have been in Washington, offering their insights to U.S. officials regarding the Arab unrest in the region. Israel wants to firm up its strong partnership with America, hoping that the White House and State Department will put together a new, consistent foreign policy, which upholds Israel’s security interests. Most important to Israel is that any future Egyptian government will keep the peace treaty intact, and that the U.S. will be, solidly, behind that policy.

Israel’s concerns are related to Obama’s continued desire to move closer to the Moslem world, trying to build new allies in the Middle East. American officials want to deepen relationships with what they perceive to be “moderate” Islamists in the region. However, these so-called “moderates” could form a partnership with Obama, stipulating that they will do so only if his administration abandons some of its commitments to Israel. The question is: Will Israel remain a trusted ally of the United States government as the Middle East goes through this present transformation?

Shmuel Bar, Director of Studies at the Institute of Policy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya, spoke at the conference on the dilemmas of American foreign policy. He said, “The U.S. has become an agent of revolutionary change in the Middle East at the expense of the status quo regimes and what was previously considered main stays of US power in the region for decades.”  Bar sees this as a conscious American policy.  He claims that the U.S. did not anticipate that protest groups would unite and uproot dictatorial regimes.  “The U.S. has made crucial mistakes. It did not anticipate this popular wave. It supported status quo regimes, in the past, against those waves.”

The Obama Administration has also failed to understand the weakened staying power of certain dictatorial regimes. What has contributed to this is the immediate impact of new media outlets. An expanding younger population in the Middle East has become politically active on the Internet. Through social networks and Twitter, young activists are gaining power, uniting, and speaking out against the oppression of tyrants who have ruled over them for decades. But, they have little concern or understanding of the elements to a successful democratic transition; and, their blind-sightedness is gain for the Iranian-Islamist alliance that is seeking regional hegemony.

Not only the U.S., but other Western governments have failed to understand the power of the new media to help advance the causes of young Arab “freedom” advocates. Furthermore, Western leaders have, foolishly, persisted in trying to establish Western-style democracies in a region of Eastern thinkers who are being more and more influenced by radical Islamic ideology. In some cases, Moslem fundamentalists are involved in providing funds and support to poverty stricken unemployed communities who are grateful for the hand-outs.

Few...understand that, rather than democracy, religious fundamentalists want to bring moderate Arab states under greater oppression, hoping to impose Sharia law on the masses. 

Few of these downtrodden communities understand that, rather than democracy, religious fundamentalists want to bring moderate Arab states under greater oppression, hoping to impose Sharia law on the masses. In addition, the younger generation in these Arab countries has failed to understand that instead of improving their situation, they could be subjected to lesser freedoms than what they grew up with under autocratic regimes.

Brian Katulis, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress in the Middle East, on the same panel as Shmuel Bar at the Herzliya Conference, said that people are not focused enough on these important transformations in Arab nations.  “This is a region in the world in which hundreds of millions of people live, and nearly 60% are under the age of 25.” He encouraged Western nations to stand strong in their values and help others to implement a policy of pragmatic change and reform.

In the meantime, “business as usual” in the Middle East will no longer work as it has for the past 20-30 years. And, if old policies are implemented it will become more dangerous to the U.S. and Israel in the future.

Katilus explained a new pathway that needs to be considered. “I do believe there is a pathway to political reform that is stable, and actually opens up the door for the hopes and aspirations of the millions of secular Egyptians.” 

Dr. David Gordon, former Vice Chairman of the U.S. National Intelligence Council expressed his viewpoint on the Herzliya panel:  “I frankly think that the (Obama) Administration has handled the Egypt issue in policy terms much better than they have in rhetorical terms....The intelligence assessments always were that triggering events could not be predicted.” Certainly, actions that led to the overthrow of the Tunisian government were not foreseen by world leaders.

Gordon also acknowledged that “the recent events in Egypt have increased the optimism in Tehran when they look out at the region.”  He admitted that Iran remains the greatest challenge for the Obama Administration and the global community. Confirming the opinions of skeptics, Gordon said, “The bottom line is that in the short term, a different government in Egypt is likely to be less friendly to the United States, less friendly to Israel, and is going to make issues in this region much harder for all of us to imagine.”

Israeli Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror, Vice President of the Jerusalem Academic Center at the Lander Institute, agreed with that assessment. “We have to realize that things are changing for the worse rather than the better,” he claimed.  On the issue of the way the U.S. handled Mubarak’s overthrow, Amidror acknowledged, “I think they hurt Mubarak’s dignity. The Arab world was offended. This is not the way to talk to an ally.”

In Barack Obama’s short speech on February 11, 2011, while Egyptian fireworks were on display, and the masses were singing the Egyptian national anthem, he declared, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom. These were the cries from Tahrir Square and the world has taken note.”

In the quest for the power of human dignity in Egypt that Obama spoke of; in the moral non-violent force of change that bent the arc of history that he rejoiced in; there is a jubilance that many pray will not end.  But, in a world that is becoming increasingly burdened down by a clash of civilizations, the question remains: Will Judeo-Christian values reign supreme, or will an Iranian-Islamic alliance dominate the region, putting a greater yoke on the people of the Middle East than they have ever experienced before?

“By Me, kings reign and rulers decree justice; by Me, princes rule and nobles; all the judges of the earth.” Proverbs 8:15-16

Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.

(c) 2011 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision. 

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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