Israel Suffers From Political Alzheimer's Disease

Revolutions are the Arabs' business, not ours. In Israel any change in understanding beginning in the Middle East is simply a reason to redefine the threat - one more opportunity that must be missed.

The leader of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, dropped a bombshell this week when, asked in an interview if he was in favor of Arab nations intervening in Syria, he said, "For such a situation to stop the killing ... some troops should go to stop the killing." It was the first time an Arab leader has proposed sending soldiers to another Arab state to come to the aid of that country's citizens. And considering an Arab military alternative to a Western military operation would be a first for the Arab League.

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One can only look on in amazement at the consequences of the revolutions in the Arab world. The old alliance of despots, in which they all looked out for each other, is giving way to a new alliance, between Arab leaders and their people. At its core is the recognition that even regimes that did not "suffer" the wrath of the street, such as Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are no longer capable of, or permitted to, ignore the public's demands.

Rulers who for decades ignored the genocide in Darfur, the deadly strife in Algeria, the murderous dictatorship of Saddam Hussein; who turned a blind eye to Hafez Assad's massacre of tens of thousands of Syrians in Hama in 1982; are now hastening to deal with his son, President Bashar Assad, even using force. Even Arab leaders are no longer holding to the old axiom, "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't know."

These leaders are also waking up to the fact that international organizations like NATO or the United Nations will not come to their rescue. International forces only respond when their own interests are threatened. It was only when Libyan oil and Western business interests were jeopardized that NATO acted, just as Iraq's occupation of Kuwaiti oil fields in 1990 immediately prompted international military action. The occupation in Palestine, meanwhile, has gone on for nearly 45 years, generating only position papers.

It's no wonder the "axis fans" - the people who coined the terms "axis of evil," "pro-Western axis," "Islamic axis" - are confused. These ridiculous terms, meant to help Western statesmen "understand" the Middle East, are obsolete. Suddenly, "civil rights" has a menacing ring to regimes; the Muslim Brotherhood is talking with the Obama administration; Turkey is cutting ties with Syria, but not Iran; and Arab states want to send military forces into Syria. The "axes," which never really existed, are absorbing each other and making a hash of the convenient, conservative division of everything into black and white.

That is the nature of the revolution. Its results may not be discernible under a magnifying glass because this kind of revolution - in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and other countries - is above all a macro-revolution. It must be viewed impressionistically, not microscopically. It is a revolution in the concept of the relationship between government and citizen.

This is the revolution that Israel always advocated. Not out of concern for the populations of of Arab states, but rather as an excuse to avoid any peace process. As long as there are no Arab democracies, the argument went, there are no negotiating partners. Now, as the changes begin to appear, Israel is not genuinely interested. It still sees "the Arab and Muslim world" as a monolithic danger. In fact, it is the same "Arab and Muslim world" that 10 years ago - how time flies when you have political Alzheimer's disease - embraced the Arab peace initiative.

That plan, which included peace and Arab-Israeli security, was filed deep in the archives of Israeli forgetting. It was signed by dictators, some of whom are gone, that Israel said could not be trusted.

Now, with the revolutions, it is even more true that there are no partners for talks. What, after all, is there to talk about with an Egypt that just voted for the Muslim Brotherhood; or with Tunisians who supported an Islamist regime; or with Turkey, which only want an apology and compensation? Revolutions are the Arabs' business, not ours. In Israel any change in understanding beginning in the Middle East is simply a reason to redefine the threat - one more opportunity that must be missed.

Read this article in Hebrew.