Israel's regional policy is characterized by a very sharp focusing of the political microscope. Today, when Egyptians head to the polls to elect a president, Israeli decision makers will be wondering whether former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq is good for the Jews. Or whether former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa is an Israel-hater or merely a pragmatic politician. Or whether the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi is an Islamic abomination.
That's the typical method Israel uses on the historic process that Egypt and the entire region are undergoing. After our mourning over our ally's direction - that same ally that suffered so many Israeli threats, from the bombing of the Aswan Dam to "Mubarak can go to hell" - a thick mist is again blinding Israel.
The Egyptians go to the polls today to elect a president; they will be completing the most significant democratic move in the region's history. This won't be a perfect democracy; such a democracy exists only in the visions of dreamers. Its importance lies in the very transfer of power from the ruler to the public, in the granting of power to the people, in the revocation of decision making by a dictator; in sharing power with parliament, political groups, parties and movements that want to help craft Egypt's image.
It's a new philosophical and strategic concept that undermines the convenient political routine not only of Israel but of the entire Western world. That's a routine under which it's enough to win over one person, even if he's corrupt; to conduct effective horse trading.
In the new Egypt, even the army, which attained the status of partner to the revolution, is attentive to the politicians and the street. The army won't be a special place for business to turn to, a means of sidetracking the president and parliament.
It too is aware that a display of management capability and a civilian-led government is the best guarantee of Egypt's future. This would also guarantee that Egypt can receive the economic aid and foreign investment it so desperately needs to rehabilitate the country that was plundered by the previous regime. It's starting a new era with a colossal $40 billion in debt, with millions of unemployed and a campaign to take loans from anyone willing to make them.
But Egypt's new path, with all its complexities, opportunities and risks, is merely background noise to Israelis. To them, only the Camp David Accords are important.
The continued existence of these accords is the main test of ties between the two countries, and Israel is entitled to be afraid when candidates or parties call for an altering of the accords - or a cancellation. Each candidate has made clear that the accords can no longer be isolated from the reality in the region, from Israeli policies, or from the new Egypt's desire to steer political events in the region. Israel is described as an occupying force in every presidential candidate's election platform, and every contender, whether secular, liberal or a Muslim Brotherhood member, has pledged to help "the Palestinian people cast off the yoke of occupation."
It would be facile to attribute every new diplomatic problem to the fact that Egypt is ruled by Islamists. It's them, not the secular candidates, who have backed the Camp David Accords the most. To all of them, the lax policy on Israel and the failure to make Israel apply the Camp David Accords and UN resolutions on withdrawing from the territories are part of Hosni Mubarak's severe damaging of Egypt. They are part of the heritage - like the corruption, dictatorship, emergency laws and exclusion of the Bedouin in the Sinai - that the new Egypt has promised to shed. They are part of the message that the new administration will try to convey to the people.
A new Egyptian president will not want, or be able, to shirk this mission. But it would be an illusion to expect Israel to change its policy in the territories simply on behalf of Egypt, especially if that country is headed by an Islamist. It would be much more convenient and convincing to accuse the Egyptian revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood, Amr Moussa or Allah of damaging relations and threatening peace than to open one's eyes and see the slippery slope down which Israel is sliding.
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