Exactly a year ago today, tens of thousands of young Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square in the center of Cairo and embarked on an effort to bring about historic change. A little over two weeks later, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation. Yesterday a new phase of Egyptian democracy began. For the first time in about 60 years, a parliament was sworn in, following free general elections, that reflects the authentic constellation of political forces in Egypt.
Perhaps this isn't the parliament that the West, let alone Israel, was hoping for. The majority is in the hands of religious parties, some of which, such as the Salafis, hold radical views; Egypts secular liberal quarters are in the minority. This is certainly not a rubber stamp parliament of the type that would have complied with the regime's orders, but rather a parliament of Egypt's citizens.
The Egyptians should be congratulated for their success in bringing the revolution about and overthrowing a regime that oppressed them; and for establishing a new representative parliament, in a relatively short period of time, which will soon also form a new government.
The Egyptian revolution, however, like the one that preceded it in Tunisia, not only involves a change in the system of government or the overthrow of a president. It also changes the character of the relationship between the government and the people. It is now not the citizenry that must please the regime, but rather henceforth the regime that must look to the public for legitimacy.
That is the foundation of the democracy upon which the citizens of Egypt and their representatives are seeking to build their future.
It's a democracy in need of help, both financial and diplomatic. Without investment and direct assistance, it will be difficult for this democracy to feed Egypt's 85 million people.
Egypt is also seeking to rehabilitate its standing in the Middle East and in the world as a whole. Israel therefore cannot just stand on the sidelines and wait. It must initiate contacts and create opportunities when it comes to ties with the new government authority.
Israel, which has been skittish over where its southern neighbor is headed, cannot divorce the fate of the peace treaty with Egypt from the fate of the peace process with the Palestinians. Egypt is now beginning to follow a new path, and it would be to Israel's benefit to get to know the contours of that road.
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