Israeli Worries: Is the Arab Winter Approaching Now?

Also available in Deutsch

Israel also commemorates intensely the victims of the September 11 terror attacks of New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At the same time there are great worries regarding the last week, which was marked by increasing tensions with Turkey and which ended with a shock: the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo by a fanaticized mob.

In contrast to the Europeans, Israelis did not only welcome the Arab spring with spontaneous sympathy. From the beginning, they were also afraid of the unpredictability of the „Arab Street“. Regarding the events of Friday night Israelis now see their speculations confirmed. Interestingly, nobody here is talking about Europe or the European Union. Instead, Israelis have their eyes fixed on the United States, worrying that America sets her priorities in its policies for Northern Africa and the Middle East wrong.

Tomer Velner quotes in “Why do they hate us?”, published on ynetnews.com, an Israeli expert for foreign policies. He postulates that the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, signed by Begin and Sadat, has according to the Egyptian people always been an illegitimate agreement with “the Zionists”; the majority of the Egyptian population is religious and does therefore not believe in Israel’s right to exist. Velner adds that since Mubarak’s fall the number of the unemployed has doubled – which also counts for the frustration among Egyptians who are now desperately looking for a scapegoat. Such a scapegoat has been found already: the primitive and deep-rooted topos according to which “the Jews”(or “the Zionists”) are to blame for everything. This argument keeps on mobilizing parts of the “Arab Street”.

In “A shameful day for Egypt”, published in the Jerusalem Post of September 11, Zvi Mazel, former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, says that “Egypt finds itself at a crossroads”. He adds: “Mass demonstrations and the toppling of Hosni Mubarak have brought no breakthrough for the country’s social and economic problems. The Supreme Military Council ruling the country has been exposed in all its weakness; it has been unable to show the people a road map leading to the drafting of a new constitution, the election of new parliamentary institutions and much needed social and economic reforms.”

According to ambassador (Ret.) Mazel “the situation is going from bad to worse. There were no liberal parties ready to guide the revolution and work for the establishment of a democratic regime able to enforce the respect of human rights and the rights of women, as well as those of the Coptic minority. Instead, the Muslim Brothers and the ultra-nationalist movements, long repressed by the previous regime, are controlling the street and dictating their will to the army – while each fighting to shape the country their way.” At the end of his comment, Mazel looks back on the great hopes pinned on the “Arab Spring”: “The naïve and fearless youngsters who took to the street on January 25 to demand change and better conditions have lost. Hatred towards Israel is the only common ground for the deeply divided forces battling for control in Egypt.”

The liberal newspaper Haaretz views the future with a rather pessimistic sentiment as well. The title given to Ari Shavit’s comment is already meaningful: “Arab Spring showed its real face in the attack on Israeli embassy in Egypt”. Shavit takes on a sarcastic tone: “Now we see the Arab Spring in all its glory. Democracy in Egypt? Not yet. Enlightenment in Egypt? Absolutely not. So far the Arab Spring has brought us the Black Hole of Sinai, which sucks in all kinds of Islamic zealotry. The transformation of Egypt from a moderate state to a rocky one that cannot even maintain public order. A mass convergence on the Israeli embassy in Cairo. A violent break-in of that embassy. The flight of the Israeli diplomats from that embassy in the dead of night, like a gang of thieves.”

Shavit continues: “U.S. President Barack Obama gave a nice speech in Egypt in June 2009. He gave a forceful speech about Egypt when he helped to bring down Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. But in the past six months Obama has done little to restore and to stabilize Egypt. That is because he was so busy with West Bank settlements and 1967 borders that he did not have the time to put forward a genuine Marshall Plan that could save the land of the Nile.” His comment sums up accordingly: “Blind and paralyzed, Obama and Netanyahu are standing on the bridge, watching the approaching storm and doing nothing. Last week we lost Turkey and Egypt. Who knows what we'll lose next week.”

Within this myriad of sour notes the quotation of an Egyptian civil rights activist published on ynetnews.com stands out. Weal Ghanim is a symbol of the “Arab Spring” in Egypt. With his comments and reports on Facebook and Twitter he was able to change things and move some people. Yesterday, he published the following message on Twitter: “What we are witnessing now is contrary to what I dreamt of. We need to wake up quickly and mend our ways in order to achieve the revolution's dream. What we are seeing are actions driven by emotions that are stripping the revolution of its context, leading us to celebrate imaginary victories. If we don't use our brain, it will fail and result in frustration for an entire generation that dreamt of changing its nation.”

Michael Mertes

Publication series

Country Reports

published

Israel, September 11, 2011

Contact

Alexander Brakel

Head of the KAS office in Israel

Alexander Brakel
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