One after the other the leaders of our Arab neighbors, whom Israel has long considered permanent like the Golan Heights and the Sinai Desert, are falling: Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Muammar Gadhafi in Libya and probably soon Bashar Assad in Syria. Thanks to the Internet and Facebook, a major change is taking place: The hitherto invisible political factor in most of these countries is claiming his place - the man on the street.
In Israel, the joy and enthusiasm in light of the "spirit of Tahrir" are accompanied by a certain sadness and disappointment. Not only has the process of democratization on the Arab street not been accompanied by peaceful intentions, it has been followed - for example in Egypt - by an anti-Israel wave that is so strong the temporary military rulers are having a hard time coping with it. That same man on the street who brought down his rulers in a fit of rage and demanded that they be tried is directing similar hatred toward Israel, with much less justification.
On the face of it, these developments reinforce the old argument of the right wing and those opposed to an Israeli withdrawal and concessions; they said there was no point in agreements with dictators - that we should wait for democratization in the Arab states. Now all they see in the coming of democracy is proof of the Arab nations' atavistic hatred of Israel; they find in it a new excuse to toughen their stance and freeze the peace process.
But when the Arab street is in tumult and all political, military or diplomatic nuance is picked up simultaneously by modern electronic gadgets and the heart of the man on the street, the last thing Israel needs is to turn its back on the hope for peace in arrogance and aggression, which only provide excuses for hatred of it.
On the contrary, the Israeli government should lower its profile and stick closely to the desire for peace and the proof that it does not seek to expand.
It must radiate calm, conciliation and moderation as much as possible. It must do this in the hope that when the flames die down, the Arab street will also understand that peace is a key element of the spirit of equality, freedom and democracy.
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