Netanyahu Warns: Mideast Instability Could Last for Years

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned yesterday that the current state of instability in the Middle East could last for many years.

"We hope the Arab world and Iran will undergo true democratization, but we must prepare ourselves for every outcome," Netanyahu said in a Knesset speech that addressed the popular uprisings in Arab states. "We are going through an unstable transitional era that has the potential to continue for many years."

The prime minister also cautioned about the consequences for Israel if the Arab regimes in neighbor states collapse.

"There may be debate about a peace partner today, but there is uncertainty regarding the existence of a partner tomorrow. The best intelligence experts worldwide did not predict [the revolutions] and cannot explain how this tumult will end," Netanyahu said. "We do not know what will happen to our west, and we do not know what will happen to our east. And who can determine whether the Palestinian state in the middle will endure?"

He stressed the importance of strengthening Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, to make sure they don't "evaporate" like the relations Israel once enjoyed with Turkey and Iran.

"Just as the de facto peace relations we had with Iran evaporated in a moment, and just as the more official, more established relations - which even encompassed joint military exercises and 400,000 tourists - evaporated overnight when the Turkish prime minister [verbally] attacked President [Shimon] Peres [at the 2009 World Economic Forum] in Davos, we want to guarantee that the peace deals with Egypt and Jordan will remain solid," the prime minister said.

Netanyahu said that when he warned in the past that if Israel disengaged from Gaza, Hamas would take over and Iran would arm the Islamist group, he was told he was frightening the people.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni, who spoke yesterday after Netanyahu, slammed the prime minister for his indecisive policy and zigzagging - among other things, in appointing an IDF chief of staff, setting gasoline prices and selecting an ambassador in London.

"This isn't what the opposition is saying, it's how the public feels. And the public isn't buying a thing you say," the Kadima chairwoman said. "The public sees this government's hollowness and the moral putrefaction it represents.

"The grand diplomatic activity you boast of consists of a phone call to the prime minister of New Zealand [after this week's earthquake]. Thank God someone still answers your telephone calls, prime minister. All the doors are slamming in your face," Livni said.