Israel must congratulate Egypt
Even if it is very late, official Israel must now join the West in sending courageous and good wishes from Jerusalem to Cairo.
At 6 A.M. yesterday, shortly before dawn in Cairo, Al Jazeera correspondent correspondent, Jacky Rowland, described the massive street party happening around her as "the hangover of the revolution." The big words are being taken out of storage. They are still wrapped in a plethora of fears and reservations, but one can easily say that Egypt has never before seen the dawn of a new day such as this, with the possible exception of the morning of the coup by Gamal Abdel Nasser's Free Officers Movement, more than half a century ago. That ended the monarchy; on Friday night the dictatorship ended. In between, the land of the Nile was tossed from hungry mouths to silenced mouths.
The news from Egypt is good news, not only for that country and the Arab world, but for the entire world, including Israel. Now is the time to be happy for the Egyptian people, to hope that this amazing revolution will not go wrong. Let us lay aside all our fears - of anarchy, of the Muslim Brotherhood or a military regime - and let this great gamble have its say. Let us not wallow in the dangers; now is the time to bask in the light that shines from the Nile, after 18 days of popular, democratic struggle. Of all countries it was Egypt, ironically, that proved that yes, it can. That it is possible to bring down a dictatorship, and even to do so by peaceful means.
Let us look at the glass that is half-full. Many of the initial fears came to naught. One after another, the bad old stereotypes about Egypt held by Israel and the West came crashing down. With the exception of a single day of violence, this revolution was peaceful. The Egyptian people proved that it is fundamentally unarmed and nonviolent. Cairo is not Baghdad, or even Nablus. That's good news. The army, too, proved that it recognizes the limits of power and that, in contrast to other armies in the neighborhood, it is not trigger-happy. The Egyptian army has so far demonstrated - knock on wood - wisdom, determination and sensitivity.
The thousands of young Egyptians seen on television screens across the world also proved that Egypt has a face other than the one we are accustomed to. Not just ful and falafel, films and baksheesh, but also deep social and political awareness - and in English, yet. They also proved that, contrary to what we are told constantly, hate for Israel is not at the top of their agenda.
The prophecies of doom, according to which any democratic change would mean the rise of Islam, are also far from being realized. Look at the images from Tahrir Square: There are relatively few obviously religious individuals. They prayed quietly, surrounded by large numbers of secular revolutionaries. There were a fair number of Egyptian woman in the square as well. Egypt is not what we thought it was.
But of course the struggle is not finished, it has just begun. The beginning of the end of the ancient regime is only the end of the beginning of the revolution. But one can already predict that even if Egypt experiences another undemocratic phase along the way - a military regime or an Islamic takeover - even if it does not turn into a liberal Western democracy, with an opposition and freedom, overnight, it will get there eventually. There is almost no way back, and Egypt has never been closer. The Orientalists can go hang: The racist idea that the Arabs aren't ready for democracy has already received a knockout blow. What is more democratic than this uprising?
For the most part, the world responded appropriately. Under U.S. President Barack Obama's conducting wand the world, uncharacteristically, extended courageous and significant support to the freedom fighters from Tahrir Square. They will remember him for this, and perhaps that will also lead to a new dawn in U.S. relations with the Arab world, as Obama promised in his "Cairo speech." And in Israel? Business as usual. True, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed his ministers not to make public statements, but he did not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity: once appealing to Egypt in a firm and commanding, if not threatening, tone, to uphold the peace treaty; once warning that Egypt could become another Iran. That, too, will be remembered in Tahrir Square. Even if it is very late, official Israel must now join the West in sending courageous and good wishes from Jerusalem to Cairo. And if not official Israel, then at least we, the little people. From us to you: Mabruk, congratulations, Egypt.