President Shimon Peres, an incorrigible optimist, promised us a new Middle East. He even predicted that the day would come when Gaza would turn into the Singapore of the Middle East. He was also the first to encourage an alliance of security interests between secular Turkey and Israel.
Like many of us, he too believed that so long as Mubarak stayed in power, the peace agreement would last. He was also confident that Mubarak's corrupt son would perpetuate his father's policies. After all, billions of dollars of American aid should not be taken lightly.
We also knew that the Muslim Brotherhood represents a threat to peace, but Mubarak allayed our fears, or at least he persuaded Benjamin Ben-Eliezer that the Brotherhood constitutes a minority that is under control.
Nobody imagined that the unemployed and the hungry in Egypt had any real power; nobody thought about the multitudes of students who finished their studies and could not find work. Nor was anyone worrying about infringement of individual liberty; more than anything, the character of the governmental framework, as a corrupt apparatus that feeds off the public coffers, was overlooked.
Nobody in the Presidential Palace uttered the famous sentence "let them eat cake;" but in Egypt, as in France, the people wanted more than cake.
Recently, former Mossad head Ephraim Halevy remarked that revolutions don't give advance notice of their arrival. Also, those that consolidate slowly, such as Turkey's severance of the secular-Ataturk tradition, do not give such notice. The chain of upheavals that started in Tunisia spread like a brushfire from state to state.
While the enlightened world, that is European states, are slowly being conquered by Muslim immigrants and Obama's America views us as the source of all defects and impediments in the region, these onlookers were hit by a blow they didn't expect: the spread of revolution from state to state in our region, like virulent bacteria. Whoever put up with Gadhafi out of deference to his ample oil supply and his promise to desist from more terror activity should not be surprised to wake up, to paraphrase an old adage, with a genocidal murderer in his bed. What is now happening in the "New Middle East" is a clash between regimes based on the rules of the last century and contemporary democratic principles.
The U.S. can recite endlessly abstract formulas about the imperative of democratization. Those are fine words, but do they apply, for instance, to Saudi Arabia? The entire leadership stratum in Riyadh has aged; a life-and-death struggle between sons and grandsons who have claims for the throne is on the horizon in that country.
British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted during his visit to Kuwait that the democratic world fails when it offers support to dictators. He and other Western leaders were persuaded by Islamic rulers that democratic systems are not suited to Arab traditions and Islamic laws.
Israel relied on President Mubarak to preserve peaceful relations. True, this was not a warm, loving relationship, but it hinged on scrupulous compliance with all details of the peace agreement. Whether anyone in Israel spoke with Mubarak about what was to happen after his demise is not clear. Israel relied on Mubarak the way it relies on Jordan's Hashemite ruler, King Abdullah. But I'm not sure that the king of Jordan doesn't take a sleeping pill before he goes to bed. As suggested by the example of 1970's Black September, when Israel prevented Syria's encroachment in Jordan, the son of King Hussein can rely on Israel's help in a situation of mass Palestinian revolt in his country.
Obama's first use of American veto power, opposing the denunciation of Israel in the UN, will perhaps be his last such use. The swell of international hostility that was expressed in this vote will discourage Israel from using force.
In view of what is occurring in our region and the international arena, Obama will not allow Israel the freedom to use force freely, neither against Iran, nor, heaven forbid, against an internal intifada of a million and a half Israeli Arabs.
The government of Israel, which did not have a clue as to what was about to happen in our region, must come down from the bleachers as a passive spectator and deal with the main issue: How can we quickly re-create reality so that we are not the only state in the world that lacks permanent borders, and so that we do not control another people.
As outgoing Chief of Staff Ashkenazi recommended to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, a first step would be to remove Syria from the circle of hostility. A diplomatic effort in that direction might not work, but we must give it a try.