Amid the Tumult, Israel Is Acting Logically for a Change

Israel is right not to intervene or speak out about the events in Egypt. Democratic regimes must come from within.

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I hope that what I write here doesn’t make our political leaders faint. After all, Israel’s leaders are finally acting according to logic, caution and wisdom; they’ve resisted the urge to determine the shape of our neighbors’ governments.

Ariel Sharon and Menachem Begin wanted to implement a Christian, pro-Israel (sort of) government in Lebanon; Sharon even signed a draft agreement with President-elect Bashir Gemayel. This pretentious plan not only failed to materialize, it caused bloodshed and made way for Syria and Hezbollah to take over Lebanon. After the Six-Day War, Moshe Dayan believed in neighborly relations with villages in the West Bank. All these delusions led to long bloody wars, terrorist organizations and intifadas.

Focused on ourselves as we are, we haven’t realized that attempts to create democratic regimes must come from within, not from external pressure. Russia parted ways with communism due to internal pressure, not external. The United States has failed to turn its Saudi ally toward democracy. Yes, we cut off thieves’ hands, they say, it’s Koranic law, which is also our constitution. So every year Saudi Arabia appears at the top of the U.S. State Department’s list of human rights violators.

Of course, we would rejoice if Egypt, our partner in peace, became a democracy like Switzerland rather than a state controlled by a military cult. I remember how we demanded that the peace agreement include direct dialing between the two countries. Anwar Sadat was staunchly opposed and Begin relented. Later we learned that at the time there was no such thing as direct dialing in Egypt. We should have learned long ago that attempts to intervene and influence the nature of neighboring regimes is impractical and unwise. We can support, but we must not try to impose.

Current events in Egypt are a cause for great concern. The thought that Egypt might become a Shariah state, or worse, a state ruled by terrorism, is very frightening. This is one of the gravest situations we’ve faced. Israel has a huge strategic interest in preserving the peace with Egypt, which receives military and economic aid from the United States.

There were days when Egyptian officials would ask their Israeli counterparts in whispers “how much did you get this year?” so they could squeeze more aid out of Washington. Joint military exercises with America have also helped keep Egypt a key player in the region. Egypt supported Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in the winter of 2009, indirectly helping Israel secure support from the European Union. It’s in our interest that Egypt remain stable and a partner of the United States.

And so Israel is right not to intervene or speak out about the events in Egypt. Israel isn’t openly endorsing Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and continues to fly under the radar. The fence for keeping out migrants from Sinai has become the fence against terror, and the license that Egypt has awarded Israel to act against terror groups in the peninsula is mutually beneficial. Note Hamas’ quiet in Gaza as well; this is good news for the Palestinian Authority as it resumes negotiations with Israel.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attack on Israel and his outrage over the coup in Egypt hints that he might fear he has gone too far in shirking Ataturk’s secular legacy and will pay the price for it. No doubt this neighborhood bully will have his day, too. U.S. President Barack Obama, following a concerned request from Israel, decided in the end not to cease aid to Egypt.

It’s in Israel’s interest that Egypt remain stable, strong and content. The world is quiet as genocide goes on in Syria, but at least that country is no longer a threat - for the next decade anyway. Iran will achieve nuclear weapons, that’s a fact, but we’ve begun to understand that we can’t act alone. Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu is acting according to logic for a change.

Benjamin Netanyahu. He's got his finger on the pulse but is correctly keeping quiet. Credit: Alex Levac

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